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Cremini Meringue Mushrooms

Makes about 25 meringue mushrooms
  • Active time: 1 hr
    Total time: 4 hr
Mushrooms made from meringue are the traditional edible decoration for a Yule log cake, and their cute quotient is high—they never fail to charm young and old alike. Saying they're edible is like calling a chocolate truffle edible; if you love crisp meringue, you'll adore the crunchy, airy contrast the mushrooms provide for our creamy Tiramisu Yule Log cake. Classically they're made from a white meringue, but we couldn't resist coloring ours with a little added cocoa to make the mushrooms look like cremini or baby bellas.

This recipe is part of our Gourmet Modern Menu: A Christmas Classic. Click here to view the full menu.

Published in Gourmet Live 12.05.12

INGREDIENTS:

  • 3 large egg whites
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Pinch of salt
  • 3/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (preferably Hershey's; not Dutch-process)
  • 3 ounces bittersweet or semi-sweet chocolate, melted (see Cooks' Notes)

EQUIPMENT:

  • Stand mixer; large pastry bag fitted with 1/2-inch plain round tip; 2 large baking sheets; small offset spatula (optional, but helpful)

INSTRUCTIONS:

  • Heat oven to 200°F with racks in upper and lower thirds. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
  • Beat egg whites with cream of tartar and salt in bowl of stand mixer on high speed until they just hold soft peaks. Beat in sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition, and continue to beat at high speed until meringue is very stiff, about 2 minutes. Beat in vanilla and beat again until very stiff.
  • Sift cocoa over meringue, and fold it in gently but thoroughly.
  • Spoon meringue into a pastry bag fitted with tip. Holding bag vertically, about 1/2 inch above baking sheet, pipe meringue into 25 mounds, ranging in size from about 1 1/2 to 2 inches in diameter, to resemble mushroom caps.
  • Still holding pastry bag vertically, pipe remaining meringue vertically into 25 "stems," 1 1/4- to 1 1/2 -inch-long lengths (make different lengths), making each base about 1 inch in diameter and tapering top end by pulling up on bag. (Pipe extra caps and stems with any remaining meringue in case of breakage.)
  • With a finger dipped in water, gently tamp down any peaks of meringue on caps to make a smooth mushroom cap.
  • Bake, switching position of sheets halfway through, until mushrooms caps are crisp and firm to touch, about 1 hour 45 minutes.
  • Turn off oven, then leave meringues in oven, with door closed, 30 minutes to dry. Slide parchment with meringues from baking sheets onto racks to cool. Cool completely.
  • With tip of a sharp paring knife, cut a small hollow the diameter of the tapered top of mushroom "stem" in center of the underside (flat side) of each mushroom cap.
  • Spread chocolate generously over flat bottom of a cap with offset spatula or back of spoon, then insert narrow end of stem. Let cap rest, stem end up, on a tray or baking sheet. Attach remaining stems to remaining caps, and let stand, stem ends up, at cool room temperature until chocolate is set, about 1 hour.

COOKS' NOTES:

  • To melt chocolate, finely chop it then put it in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave at 50 percent power for short intervals (about 30 seconds), stirring after each interval, until smooth. Or, melt finely chopped chocolate in a dry metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, stirring occasionally, until smooth.
  • Meringue mushrooms can be made 1 day ahead and kept between sheets of wax paper in airtight cookie tins.
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