Meringues make me nervous. They are too beautiful, too ethereal, too delicate. They remind me of those women you see in the streets of New York who are so skinny, so perfectly dressed, so well-groomed that you know that they have never spent the day with their belly fat dripping out over their elastic pajama waists picking at the M& M-sized zit on their porcelain chins. They are of a different world than people like me, people who are of the breed that impatiently jerks open plastic packaging as the contents ricochet off the ceiling instead of carefully cutting along the dotted line.
Which is why I knew I had to make make meringues. And not any meringue. I had to make the pink-tutu-clad peppermint swirl meringue on the cover of the December Bon Appetit I bought in the Boston airport. Because, you know, being that cooking is my hobby and something I truly enjoy, I have to think of some way to ruin it and make it not fun.
But, like a lot of things that strike you are complicated and nerve-wracking and never-to-be-even-attempted-until -your- bucket-list, meringues are surprisingly, almost disappointingly, simple. (Conversely it is of course the obvious, the water boiling/egg frying parts of life that end up tripping you up.) Of the five recipes that my friend Lacey and I made during our second-ever Christmas Cookie-a-thon today,these were by far the easiest. I mean even the no-bake cookies included tedious steps that were in unto themselves more time-consuming than making the meringues–i.e. chopping marshmallows, a substance that is about as choppable as chewed-up Hubba Bubba into “pea-sized” marshmallow bits.
As for the taste, these meringues are good but I’m not sure you’d want more than one–kind of like those pinwheel peppermints they give you at diners. Which hopefully will not be the next dish I attempt….
Adapted almost-not-at-all from the Dec. 2011 Bon Appetit
3 large egg whites, at room temperature (Apparently this is VERY important–the room temperature part)
1/8 tsp kosher salt
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup confectioner’s sugar
1/8 tsp peppermint extract
12 drops red food coloring
Preheat over to 200 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicon baking liner. Beat egg whites and salt with a mixer for 5 minutes on medium high. Add sugar in three additions, beating 2 minutes after each addition. Add powdered sugar and peppermint and beat for one minute. (I timed all of this precisely with my phone and it came out well.) Drip food coloring over whites but don’t mix. As you drop the meringues onto the parchment, the color will swirl
If you’re feeling fancy or, like me, want to try out the pastry piper you bought on sale a year ago and have never even removed from the packaging, put batter in the piping tube or pastry bag and line the prepared baking sheet fluted starlets.(Or, in my case, starlet-like globs). Otherwise, drop the meringue mixture on the baking sheet with a tea spoon.
Bake for two and a half hours. You might also need to let the cookies dry for a few more hours if you don’t live at 5,000 feet in a climate that sometimes feel like a dry sauna gone cold.