Friday, December 4, 2015

Christmas Tree Meringues

I have very little experience with meringue outside of the soft variety that is generally found on top of pies.  In fact, the only time I remember even trying a meringue cookie was on a plate of Christmas cookies my grandma made when I was a kid.

Lets just say I'm not exactly an expert.

I started seeing Christmas tree meringues on Pinterest awhile back and they caught my eye- so adorable!  Little green blobs of meringue dyed green and decorated.  I knew I wanted to try them.

I've made meringue pies many times over the years so I knew these cookies couldn't be too terribly difficult.  While you can mix in different flavors and colors, basic meringue is just egg whites, sugar, and something to stabilize the meringue (generally cream of tartar, vinegar, or lemon juice).  It's pretty simple.

Anyway, these cookies were too cute not to try.

The last time I went to the baking supply store for a few popcorn supplies I also took advantage of their large collection of fun sprinkles for my "trees."  I ended up with red and green confetti-like Christmas shapes, little pearlized white balls, and gold balls to top my treats.  So cute.  
Then I shoved them in the pantry and waited for Christmas cookie time...it was only October!

Anyway, it's finally December and I was all caught up on popcorn orders the other day so I decided to try my hand at the meringue trees.

Ok, first of all, I know that these don't look like real trees.  My piping skills are...limited.  I have to admit that the trees I saw online that were made with a star tip on the piping bag looked more realistic- mine are a bit abstract and blobbed.  But cute nonetheless as far as I'm concerned!

A few very very important thing to remember when it comes to making meringue?

•Only use a glass or metal bowl
•Make sure that everything that touches the meringue (bowl, utensils, whatever) is clean and free of oil
•Keep all egg yolk out of the meringues.  I like to use three bowls- I separate the egg in one and use it to collect the white.  I dump the yolks in the second.  I transfer the whites individually into the third bowl to collect them.  By doing this if I accidentally break a yolk in that first bowl I don't ruin all of the whites- only one.
•Don't make these on a humid day, it will cause your meringue to be limp and sticky.
Allrecipes has a great collection of tips and information on meringues that you can find here.

While there are a few things to remember when making meringues, they really are pretty basic.
You don't even really need a piping bag to make these cookies, I used a freezer bag.  Just put all of the meringue in the freezer bag, squeeze out the extra air and seal it, then cut one of the corners from the bottom of the bag and squeeze out your meringues.  This is the same technique I use to fill my deviled eggs- in fact I almost never break out the piping bag and tips unless I absolutely have to.  :-)

These are such a simple, adorable little Christmas cookies, aren't they??  I love them!

1/2 cup egg whites (about 4 extra large)
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup white sugar
Green food coloring

1. Preheat the oven to 225 degrees F (110 degrees C). Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

2. In a large glass or metal bowl, use an electric mixer to whip egg whites until foamy. Add cream of tartar, salt, and vanilla. Continue whipping until the whites hold soft peaks.  Add food coloring and gradually sprinkle in the sugar so that it does not sink to the bottom, and continue whipping until the mixture holds stiff shiny peaks.

3. Place a round tip into a pastry bag, and fill the bag half way with the meringue. Hold the pastry bag vertically and gently press meringue out into desired shape.  Bake for 1 hour in the preheated oven.

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