My husband and I have never really been into the sappy Hallmark holidays. Mushy cards and sloppy romances were never my thing. On Valentine’s Day we play a little game, trying to out-do each other with the most inappropriate and ridiculously raunchy cards we can find, then we’ll watch a James Bond. Instead of flowers, or in addition to, he’ll often buy me a new record to add to our vinyl collection – The Beatles or Pink Floyd or something else he knows I love – and pick up some oysters on the way home. I’ll cook a big meal while he puts on the record. It starts with the oysters, followed by maybe steak with béarnaise sauce (he likes his meat just barely kissed by the flame), sautéed potatoes, butternut squash bisque, with a sweet little treat at the end.
My love language is music and his is food, so it works .
You all know that I make meringue all the time. In fact, I always get a little excited when a recipe calls for just egg yolks because it means there will be whites leftover and I can make a batch of meringue cookies later in the week. They’re so incredibly simple to make – just egg whites and sugar with a pinch of cream of tartar and salt. Interestingly, cream of tartar is actually a byproduct of the winemaking industry. It’s the acidic residue left on the inside of the barrels after fermentation. You know the crystals of sediment you sometimes find lingering in the bottom of your wine glass? That’s tartaric acid which, when processed with potassium, becomes cream of tartar. The tartaric acid stabilizes the egg whites, while sugar gives the meringues structure.
When making meringue, there are a few simple rules worth memorizing:
- The egg whites must me completely free of any yolk and the bowl must be absolutely clean and free of any oil, otherwise the whites will not form solid, stiff peaks.
- The ratio of sugar to egg white is 1/4 cup : 1 egg white. If you follow this ratio, it doesn’t matter how many egg whites you’re using, the meringues will turn out perfectly.
- The sugar must be added very slowly while beating the egg whites, otherwise the batter will deflate. Don’t add more than a tablespoon at a time and be sure each addition is fully incorporated and dissolved before adding the next.
- Baking low and slow is the key. Meringues are best when baked at a low temperature (200F) for a long time (at least 2 hours). They should not be allowed to brown at all. Once done baking, crack the oven door and let the meringues cool slowly inside the oven for at least another 15 – 20 minutes before serving.
The meringue batter can be flavoured with any extract and baking emulsion that you like. I love this coconut version and, as they are shaped like little Hershey’s Kisses, I thought they would be perfect for Valentine’s day. If you’re a coconut-lover like I am, I hope you’ll give them a try.
Happy Valentine’s Day! xoxo
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Coconut Meringue Cookies
There are many methods out there for making meringue. Some say add the sugar at the end, others incorporate it while beating the egg whites. Some call for vinegar, others for lemon juice, and still others for cream of tartar. This is the method that I use most and think works best at high altitude. I bake these in a fan-forced convection oven, but if you don’t have one, don’t worry. Just be sure there’s plenty of room between the baking sheets and around the edges of the oven to allow the air to circulate, then rotate the sheets after an hour of baking, but keep in mind – don’t open the oven door for the first 45 – 60 minutes or the meringues will collapse.
3 egg whites
1/4 tsp fine grain sea salt
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
1/2 tsp coconut baking emulsion (or extract, they can be used interchangeably)
Preheat your oven on convection bake to 200 F/95 C. (If you don’t have a convection setting it’s fine, just be sure there’s plenty of room between the baking sheets for the air to circulate.)
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, add the egg whites, salt and cream of tartar. Beat with an electric hand mixer until the eggs become foamy and fluffy. When the eggs are fluffy, begin adding in the sugar very slowly, one tablespoon at a time. Continue beating while you add the sugar, making sure each addition is fully incorporated before adding the next.
When all the sugar has been incorporated and is dissolved, increase the speed of the mixer and beat until the meringue batter is glossy and stiff. It should hold a peak when you lift the beaters.
Add the coconut emulsion and beat for a few seconds longer.
Fit a piping bag with a star-shaped tip and fill with the meringue batter. Pipe the batter into Hershey kiss shapes on the prepared baking sheets. Each cookie should be about 1 inch in diameter. They will expand slightly in the oven.
Place both sheets in the oven and bake for 2 hours 15 minutes, until very crisp and dry. Watch carefully in the last few minutes of baking to make sure they do not start to brown. Turn the oven off and crack the door. Allow the cookies to cool inside the oven for an additional 15 – 20 minutes before removing. Store in an airtight container.