Many of my favorite holiday treats are quite rich. I love chocolatey fudge, dense yule cake, and spicy gingerbread but it is sometimes nice to have a dessert that is on the lighter side. Peppermint meringues are a great alternative to the usual rich holiday fare with a light, airy texture and a hint of peppermint. These are not exactly cookies, not quite a confection but definitely a lovely, festive sweet treat. Despite being fat-free, these pepperminty drops are full of flavor and look so delightful!
I have seen lots of recipes for peppermint meringues, but I ended up just following a basic meringue formula that I always use for making pavlovas or meringue cookies, or any “hard” meringue. I just added a hint of peppermint at the end of beating the egg whites and then used some tips from a recipe on marthastewart.com to add some pretty candy cane stripes to the meringues as I piped them out. The candy cane stripes are completely optional and they were kind of a mess to create, but I think they add a nice jaunty touch, although my turned out a bit more luridly red than the ones on marthastewart.com. This is a fairly easy recipe to make but I do have a few tips if you have never made meringues before. First off, add the sugar very slowly to the egg whites as you beat them instead of in one fell swoop. I add about 1 Tablespoon every 30 seconds or so until all the sugar is added. Secondly, you want to make sure the egg whites reach a stiff peak stage before piping it out onto the cookie sheets or the meringues will not bake correctly. Here is a great tutorial on the different stages of beaten egg whites. Lastly, to prevent the meringues from cracking, try not to overbake them by checking often towards the end of the baking time. Also, let the meringues cool in the oven completely as a sudden change of temperature can cause them to crack. That being said, a few of my meringues always end up cracking anyway, but they taste just as good as the smooth ones so it’s just an excuse to eat a few before serving them!
Makes about 2 dozen
4 egg whites
1 cup sugar (I use superfine sugar because it dissolves faster)
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
red gel food coloring
1. Preheat the oven to 250 degrees and line two sheet pans with parchment paper.
2. Place the egg whites in a large
mixing bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer. Using a hand-held electric mixer or a stand mixer, beat the egg whites on medium speed until soft peaks begin to form. Slowly add the sugar, one tablespoon at a time, waiting about 30 seconds between additions. After the sugar is all added, turn up the speed to high and beat the egg whites until stiff peaks form, another 5 to 10 minutes (the time depends on the power of the mixer, the freshness of the eggs, the humidity, etc.). Add the peppermint extract and beat for a few more seconds until extract is incorporated.
3. To create stripes (if desired): Dip a medium sized paint brush into a dab of red gel food coloring and paint striped inside a pastry bag fitted with a small star tip, about 1/2 inch apart. If the food coloring seems very stiff, add just a small drop of water to it before painting or dampen the paint brush a little.
4. Using a small rubber spatula or a tablespoon, transfer some of the stiff egg whites to a pastry bag fitted with a small star tip (the same pastry bag you painted with stripes in step 3). I actually use a Pampered Chef Easy Accent Decorator for this kind for this kind of thing and I love it! Pipe 1-inch rounds of meringue onto the prepared baking sheets leaving about 1 inch between each meringue. Repeat with the remaining meringue, re-painting the inside of the pastry bag each time you refill it.
5. Bake the meringues in the preheated oven for about 1 hour, or until they are hard on the outside but still a little chewy in the middle. Let the meringues cool on the pans in the oven until completely cool then carefully remove them from the pans to a platter, being gentle with them so as not to make them crack or crumble.