Whenever I make Chocolate Pots de Creme or other custard dessert, I have a lot of egg whites looking for a purpose. For years I would throw out the unused egg whites until I learned egg whites freeze well. Now, I freeze the egg whites and pick a time to make one of my favorite desserts, mousse, dacquoise, or meringue cookies. During the winter, I especially enjoy peppermint meringue cookies with their pink swirls and minty flavor. These light and crispy cookies have just enough peppermint flavor and taste as good dressed up with peppermint candies or white chocolate, or as is. They are festive cookies, perfect for the holidays and make a great hostess gift.
It is not difficult to make peppermint meringue cookies, but there are a few factors to keep in mind.
- Eggs are easier to separate when they are cold, but room temperature egg whites get more volume. Separate the whites from the yolks when the eggs are just removed from the refrigerator. Make sure there are no traces of yolk in the egg whites. Leave the whites on the counter for 30 minutes to come up to room temperature before making meringue.
- Use clean beaters and bowls. It seems like an obvious statement, but any trace of water, soap, egg yolk, or other proteins will hinder your success at getting silky and airy meringue with lots of volume.
- Add the egg whites and acid or Cream of Tartar together, then whisk the egg whites. Acid, like lemon juice, white vinegar, or Cream of Tartar, are stabilizers and help with the structure of airy meringue.
- Slowly add the sugar to the whites one tablespoon at a time. If you add the sugar in too quickly the egg whites will deflate.
- Pipe the meringue and bake the cookies immediately after you stop whisking the meringues.
- Cool the meringue cookies in the oven after baking. Unless you need the oven to make dinner, it is a perfect air tight space to cool the meringue. I often make meringue at night because meringue take so long to bake, then I keep the meringue in the oven overnight. Once cool, store the cookies in an airtight container on the counter. Meringues do not like moisture and will sweat or get sticky when left out in the air.
How to make the red swirls or stripes on the meringue cookies:
- Method 1 as suggested in the recipe: add drops of red food coloring to the finished meringue in the mixing bowl. Do not mix. Then spoon the meringue into a piping bag fitted with a ½ inch (1 cm) tip. Press out the air and secure the pastry bag. Pipe the meringue in a spiral motion and make a 1½ inch (4 cm) circle. This produces meringue cookies with swirly pink lines in each cookie. No two cookies look the same. As pictured in this blog post.
- Method 2: use an artist’s paint brush and paint 3 evenly spaced lines of red food coloring inside and up the length of the piping bag. It will look like three straight candy stripes in your piping bag. Carefully spoon the meringue into the piping bag fitted with a ½ inch (1 cm) tip or your choice. Press out all the air and twist and secure the top of your pastry bag. This method produces uniform looking meringue cookies with evenly spaced vertical red lines.
Personally, I like the first method because I love the pink swirls in each cookie, and I don’t have to worry about messing up the painted lines while I am spooning the meringue into the piping bag. If you don’t own piping tips and a pastry bag, plastic bags work just as well. See recipe description for instructions.
Toppings for your Peppermint Meringue Cookies
- Make the cookies as the recipe states without extra decoration. The peppermint flavor is pronounced, and the meringue cookie is light and crispy.
- For a little extra crunch, add crushed peppermint candy to the meringue cookie batter. And/or sprinkle crushed peppermint candy over the meringue cookies before you place them in the oven.
- Dip the bottom or top of cooled meringue cookies in melted white chocolate, then coat the white chocolate bottoms with crushed peppermint candy or coconut flakes.
There are endless possibilities for decorating and personalizing your meringue cookies. If peppermint is not your thing, fold in a couple of tablespoons of freeze-dried coffee granules into meringue. The coffee granules will create a subtle swirly pattern of coffee-colored meringue in each cookie. The coffee meringue will also taste great dipped in white chocolate. Or flavor with lemon extract, orange blossom water, or rose water and minced pistachios.
This recipe is adapted from Bon Appetit. I use their piping technique, but I slightly changed the ingredients. These cookies are great as is, but I love the peppermint meringue cookies dipped in white chocolate and peppermint candy. The white chocolate adds a creamy texture and taste against the crispy and minty meringues. These airy cookies are a real crowd pleaser.
Peppermint Meringue Cookies: 3 Ways
- 3 egg whites room temperature
- 1/8 tsp Kosher salt
- 1 tsp white vinegar
- 2/3 cup (152 g) granulated sugar*
- 1/8- 1/4 tsp real peppermint extract
- 12 drops red food color
- 12 oz (342 g) white chocolate, melted
- About 1/2 cup (125 ml) crushed peppermint candies
- Unsweetened coconut flakes
Preheat oven to 200°F/ 93°C
Fit a ½ inch (1 cm) tip into a pastry bag and set upright inside a tall drinking glass. Fold the edges of the pastry bag over the glass rim. Set aside.
Prepare two rimmed sheet pans. Cover each sheet pan with parchment paper. Set aside.
Add egg whites and vinegar to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whisk the egg whites at medium speed until they are light and foamy with soft peaks, about a couple of minutes.
Turn up the speed to medium-high and add the granulated sugar a tablespoon at a time, whisking the whites for a few seconds between additions. It will take around 6 minutes to add all the sugar.
Once all the sugar is added, turn the speed up to high and whisk the meringue until glossy and stiff peaks form, about 3 minutes.
Optional: If you want crushed peppermint candy in your meringue cookies, using a rubber spatula, fold in 2 Tablespoons of finely crushed peppermint candy into the meringue before you add the food coloring.
Remove the bowl from the mixer, and add 12 drops of red food color scattered about the meringue. Do not mix.
Spoon the meringue into the pastry bag, or gallon size Ziploc plastic bag, without stirring the meringue. Once all the meringue is added, twist the bag closed and squeeze down on the bag until the meringue is down to the tip without air pockets. If using a Ziploc bag, snip off the tip of a corner making a ½ inch (1 cm) opening.
Using gentle, squeeze the meringue out of the piping bag and make a 1½ inch (4 cm) circle in an upward spiral, and space each meringue cookie about an inch (2.5 cm) apart.
Bake in the oven for 2 hours, or until the meringue is dry.
Turn off the oven and cool the meringue cookies in the oven. Once cooled, remove the meringue cookies and decorate, or store in an air tight container. Meringues do not like damp conditions or humid weather. Keep them out of the humidity or air long as possible.
Decorate as you wish.
Break up the white chocolate into pieces and place in a glass bowl. Melt the chocolate in the microwave. Microwave on high heat for 30 seconds. Stop and stir the chocolate and access the progress. Repeat, melting the chocolate in the microwave in 20 second intervals then stirring, for as many intervals as needed until the chocolate is mostly melted.
Take the chocolate out of the microwave and add the remaining white chocolate to the bowl and stir the white chocolate until all the chocolate has melted.
Place crushed peppermint candies on a plate, and/or the coconut flakes if using. Cover a sheet pan with parchment paper.
Dip the meringue cookies in the melted white chocolate, either the bottom or top, and turn the cookie around to get an even coating. Let the excess chocolate drip off, then press the chocolate coated cookie in the peppermint candy or coconut flakes. Place each meringue cookie on the prepared sheet pan until dry. Repeat until all the cookies are coated in chocolate.
* When making meringue, super fine sugar works better than granulated sugar. It dissolves faster and is not as dense. I cannot get super fine sugar in my grocery store, instead I process the granulated sugar in a food processor, about 5-6 pulses. If you don't have either option, granulated sugar works, but make sure you add it into the meringue slowly.
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