Five Days of Festive Treats - Day 5: Candy Cane Meringues!

Earlier today, I was mentally patting myself on the back for showing restraint in the face of a house full of holiday baking meant for family and friends – the recipes for which (the cookies, not the friends) I’ve been sharing with you over the past week.

And then I ate four of these. In succession, in about a minute. And, guys, I don’t usually have much time for meringues, but these are ridiculous. For one, they look impossibly festive, like miniature Whoville mountains exploding with holiday cheer. But, more importantly when it comes to eating, they’re delectable. Light, with impressively crisp exteriors, they’re built for popping and crunching (giant bags of the things are a very good idea). But on the first bite, that crispness melts away into smooth peppermint and vanilla. 

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And, amazingly, they’re incredibly simple and gratifying to make, as you watch such basic ingredients – egg whites, sugar, salt, flavourings – be so utterly and easily transformed into scores of little snow-peak meringues. My sister and I got around to making them at the end of our marathon day of baking, piping them onto the trays at 10PM, when the short-lived winter sunlight I rely on for photos was well and truly gone (the results were snapped the next morning). But, knowing my family’s love for these little guys (and mine too, apparently), there’s a good chance I’ll be making them again soon, at which point I’ll take a few instructional photos to help those of you who are new to meringues get a sense of what they should look like as you whip them up. In the mean time, follow the tips I’ve written into the recipe and you’ll do great. But if you’re not convinced, no worries – skim through last weeks’ four festive recipes and I’m sure you’ll find something that fits the bill.

And with that, I’m all out of recipes (and synonyms for festive), so I’m calling it a wrap. Happy baking, and happy holidays, friends!
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Candy Cane Meringues
Adapted from allrecipes.com
Supposedly makes 48, but I’m pretty sure I made about 100 

Note: While you wait for me to get a few instructional photos together, you can check out this handy post, which has photos showing the difference between soft, firm and stiff meringue peaks. 

Ingredients
2 egg whites (save the yolks for other tasty uses)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/8 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 cup white sugar
1-2 peppermint candy canes, finely crushed 

Directions
1. Preheat oven to 225 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper (do not grease!).

2. In a large glass or metal bowl, using an electric mixer, beat together egg whites, vanilla, salt and cream of tartar, until the mixture is pillowy and white, and holds soft peaks*.

3. With the beater going, slowly add the sugar and beat until the meringue is thick and glossy, and holds stiff peaks*.

4. Using a piping bag fitted with a snazzy tip, a sandwich bag with a small notch cut out of one corner (1cm or so), or a spoon, carefully form pyramid-shaped meringues that are about 2.5 cms at the base.*** 

5. Once you’ve got your meringues piped, gently sprinkle them with crushed candy cane (the candy cane gets sticky the longer it stays in your hands, so only take a bit at a time if you’re using your fingers). Bake for 1.5 hours, until meringues are completely dry inside, but not at all brown. Turn off oven, open door, and let sit in the oven until they’re completely cool, about an hour or so. And that’s it!
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*To check whether your mixture holds soft peaks, turn the beater off, then turn it upside down – if the meringue on the beater forms little peaks that melt back into themselves easily, you’re good to go! Note that before you reach this stage, the mixture will look foamy and unappealing – don’t fear; it’s only temporary!

**To check, turn the beater off again, and turn it upside down – if the meringue no longer melts back into itself, but holds its shape, with the very tip of the meringue pretty much staying in place, you’re good to go. Personally, I like the look of a slightly curled top (a firm peak), but if you want a perfectly straight tip (a stiff peak), just whip a bit longer, until the meringue cooperates.  

***If you’re using the sandwich bag technique, I find that gently squeezing the meringue straight down, gently pulling up as you go, makes for a more aesthetically pleasing meringue than one that’s been swirled on top of itself, ice-cream cone style.  

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