Thursday, February 9, 2012
I volunteered to bake some sweet treats for our school's Ladies Night this weekend and really wanted to try something new. I happened to have a bag of meyer lemons AND had a request for lemon bars so those were definitely on the table. Those lemon bars are so good it's a shame to not make them and I want to make sure that at least one dessert is going to be guaranteed to be delicious. I have a reputation to uphold over here. That said, my lemons were small so I threw TWO into the food processor instead of one and it was just a bit too much - they had a really mild, bitter aftertaste that wasn't strong enough to make me not want to eat them, just enough to prevent them from being fabulous. Learn by mistake and even if you think your lemon is tiny, just use one.
For a second treat, I was thinking of something chocolately to balance out the sweet, tarty lemon bars but then I saw these Espresso Meringues and pinned them and couldn't stop thinking about them. I love meringues and they are good thing to make for a bunch of chicks who are always watching what they eat - they are fat free and low calorie but still sweet and you don't feel like you are eating something diety. The espresso flavour elevates them to a very grown up taste, another plus for a group of moms who are out to have some wine and snacks and enjoy not being moms for the evening. Trust me, we all eat enough rice crispy treats and brownies to last us a lifetime at all kid centred events and I think we deserve some stuff that most of the kids wouldn't like even if they were there.
Take that you stinking kids!
I made a couple of small changes only - I whizzed the sugar/coffee/vanilla mixture to grind it up more finely and I cooked them the way I cook my meringues - the original recipe called for a 275F oven and that feels too hot to me. The first day they were a bit too dry and crispy for me - I like a bit of a soft, spongey inside but I noticed that after spending a night or two in a tupperware container, the insides started to soften up a bit and I really loved them like that.
adapted from Happy Good Time
3 large egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla
scant 2 tsp finely ground espresso beans
Preheat the oven to 225F
Line a large cookie sheet with parchment.
Make sure the bowl and beater you are using for making the meringue are completely clean and oil free. My friend taught me a good tip - wipe them both down with a bit of white vinegar and then rinse and dry.
Mix together the sugar, espresso and vanilla and pulse them in a food processor to grind everything finely. Most meringue recipes call for fine castor sugar but I just whiz regular granulated sugar in my bullet and it works great. It also serves to grind the espresso beans even more finely. Set aside.
So, put your egg whites in the bowl of your mixer and start beating them on med low until they get frothy. At that point, sprinkle the cream of tartar and salt over them and continue to whip, turning the speed up to med and continue to whip until soft peaks form. This is when you turn the power up to med high and start adding the sugar/coffee/vanilla mixture, a tablespoon at a time until it's all in there. Continue to beat until you reach a nice, stiff peak.
It's up to your whether you just drop free form blobs onto the parchment or use a piping bag with some sort of big tip. I have also used a plastic freezer bag with the a corner cut off to make about a 1" round hole and have piped that way.
However you choose to form them, just do that and don't worry too much about spreading - you don't want them touching but they won't move so you don't have to leave a ton of space between each cookie.
Pop them in the oven and bake them for about 1 1/2 hours. Some people turn off the oven and prop the door open and just leave them in there until everything cools to room temp. Some people take them out and let them cool on the counter. I don't think it matters all that much which method you prefer because I have done both and there was little difference in the finished product to be honest.