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Dancing Tomatoes

Meringue into…Mushrooms?

Yes it’s possible!

Meringue is a foundation of French pastry making, a fluffy, slightly sticky and malleable mix of egg whites and sugar, it is very stable and it bakes into just about any shape you ask it too. Legend has it that Gustav Eiffel, thearchitect, first made the tower out of meringue and baked it to see how it would look once standing.

Which is a story I made up, but the idea is you COULD do that with meringue! (You would hope it doesn’t rain, however, because water melts meringue).

To be serious, meringue is so very easy to make. And when you watch the video you’ll see this in “real” life. And when you come to France, you’ll walk the streets and notice that meringues are in every pastry shop window, some giant and fluffy and intended to go into the hand of a child after school, or be crumbled into a dessert. There are pastry shops entirely devoted to meringue – cakes, pies, shapes of all kinds and they prance out the door with frightening speed. Because the French love fancy, they love sugar, and many (especially in big cities) don’t bake at home.

There are several types of meringue, and I’m talking with you here about the simplest. It is simply egg whites whisked to cloud-like consistency, then firmed up with the addition of sugar. Once the two are combined and whisked to stiff, bright white, shiny points you can flavor them, turn them just about any color you like, pipe them into shapes, dollop them atop a lemon tart, or do any kind of fanciful thing you want (such as put a dab on your finger and lick it off). For meringue is one of those magical mixtures that conjures up all sorts of sweet fantasy. If you consider it a plaything, then you’ll really have fun with it.

For our purpose, I turned meringue into forest-fresh mushrooms, destined to decorate the French holiday cake, bûche de Noël or Christmas Log. They are so important to this cake because they make it look like a real log! And they are simply adorable, with their little dusting of cacao “dirt” and their fat stems and peaky tops. Once you’ve made these, though, you won’t want to stop, the way I didn’t. Now, I have a whole forest of mushrooms in my kitchen, so I dole them out to neighbors and friends, because they keep for at least two weeks, nice, crisp, and sweet!

Meringue(s)

You can use this to make mushrooms OR atop a lemon tart, too, to make lemon meringue tart!
Course: Dessert
Cuisine: French
Keyword: egg whites, sugar
Servings: 20 meringues30

Ingredients

  • 4 large egg whites at room temperature
  • Pinch salt
  • 1-1/4 to 1-1/2 cups 250-300g vanilla sugar, divided

Instructions

  • Preheat the oven to 250F (120C). Line a baking sheet with parchment.
  • Place the egg whites and the salt in the bowl of a mixer fit with the whisk attachment. Whisk the egg whites on medium speed at first so they begin to break up and get foamy. Once they are foamy, increase the speed to high, and when they are white and fluffy, pour in the 1-1/4 cups (250g) sugar as though it were raining into the egg whites, ie. do not just dump it in. The egg whites will become bright white and glossy and once they do that, stop the mixer! As fast as you can, check the meringue and see if it keeps a very stiff point. If not, put it on high speed and add extra sugar until it does.
  • First pipe a little meringue under each corner of the parchment, to keep it from slipping off the baking sheet. Then, using the tip you prefer (tips are classified in sizes all over the map – use one that has an opening between 5-7mm, if you’ve got that, but be creative if you don’t!), pipe the meringues into little mushroom caps and stems (and other shapes if you like!), with the understanding they will increase in size, so leave at least ½-inch (1.25cm) between them.
  • Bake until the meringues are crisp throughout, UNLESS you like them with just a bit of tenderness inside, from 30 minutes to 1 hour.

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