Yield: Yields about 40 mushrooms with 1-1⁄4-inch caps
Crisp, sweet, festive, and fun. Meringue mushrooms are a classic trompe l’oeil sweet. Use them to garnish a traditional Yule log cake, add them to a cookie tray, or package them in little produce baskets wrapped in cellophane like real mushrooms and give them as gifts. They keep well for many weeks, even months if stored airtight. They never fail to amaze and delight.
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Preheat the oven to 200°F. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.
In a clean dry bowl with an electric mixer, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar on medium speed until soft peaks form when the beaters are lifted. On high speed, gradually add 1/2 cup of the sugar about a tablespoon at a time. The mixture should stand in stiff peaks when the beaters are lifted. Use a rubber spatula to fold in the remaining 1/4 cup sugar. Scrape the meringue into a large pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain tip. Pipe pointed “kisses” about 1 inch high to make “stems” on parchment-lined cookie sheets. Do not worry if the tips bend over or sag. Pipe domes to make mushroom “caps.”
Bake 2 hours until crisp and completely dry. Rotate the pans from top to bottom and from front to back halfway through the baking time to ensure even baking. If not assembling immediately, store caps and stems airtight as soon as they are cool to prevent them from becoming moist and sticky.
Place the chocolate in a small bowl set directly in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Immediately turn off the heat and stir the chocolate until melted and smooth. Use a sharp knife to cut 1/4 inch to 1/2 inch off of the tip of each stem to create a flat surface. Spread a generous coat of melted chocolate over the flat side of several mushroom caps. Allow the chocolate to set partially before attaching the cut surface of the stems. Repeat until all of the mushrooms are assembled. Set aside the assembled mushrooms until the chocolate has hardened and the caps and stems are “glued” together. To prevent them from becoming sticky, put them in an airtight container as soon as they are cool. May be stored airtight for 3 to 4 weeks.
Coffee Meringue Mushrooms: Stir 1-1/2 tsp. instant coffee or espresso powder into the portion of sugar that is gradually beaten into the egg whites.
Chestnut Meringue Mushrooms: Mix 3 Tbs. chestnut flour with the 1/4 cup of the sugar that is folded in at the end.
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