Easter - Bunnies - Baskets - Colors - Eggs - Meringues!
I though it would be fun to craft a post showing a meringue in every Spring color. I have been planning it for weeks. I started scouting grocery stores for extracts and arranged to borrow some gel food dyes. I even made a trip to a specialty cake decorating store and purchased some pastry bags and a piping tip. Then reality started to cloud my vision.
I started with lavender, the fanciest of my fancy flavors. With my egg whites separated and warming to room temperature, I staged the remaining ingredients. Having everything close at hand before beginning was one of the key lessons I learned a few months ago after finally cracking the meringue puzzle. The coffee grinder spun lavender and sugar into a fragrant powder and I couldn't help bubbling with excitement. I broadcast this excitement to the Our Lady Facebook followers. Once I had my egg whites whipped into stiff and glossy dunes I carefully dropped some of the violet dye on to the stark white ripples. The metal whisks spun the color first in ribbons and then by magic the whites became uniformly pastel purple. I skipped the piping bag for this first batch and gleefully spooned 13 mounds onto my beloved silicone baking mat.
Doesn't that all sound so blissfully perfect? It was, right until I tasted the batter and realized that my extra fancy flavor tasted like something I stole from my grandmother's guest bathroom. I hoped the flavor would mellow during the cooking process but it did not. They were beautiful though. And it was almost worth it to watch Mr. Second Helpings eagerly taste one when he got home from work. If you can't laugh at your
husband self who can you laugh at, right?
I went on to make some much more palatable raspberry puffs followed by a batch of orange cream that was under-beaten but tasted decent. Next, I tried another fun sounding flavor: mint chocolate chip. I piped this batch and I think these might be my favorite looking but they taste like chocolate chip toothpaste. Can you envision someone biting into a cookie then happily sighing, "mmm refreshing!"? Me neither.
At this point in the process, the glitter had pretty much all fallen from my vision. I was also becoming painfully tired. Our family is deep in the throes of transitioning The Little Helping from crib to toddler bed and I got to spend 3 hours awake with him during the night.
I dug deep, then revisited a variation I tested earlier in the week. Inspired by pictures of moist chewy coconut macaroons, I toasted some coconut and folded it into my whipped egg whites along with coconut and rum extracts. The final product is not fancy or experimental; it is just a really great cookie. Sugary toasted coconut sprinkled through out each bite. A pillowy marshmallow concealed beneath crisp airy domes. Then the rum flavor gives what could be a forgettable few bites enough depth to feel like you have really eaten something.
Fancy flavors and colors have their place but over and over I am discovering that good things come in simple packages. Simple and Delicious.
Toasted Coconut Meringues
Although meringues take a little bit of forethought and time to bake they require just a few ingredients and about 15 minutes of hands-on time. I have found the key to successful meringue is staging everything before starting to beat the egg whites. I have also learned that cold eggs are easier to separate but room temperature whites whip up better. If possible, separate the eggs ahead of time and allow them to warm to room temperature. Makes approximately 22 - 2 inch mounds
- 3 egg whites, separated cold and allowed to warm to room temperature
- a pinch of salt, no more than ⅛ tsp
- ½ teaspoon cream of tarter
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- ½ teaspoon coconut extract
- ½ teaspoon rum extract, allow the extract to overflow the spoon a tiny bit
- ½ cup of loosely packed sweetened shredded coconut, toasted - reserving about 1 tablespoon to sprinkle on top
- Toast the coconut - spread an even layer on a baking sheet and bake in a 350 degree oven for about 8-10 minutes until it has dried and ½ to ¾ has browned. This works fantastically well in a toaster oven if you have one available.
- Line two baking pans with parchment, brown paper, or silicone baking mats. Preheat oven to 250 degrees.
- Gather all the ingredients within arms reach of where you are working and pre-measure the sugar and cream of tarter.
- Using medium speed - whip egg whites and salt to a froth using an electric mixer (can be done by hand with a whisk it will take time and persistance)
- With mixer running sprinkle in cream of tarter, beating out any lumps.
- Increase mixer speed slowly as the whites thicken and increase in volume. They will begin to look like marshmallow fluff. Sprinkle in sugar about ¼ of a cup at a time. Beat in each portion before adding the next.
- Continue to beat at a medium high speed. Add in the flavor extracts. The whites will continue to thicken becoming stiff and glossy. They are done when you can hold the bowl over your head upside down and stay clean. Try it, it's fun!
- Once the meringue is stiff and glossy, fold in the toasted coconut. Keeping 1 tablespoon reserved for garnish, add half the remaining coconut to the meringue. Use a rubber scrapper and ever so gently scoop under the meringue and bring it over the coconut. Use a light touch so that all the air stays in the meringue - do not stir. Repeat the folding motion two or three times before folding in the other half of the coconut.
- If desired, spoon the meringue into a piping bag or a zip top bag with a corner trimmed off. Then pipe or spoon meringues onto prepared cookie sheets in mounds about 2 inches wide and 1 ½ inches high - a little more than a rounded tablespoon. Sprinkle the reserved coconut over the mounds.
- Bake in oven preheated to 250 degrees for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes reduce heat to 170 degrees for an additional 30 minutes. If the bottoms are soft allow meringues to bake an additional 10-20 minutes. Alternately turn the oven off and leave the door closed for as long as desired. The longer the meringue bake the crisper they will be through out.
- When cooled store in an air tight bag or container. Meringues are best when eaten within 48 hours of baking but should keep their texture for up to five days.
Approximate Nutrition Information per cookie: 37 calories, .5g fat, 7.6g carbs, 0g fiber, .6g protein, PP = 1
For more tips on making meringues or other flavor suggestions, check out my Meringue Redemption post.