The holidays are upon us once again, and one thing all winter holidays seem to have in common is food, glorious food. The temptation to overindulge is strong this time of year, but as we celebrate, it’s wise to heed to words of the ancient Greek poet, Hesiod, and remember, “Moderation is best in all things” (even during this festive time of year).
This recipe for Meringue Mushrooms is a delightful and delicious addition to any holiday cookie plate. It was sent to CCSA as part of a series of emails from our resident chef, Dr. Linda Doody. She began sharing her extensive collection of favorite recipes with friends, family, and the CCSA team as a means of maintaining connections during the COVID-19 pandemic and it has since become a company tradition.
“What could be more important than a little something to eat?”
– Winnie the Pooh
Cocolat, Alice Medrich (1990)
(Photo by Dr. Linda Doody)
- 4 large egg whites (½ cup), room temperature
- ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 cup sugar (preferably superfine) (to make home-made superfine sugar, measure out granulated sugar, assuming a 1 to 1 equivalence between granulated sugar and superfine sugar. Add a little extra granulated sugar since some of it will turn to dust. Pour granulated sugar into a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Cover the food processor's lid with a kitchen towel to keep most of the sugar dust safely inside the food processor. Process the sugar at high speed for about 1 to 2 minutes. The exact time will depend on the quantity of sugar and the processor but stop before the sugar crystals turn into powder. Let the sugar dust settle for 10 to 20 seconds, then remove the lid)
- 2 teaspoons unsweetened cocoa
- 2 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
- Preheat oven to 200°F. Line cookie sheets with parchment paper.
- Combine egg whites with cream of tartar in the large bowl of an electric or stand mixer. Beat at medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually sprinkle in sugar, beating at high speed until mixture is very stiff and dull looking. Scrape into a pastry bag fitted with a ½-inch plain tip (Ateco #8). Pipe ~65 pointed “kiss” shapes about 1-inch tall to make stems. (Note: It is best to pipe the stems first while the meringue is the stiffest. To make this shape, lift the bag while you stop squeezing.) Pipe ~65 round dome shapes to make mushroom caps. (Note: In contrast to the stems, be sure to stop squeezing the bag before lifting the tip off the cap; lift off in a semi-circular motion leaving as smooth a top as possible [a slight curl is fine].) Using a sieve, dust caps and stems with cocoa. Briskly blow or fan across the cookie sheets to blur the cocoa and make the mushrooms look more authentic. (Note: Do this outside!) Bake for up to 2 hours until caps and stems are crisp and completely dry. To test for dryness, remove a cap from the oven, let cool, and break open or bite in half. (Note: It is best to do all this on a dry day.) When cool, caps and stems may be stored airtight for 1 month.
- To assemble the mushrooms, melt the chocolate in a small bowl over a barely simmering water bath (or for a few minutes on the defrost setting of a microwave oven). Cut pointed tips off the stems with scissors or a small sharp knife. Spread a little chocolate on the flat bottom-side of each cap. (Note: Rather than spreading, I prefer to drip the chocolate from tip of a dinner knife so that the edge of the chocolate pool is slightly rounded and just inside the edge of the cap. This makes the chocolate more closely resemble mushroom gills.) Prepare several caps in this way before affixing stems to allow the chocolate to partially harden, like glue. Attach the trimmed end of a stem to the chocolate underside of each cap. Place the mushrooms on a cooling rack stem-side up until the chocolate fully hardens. Mushrooms may be assembled 3–4 weeks in advance and stored in an airtight container.
These mushrooms look amazingly real. You can actually pipe the caps and stems any size you want, varying them to look more natural. The assembled mushrooms may be added to cookie plates, massed in baskets, or used to decorate a bûche de noël (French for Yule log).They are lower in fat and calories than many other holiday treats, so there's a good excuse not to stop at one!