Christmas Cookie #4 : Peppermint Meringue with Spiked Chocolate Ganache

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There is something magical about meringue. Take an ordinary egg and turn it into a beautiful snow white crunchy cookie that melts in your mouth.  If that’s not magic, I don’t know what is.  Yesterday when I decided to make these cookies I realized I was out of peppermint extract, so off to the grocery store I went.  Why is it that when I go to the grocery store, I can’t just go directly to what I need and get out.   It is probably because any kind of shopping is also magic for me.  So when I strolled down the dairy aisle and saw the jumbo carton of eggnog, I knew I had to have it.  There was one problem – I had no rum at home.  And how can you have real eggnog without rum?  So rum running to the liquor store I went.  The LCBO is another store that I often get completely lost in.   It didn’t help that the store now has all its Christmas gift packages and limited edition bottles on display (like gingerbread liqueur)  to further distract me.  Then I remembered the real reason I was out shopping – cookies.  Oh wouldn’t a peppermint liqueur be amazing in my chocolate ganache? I noticed Kahlua had just introduced a peppermint flavour for Christmas, so into the basket it went with my eggnog-essential Captain Morgan dark rum. I then raced back home intent on making cookies and for a well deserved glass of eggnog.  I put on a Christmas CD, poured myself a good spirited seasonal beverage and joyfully settled in for an afternoon of baking and Christmas decorating. My hubby was kind enough to lug the 20+ bins of Christmas decorations up from the basement with no complaining or humming (we know he is on the edge of explosion when that begins).  If I have an endless overwhelming urge to take this magic time of the year to the extreme, I have my mother – the Queen of Special Occasions – to thank for it.  To me Chirstmas is always overdue and you can never overdo Christmas!

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Meringue Cookies

Ingredients

6 large egg whites (at room temperature)

1 1/2 cups white sugar

1/2 teaspoon pure peppermint extract

red gel-paste food colouring

Chocolate Ganache

12 oz bittersweet chocolate – chopped/ or chocolate with 85% cocoa

2 cups heavy cream – 35%

1/4 cup Kahlua peppermint flavour

Topping

1/4 cup candy cane – crushed ( I purchased mine at bulk food store/pre-crushed)

1/4 cup shaved peppermint chocolate ( I purchased a peppermint chocolate bar and shaved with a Chef knife)

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NOTE: adapted from Martha Stewart

Cookie Directions

pre-heat oven to 175 ( NO higher)

the secret to the perfect meringue is the slow low temperature heat/you are actually not even cooking the meringues you really just want to dry them out

– trace circles onto parchment paper , spacing 2 inches apart/ circles to be about 2″ in diameter/ NOTE I made my circles way too big to start with, they were more like meringue nest than cookies – so be careful on what size you want your cookies to be – they have to be large enough to be able to fill with ganache

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– put traced side down paper on cookie sheet

– place water in a small saucepan and heat to simmering

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– place egg whites and sugar in a heat-proof bowl ( I used a shallow stainless steel bowl) and set over simmering water

– heat until sugar is dissolved – about 3 min: watch carefully as you don’t want your eggs to cook, you just want mixture to be warm to the touch

NOTE: there are three types of meringues, this recipe is using the Swiss method/ see bottom of post for more information on meringues

– transfer warm mixture to mixer and whisk on medium to high-speed until stiff peaks form (you must be able to pipe this meringue)

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– add peppermint extract and mix through

– if you want candy-cane like streaks in your meringue – USE a food-safe paintbrush and paint streaks inside your piping bag with red food colouring (use paste-not liquid)

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– add meringue to pastry bag fitted with star tip #5 and pipe coils around the circles you have traced on parchment paper, I piped outline then filled slightly on bottom then piped outer layer circle – leaving a small opening in centre (enough to fill with ganache)

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see how I made mine too big to start with – I think by time I piped the last row I had it about right

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– bake for 1 hour 3o min/ at the hour stage check to ensure they are not browning

– transfer meringues to wire rack and let cool completely

Directions for Ganache

– place chopped chocolate in a heat-proof bowl

– pour cream into saucepan, on medium heat bring to gentle simmer

– pour hot cream over chocolate and let stand for 2 min then stir until smooth

– add liquor and mix through

– let chocolate cool to room temperature , then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm – about 1 hour

– when ganache is firm, place in a pastry big fitted with a star tip (#5) and pipe a small amount into centre of meringue cookies

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– sprinkle chocolate shavings and candy-cane on top of ganache

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– keep cookies at room temperature for 3-4 hours to let ganache set

– store in airtight container as soon as ganache is set

– if freezing, place individual cookies on cookie sheet and place entire cookie sheet in freezer for amount 15min then transfer each cookie to freezer container and layer with waxed paper in between each row of cookies

Finished meringue

Finished meringue

– for something fun you can put meringue into cupcake holder with wrapper and topper – and display on individual  cake-cup stands

Cake-cup wrapper

Cake-cup wrapper

These cookies make a great gift, package them in a pretty box with food-safe tissue, add ribbon and your done!

Boxed Meringue

Boxed Meringue

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NOTE: excellent site for tips on meringue Domino Sugar

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