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Friday, October 2, 2015

October 2: Boo Meringues

 Make no bones about it (ha!), these Boo Meringues are sure to please
Skeleton bowl from Yankee Candle Store

I'm continuing the ghost theme today, but this time for dessert!

These cookies were the sixth treat I ever made when I started this festive endeavor in 2013. Yet they remain one of the most popular treats to date, so I thought I'd bring them back this year. Because I think I'm hilarious, I've renamed them Boo Meringues in honor of their return.

They're easy to grab when you need a sweets fix, and light enough not to feel guilty when you see your kids sneaking them when they think you aren't looking. (Or when you snag one or two for yourself whilst resealing the container the kids didn't close in their not-so-stealthy pilfering.) Also? They're a fun topper for a cup of hot cocoa.

* * * * *
Boo Meringue Cookies
With a flavor similar to a marshmallow, these light and airy, slightly crispy, poppable treats will definitely please every ghoul in your house. Recipe adapted from Taste of Home, Meringue Bones Recipe, online.

Yield: mine made 12 bones & 36 little ghosts
Active Time: 20 minutes
Bake Time: 90 minutes, plus several hours to cool

Note: Any type of grease or water can ruin a meringue. It's important to use clean, dry bowls and utensils. Metal or glass is recommended since plastic can hold residual oils.

Photos: (Top) First batch; too sticky (Bottom) Second batch; perfect texture


2 large egg whites, room temperature (leave them out at least 30 minutes prior to using)
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 cup superfine sugar (If you can't find any at your market, you can make your own by placing regular granulated sugar in a food processor for about 30 seconds)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract (most recipes specify clear-colored extract to keep those ghosts bright white, but I wasn't about to buy clear stuff just for one recipe. Using the regular, brownish vanilla extract is fine. Your ghosts will still be white, just not quite as vibrant.)
miniature chocolate chips (optional)


1. Preheat the oven to 225 degrees F. Line baking sheet with parchment paper. If desired, fit a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch plain tip; if you don't have tips, you can simply cut a small hole in the corner of your pastry bag.  

If you don't have real pastry bags, don't stress. You can make your own out of a 1-gallon freezer zipper bag (the regular non-freezer variety are not as sturdy. They work in a pinch, but sometimes the seam rips open; I've had better success with the freezer variety.) Simply cut off the zipper part to make the bag easier to maneuver; snip one of the corners with kitchen shears to the depth of your piping tip; fit in your piping tip per normal methods; load in meringue; twist the bag at the top so nothing escapes while you pipe. Congrats! You've just MacGyvered a pastry bag! (& I've just MacGyvered a new verb...)

2. In a small mixing bowl, use a handheld mixer to beat the egg whites, cream of tartar, and vanilla on medium speed until soft peaks form. (For me, this took about 2 minutes. Also, I HIGHLY recommend using a handheld electric mixer rather than a stand mixer. I used the stand mixer on the blobbier batch and I so preferred the control I had with the handheld. In addition, the beaters were closer to the egg whites which helped things happen more quickly.)

3. Add the sugar, a little at a time, continuing to beat on high until the meringue holds very stiff peaks. (This took about 7 minutes when I did it.)

Several meringue recipes I consulted indicated that the sugar must dissolve in order for the meringue to be ready to use. Therefore, once those stiff peaks form, rub some of the meringue between your thumb and index finger. If it's smooth, it's ready. If it's gritty, keep beating.

4. Gently transfer meringue to the pastry bag. Hold the bag upright and pipe 2-inch high mounds of meringue onto the sheet. (To make a bone shape, pipe meringue into 3 inch log shapes, then pipe two circles each at the top and bottom of the log.)

5. If desired, carefully place 2 mini chocolate chips in place as ghost eyes and a third under it in place as a mouth.

6. Bake meringues for 75-90 minutes, or until dry and crisp to the touch, and easily separate from the parchment. Turn off the oven, slightly open the oven door, and leave the meringues in the oven for several hours to finish drying.

7. Store at room temperature in air tight container for 7-10 days.

* * * * *
This little guy's face about sums up how I was feeling as I made the first batch of these
While making these today, repressed memories surfaced of the first time I made them. I'd forgotten how long it takes for the egg whites to start doing their thing, how tense I felt the whole time as I watched and waited for something to happen. Should I increase the stand mixer's speed? When it says "foamy" does it mean a little foam or a lot of foam? Are those peaks stiff enough? Is Jon Bon Jovi committed to his new au naturale hair color look? (Sorry. That last one has really been weighing on me.)

As I filled my pastry bag with the mixture that resembled a less viscous marshmallow fluff, I suspected something was off. As the ghosts blobbed onto the pan, I worried I should have let the peaks get stiffer. I got a little annoyed the recipe hadn't given better time cues, but hoped it would turn out after baked.

As it were, I was right to be concerned. The ghouls ended up squat with sticky insides. "Sticky" is not something you want in a meringue. Some of them even had little crystalline bubbles oozing from their sides. As you can see in some of the photos, they still resemble ghosts and I can attest that the flavor is good. But the texture was all wrong and I suspect it was my fault (especially since all the ingredient lists of meringue cookies I've seen are fairly standard in ratios.)

Anyway, I shot the photos of my imperfect little ghost friends, but the idea of posting a recipe that didn't turn out the right way has been bugging me all afternoon. So I found a new recipe (almost identical to the first except for the directions) and made some tweaks to the process I used for the first batch and tried it again.

I'm happy to report a successful, crispy little meringue. Hurrah! I attribute the improvement to the handheld mixer and to my (obsessive) checking for grittiness. Those things made all the difference.

Thankfully, now these tasty little ghosts can't haunt my dreams tonight. 


Well, maybe that little guy on the left there in front. He looks sorta creepy. 

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