31 July 2010

Chocolate Peppermint Meringues, Part the Second

Our Story Continues . . .

So, I left the cookies in a turned-off oven to dry overnight. When I got up in the morning, they were still a bit chewy around the middle. Pooh. So I turned the oven to 200 for a half hour, then turned it back off and let them sit around while I ate breakfast and went to the gym. When I got back they were just about perfect! Not quite as shatteringly dry as one might get in, say, December, but pretty darn good.

So I went to whip up the ganache. I'd been frustrated in my efforts to find "pure peppermint oil" (it was not at any of the four stores -- including Penzey's and the fancy chocolate shop -- John and I went to), so in the end I used peppermint extract. I used the microwave to melt the chocolate (as I always do) and think I let my impatience get the better of me . . . the chocolate heated too much and got a bit grainy. But as the chocolate layer was so thin, and delicious, I don't think it mattered all that much in the end.

Boy, were these good! When I make them again I'll use a pastry bag and make a point to make them a bit smaller, but otherwise I wouldn't change a thing. The cookies peeled off the foil like a dream, stayed stuck together, and tasted just like mint chocolate chip ice cream. I went the rustic route, so mine wouldn't have won any beauty contests, but with a little more attention they could really be showstoppers. Certainly everyone at the shindig I took them to gobbled them up and raved.

30 July 2010

Chocolate Peppermint Meringues, Part the First

I've been a bad SMSer! It's been miserably hot here in Richmond, and I just. Have. Not. Felt like turning on the oven. Or really doing much of anything besides misting myself with water and sitting under fan. So it was a surprise, to say the least, to idly click over to Sweet Melissa Sundays today and discover that I'm hosting this Sunday! I'm alleviating my guilt by splitting my post into two (2) parts.

In the first part, I'll write out the recipe and share my thoughts on the meringue-making process. Tomorrow I'll post again with thoughts on the ganache and sandwiching processes, as
well as the final product.

So, the recipe, on page 230-231, is:

For the Meringues:

1.5 oz. bittersweet chocolate
2 Tbs powdered sugar
5 large egg whites
1 cup sugar
pinch cream of tartar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

For the Peppermint Ganache:

4 oz. semisweet chocolate
2 Tbs heavy cream
3 drops pure peppermint oil


Position oven racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven. Preheat to 200F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment or foil. Fit a pastry bag with a 3/4 inch round tip.

Chop the chocolate finely by hand (yield about 1/3 cup). Process in food processor with the powdered sugar until it is a fine powder, being careful it doesn't melt.

Combine egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Set over a pot of simmering water and whisk constantly until the sugar is dissolved and the whites are warmed to the touch. Transfer to a mixer fitted with the whip attachment. Starting on low and
gradually increasing to high, whip until the meringue is cool and holds stiff, ossy peaks. Add
vanilla, then fold in the chocolate dust mixture. Fill the pastry bag and pipe into 2 inch wide mounds on the cookie sheets. Bake for an hour and 15 minutes, rotate pans, then reduce temperature to 175 and bake for another hour . . . until completely dry, but not browned.
Remove to rack to cool completely.

Combine chopped chocolate (the 4 oz of semisweet) and cream in a medium bowl . . . set over simmering water to melt the chocolate, then whisk until smooth. Stir in the peppermint oil. Set aside to cool to room temperature.

Peel the paper or foil away from the meringues. Spread about 3/4 tsp. ganache on the flat sides of half, then sandwich together with the rest. Chill about 15 minutes before serving. Will keep
at room temperature for up to 2 weeks. Do not refrigerate or freeze.

My experience:

(And apologies for the weird posting order . . . I never have been able to get blogger to post my pictures in any kind of sensible way. And moving them around seems to require an act of God.)

Anyway! I've enjoyed mint meringues for many years, as they are a Christmas treat favored by my Aunt Linda. She makes hers with mini chocolate chips, sometimes colors then green (for Christmas!), and was kind enough to pass along her recipe, which does not include any fol-de-rol with water baths and whatnot. Additionally, the baking time on hers is far shorter . . . she puts the cookies in a 300 degree oven, bakes for 30 min, then turns the oven off and leaves them to cool overnight. (In fact, I've also enjoyed a variation called "Forgotten Cookies" that were just put into a 300 degree oven, turned off, and left to dry overnight.)

So I'd be interested to hear from people who did the meringue whisking thing . . . especially how it compares with the more basic meringue cookie. Is there a difference in texture? Does it make it more foolproof? It did occur to me that maybe the slight cooking removes any trace of food-borne bacteria? Someday when I'm not under the gun like this I might do a side-by-side comparison, just for kicks.

As it was, the egg whites whipped up beautifully, even without the tartar. I added a wee pinch of salt because I like salt, and was duly impressed with the whipping action on the KitchenAid. Folded in the chocolate dust (which I should have processed more). I then used a spoon to plop the cookies onto their prepared sheet (wishing I'd bothered with a pastry bag, as I do think that makes things quicker and less messy), popped them into the oven, let them cook for 30 minutes, then switched the heat off so they can enjoy their beauty rest. I'll be back in the morning with a report on how the finished product turned out!