Striped Peppermint Meringues with Chocolate Ganache

December 3, 2009 at 8:53 pm 281 comments

Lately it seems like I’ve had a lot of bad days. More like a lot of bad weeks. Everyone has those days where nothing goes right, where it seems like the flowers close when you walk by and the clouds begin to leak rain. But when those “once in a while” days turn into every other day, you start to feel discouraged.

I don’t know what it’s been. It started with an unpleasant day in school a few weeks ago, when one of my teachers gave everyone low marks on the final. We all protested but she stayed firm and unyielding. I heard the harshness in her voice and I felt in that moment that her only joy in life came from punishing us.

The following period only made matters worse. It’s a “bird class” – the kind that’s so easy, you fly through with a free A, but that day we had a substitute teacher and everyone acted up. I didn’t find it amusing, but found myself powerless and unmotivated to stand up and help her as she slowly lost control of the class. As the day drew to a close, I realized with dread I’d left some important paperwork at home, and that was the last straw as the sky opened up and began to pour.

A week later, I was spending my weekend afternoon on my bed, trying to sort out a college application. It was a particularly frustrating application, with all sorts of strange requirements and vague instructions that were testing my temper. I must have called twenty people for help on filling it out, but all I got was twenty different opinions, all conflicting. I sat there the whole day, just building up more and more tension until I had to stop looking at the unfinished page.

My friend chose that low, hopeless moment to call me with a complaint and a desire to fight, but I didn’t have any fight in me. As she yelled and I felt our friendship ending, I couldn’t take any more. My heart felt as tender as a badly bruised peach. I quietly hung up, feeling the worst I’d felt all week, and trying not to let it break me.

Usually at moments like that, I turn to the kitchen. But because of all my commitments, I haven’t had as much time to bake as I’d like. I’ve missed three of my friend’s birthdays to date, even though I’ve had their special birthday cakes planned out since the summer. There’s also baked goods I want to make for many people in my life I’m thankful for – teachers, college advisers, my SAT prep tutors. But those have to stay on hold a little while longer.

I decided to make these Striped Peppermint Meringues with Dark Chocolate Ganache as an escape from my stress. They looked beautiful, festive (hello, December) and delicious. Plus, I knew this was a recipe I could do in my sleep. I’ve made this meringue countless times as part of my favorite Swiss meringue buttercream, and I’ve never had difficulties with chocolate ganache. As I cracked the eggs, I felt calmness rise in me from my toes up, like a paper towel touched to water.

The meringue whipped into stiff peaks without trouble. I pulled out the whisk and examined the thick, glossy swirl of meringue and couldn’t help but feel peace. I pulled out my camera and took a photo of the meringue, thinking about this post. The last step before piping was to beat in a little peppermint extract. I measured out the half teaspoon and poured it into the meringue, and switched the mixer on.

I knew right away something was wrong.

The mixer began to churn and the meringue deflated in about two seconds right before my eyes. What had once been stiff, shiny meringue was now a soft, pepperminty mess, and I suddenly felt betrayed even by my KitchenAid. It felt like too much to handle.

My dad calls days like this “deviled egg days.” He told me the story as he drove me home on a particularly bad day. I was keeping my head turned and looking at the raindrops trail down the window so he couldn’t see my face, but he didn’t get discouraged.

He described a dinner party he was serving, where deviled eggs were on the menu. He threw dozens of eggs into the boiling water, only to look down and see that the eggs had broken. He went to the store and bought dozens more. On his second try, the eggs were impossible to peel, and he was forced to toss them as well. At his limit, he bought more eggs and tried a third time. He made them just right this time, and arranged them on a platter. He turned around to move the platter out of the kitchen and accidentally banged it on the counter. All the eggs slid onto the floor, unsalvageable.

I turned to look at him for the first time. “What did you do?”

He smiled and said, “I realized there weren’t going to be any deviled eggs. I just moved on, and as it turned out, nobody missed them.”

I was thinking about his words as I looked back down at the meringue. I’d whipped it another 10 minutes, hoping it would increase in volume again, but it stayed resolutely flat. But the oven was preheated, the sheets were lined with parchment, and I decided to go ahead and try them. I prepared the bag and piped them in neat stars, which drooped and failed to keep their lines. I pushed them into the oven anyway.

When they came out, they weren’t as tall or pointy as they should have been. But they tasted nice, like the holidays and after-dinner mints, so I made the ganache too. I decided they looked very cute, and the meringues were really complemented by the chocolate. In the end, I guess my kitchen wasn’t betraying me – maybe it was trying to teach me something.

I haven’t had any bad days since December began, and I’m glad to see the end of them. This morning was stunning. At dawn, I stepped outside with my camera to photograph the frigid beauty around me: a pale white sun in a cotton-candy sky and the frost-kissed Japanese maple leaves. I breathed in the fresh air and felt my fingers grow numb, and I smiled the whole way to school.


I did some research afterward, because I just didn’t believe that I would mess up meringue. It turns out, meringue doesn’t like peppermint oil, which some peppermint extracts contain. I checked the bottle and yes – sure enough, oil of peppermint was listed as one of the ingredients. I angrily rechecked the recipe, but it didn’t make any mention of this vital fact. Well, you live and learn.

If you plan to make this recipe, you can find a peppermint extract without peppermint oil or use a different extract/different colored stripes. Or, you can go ahead and throw in that peppermint oil and just bake flatter meringues. They were still delicious.

It’s very easy to make the red stripes. Before filling a piping bag with the meringue, you use a small food paintbrush to paint 3 long stripes of red gel food coloring inside the bag. Then when you pipe the meringue stars, they come out cheerily streaked with red. I was thinking about using different extracts and colors, like lemon extract and yellow, orange extract and orange, or lavender extract and purple (you get the idea.) If you aren’t into food coloring, the meringues won’t taste any different without it.

The meringues are crispy, light as air, and very peppermint-y. The chocolate helps keep the strong peppermint flavor in check and adds a bit of moisture and richness to an otherwise weightless dessert. I made the cookies very small, and it was hard to only eat one at a time.

12/4/09 Update: It’s Day 2, and the cookies have only gotten better. The chocolate has softened the meringue slightly, so while it still has a crunch, it dissolves into a sweet, creamy inside. The peppermint isn’t overpowering and the whole package is so good. It’s a definite make-again for me.

Striped Peppermint Meringues with Chocolate Ganache
From Martha Stewart’s Cookies
Makes about 5 dozen

Meringue
3 large egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 tsp pure peppermint extract (see extract notes above)
Red gel food coloring
Chocolate Ganache
3/4 cup heavy cream
4 1/2 oz semisweet chocolate, finely chopped

Preheat oven to 175 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Whisk the egg whites and sugar in the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer over a pan of simmering water. Stir until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is warm and smooth between your finger tips, 3-5 minutes. Transfer the bowl to the stand mixer and whisk on high speed until stiff peaks form. Mix in the (peppermint oil free! see notes) extract.

With a small, clean paintbrush used for food, paint three stripes of food coloring inside a pastry bag fitted with an open star tip (I used a drop flower tip). Then fill with 1-2 cups meringue and pipe small, 3/4″ high stars onto the sheets. If you need to refill the pastry bag, repaint the food coloring. Clean the brush every time you dip it into the food coloring, or use a new one.

Bake the cookies until crisp but not brown, about 1 hour and 40 minutes. Cool completely on wire racks before sandwiching with ganache.

To make the ganache: bring cream to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium-low heat. Pour over the chocolate in a small bowl and let sit for 5 minutes. Stir until smooth and let cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally. The ganache should be thick enough to hold its shape. Fill it into a pastry bag fitted with a plain round tip and pipe a small mound of ganache onto one meringue before topping with another.

Store cookies in a single layer in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 days.

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281 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Elissa's Dad  |  December 4, 2009 at 2:39 am

    I love this story Elissa. Guess you do listen sometimes :D I knew you were, you always do-especially when you ignore me.

    A thought. perhaps the mint oil can go in the chocolate ganache. I know I know, its the meringue that looks like peppermint. But Andes mints have the mint in all 3 layers not just the green stripe.

    Soon December will be over and all those applications will be finished. This chapter of stress, deadlines and hard work will be over and the waiting for acceptance letters begins.

    I am sure they will be acceptance letters, most of them anyway! Then you’ll have to figure out how to fit a food processor and a kitchen-aide and all those pans into a dorm room. Finally you’ll need to convince the maintenance guy to let you into the kitchen late at night.

    Better hope he has a sweet tooth….

    Reply
  • 2. linda  |  December 4, 2009 at 4:19 am

    your dad is a GEM! sensible, solid, great…& funny!
    the trials of life…nothing is perfect, we all have bad days but…it is comforting that we can turn those dreary days into”peaks” of positive energy!

    lovely post & great tip about the oil.

    Reply
  • 3. chocolate shavings  |  December 4, 2009 at 7:27 am

    Those are too cute!

    Reply
  • 4. Darcey  |  December 4, 2009 at 7:44 am

    Those are so cute. I think if they were puffier, they would look funny since they are sandwiched together – they’d be very “tall”. I think they were a total success, regardless of the weird peppermint oil issue!

    Reply
  • 5. Alana  |  December 4, 2009 at 7:53 am

    I love these! So beautiful and yummy.

    Reply
  • 6. mcaules24  |  December 4, 2009 at 8:04 am

    Everyone has those bad weeks :) I’m having one right now which is why I’m surfing food blogs to make me feel more at home.
    You’re meringues look like the perfect treat in a bowl near the coffee table, or something similar. Thanks!

    Reply
  • 7. Margarita  |  December 4, 2009 at 8:08 am

    Yummy. I think there’s something divine about peppermint. I love peppermint in everything. Okay, well, maybe not everything. It’s wonderful you chose to do something with peppermint. December IS a beautiful time. It’s a time to put all cares away, offter peace to your friends even though they wish to end it, and enjoy the fruits of other people’s joy. As I enjoy this post of yours and the love between a father and his daughter. Thank you.<3

    Reply
  • 8. fashion fille  |  December 4, 2009 at 8:27 am

    wow, these sounds absolutely scrumptious! haha! where can i get the recipe?! i love chocolate, i love mint, i LOVE them together, and i lovelovelove making meringue. AH!

    Reply
  • 9. Laura  |  December 4, 2009 at 8:28 am

    I’m sorry to hear you’re having a couple down days…senior year is tough! I had several girl friends who, during senior year, just turned mean. Something about the impending changes does it, I think. Your friend will regret it, eventually. I promise, the best times are yet to come! :)

    I am glad you are able to find solace in baking. These meringues look delicious and your dad sounds great.

    Reply
  • 10. Valérie  |  December 4, 2009 at 8:48 am

    We all have bad days: it’s how we handle them that matters. I think it’s great that you made the cookies anyway, despite your setback: they look very cute, and I’m sure they were very tasty.

    Reply
  • 11. Holli  |  December 4, 2009 at 8:56 am

    I adore your blog….your insight and your writing style truly belies your age. You are fantastic! Such an old soul.

    Reply
  • 12. debbie  |  December 4, 2009 at 10:14 am

    Sorry to hear you’ve been having such a rough time. I’m glad December is looking up. And those meringues are gorgeous–I actually giggled a bit when I saw the pictures, they made me so happy.

    Reply
  • 13. Melissa  |  December 4, 2009 at 10:53 am

    These are insanely pretty and delicious looking! You’re inspiring.

    Reply
  • 14. Basht  |  December 4, 2009 at 11:36 am

    I’ve been having a lot of days like that lately, but i’m trusting that it’s the last of the year, it has to get it out for next year to be bright and happy and better.
    and those meringues are adorable! seriously, i’m rethinking the edible ornaments i made for my mailman last night

    Reply
  • 15. Pam  |  December 4, 2009 at 11:55 am

    Sorry you’ve been having a tough time recently. In a year you’ll look back and it won’t be a big deal any more. That’s the beauty of life…it just keeps going. :)

    By the way, the meringues are beautiful. I want to reach through my screen and grab one to eat. And if you hadn’t mentioned it, I never would have noticed that they weren’t like they were supposed to be. :)

    Reply
  • 16. Karen  |  December 4, 2009 at 12:52 pm

    Thank you, thank you, thank you, for being the beautiful, open hearted, terrific person you are! Your dad is a pretty amazing guy too! I’d love to make one of your delicious treats for my upcoming annual Christmas bakefest, and I think these peppermint meringues will be perfect. I just hope they turn out as delicious and pretty as yours are. :)

    Reply
  • 17. Karen  |  December 4, 2009 at 1:05 pm

    I have a thought…I’ve been printing your recipes as I read your blog and what I really want is all of the recipes you have shared. Then it just occured to me, wouldn’t it be great if you put out a cookbook of all the recipes you’ve made until you go off to college. You could call it “17 and Baking, the Years of Growth” You could then start a new collection as you start the next chapter. We could then look forward to “The College Years Cookbook” and so on.. Just a thought…or I could just keep printing recipes one by one….Dad ? are you reading this ??

    Reply
  • 18. Making my Mark  |  December 4, 2009 at 3:02 pm

    We all have bad days. Despite the seeming failure, I think they’re gorgeous. It doesn’t matter how bad things get as long as we find the courage to pick up the pieces and move on.

    Sometimes it helps to walk away (from the college application) when you’re stressed because those two things don’t mesh well together.

    Reply
  • 19. Elissa's Dad  |  December 4, 2009 at 3:43 pm

    Karen–I read every word! She has an idea about a book already, but different from yours but I have a feeling that someday she will publish something…..

    Anyone know a publisher???

    Reply
  • 20. carolyn  |  December 4, 2009 at 3:50 pm

    These are beautiful, and definitely going on my list of cookies to make for the holidays. I’m glad your bad days are over :)

    Reply
  • 21. James  |  December 4, 2009 at 5:52 pm

    Painting colour gel in the piping bag? Clever.

    Reply
  • 22. Danica  |  December 4, 2009 at 9:45 pm

    excellent story, excellent writing, excellent cooking, excellent photography–really, this post (and your whole blog) is a work of art. Be sure to continue your passion in college (I am trying here, but it’s hard sometimes)

    Reply
  • 23. Danica  |  December 4, 2009 at 9:48 pm

    btw, where are you applying to?

    Reply
    • 24. Elissa  |  December 4, 2009 at 10:48 pm

      Danica – I don’t feel comfortable giving out the names of the colleges I’m applying to, but I’m looking at schools that will help me with my goal of becoming a writer :)

  • 25. Haley  |  December 4, 2009 at 10:36 pm

    Saw your blog on Tastespotting.

    I’ve been dying to bake these lately, but the reviews on the Martha Stewart website were pretty dismal. Apparently a lot of people had trouble with the meringues going soft.

    Also, I speak from experience when I say that during senior year (in high school and college), friends often push each other away pre-emptively so that the separation you know is inevitable will be less painful when it comes. That doesn’t make it any less miserable when you’re going through it, but know that you aren’t alone.

    Reply
  • 26. Hillary  |  December 5, 2009 at 12:26 am

    Sometimes mistakes turn into the most-fabulous of things. Keep your chin up! The kitchen and this blog is your place to shine…even on rainy days =)

    Reply
  • 27. Beth  |  December 5, 2009 at 11:03 am

    Awesome! You could do spearmint with green…

    what tip did you use for the bag? (How big?)

    Definitely want to make these for a Christmas party!

    And the college app thing – it does all get better, I promise!

    Reply
  • 29. Karen@Mignardise  |  December 5, 2009 at 12:04 pm

    My daughter’s senior year was one long roller coaster ride, especially before applications were sent in. She’s a freshman now at a college that was never even on our radar screen and she loves it. Hang in there! This too shall pass.

    Love you cookies. Beautiful!

    Reply
  • 30. Emily  |  December 5, 2009 at 2:11 pm

    I just can’t stop looking at these, in the same way I find it hard to eat a whole pomegranate without feeling like I should have make it into jewelry. They’re just ridiculously beautiful! I found this through food gawker (which is my personal choice of distraction during this application time.. I bring up word documents to start an essay, and.. well. I end up doing this instead) and I really hope I can even vaguely re-create them, but I doubt I’ll be able to do it. Maybe they should be my first adventurous baking attempt.. anyway thanks for the recipe Elissa! I’m jealous of your mad skills (and so is my mum, she had a peep) x

    Reply
  • 31. youngwifey  |  December 5, 2009 at 5:21 pm

    I’ve made this with dark chocolate ganache and used peppermint Schnapp’s.

    Reply
  • 32. conniex721  |  December 5, 2009 at 9:47 pm

    These look delicious! They’ll definitely become a part of my holiday baking. I hope all your college apps went/are going well! You could use something like this for one the essays! It’s perfect. =] Thanks for writing, I always enjoy reading!

    crackedcheesecake.wordpress.com

    Reply
  • 33. Jessiebelle  |  December 6, 2009 at 4:15 am

    Beautiful. Really touched my heart. What a wonderful man your father is.

    Reply
  • 34. Sophie  |  December 6, 2009 at 6:56 am

    oh these look yuh-uh-uh-ummy!
    i just saw the interview with you on the seattle times website (thank you google reader recommendations!) and i felt so happy for you :) keep up the good work x

    Reply
  • 35. kai  |  December 6, 2009 at 1:42 pm

    hm, when i really don’t want to do college apps (like right now), i just go to your blog and reread posts. it’s really fun, and it makes me jealous how you can write so much and make everything sound amazing.

    i’m jealous of your mad writing skills, and don’t worry about those birthdays and thank yous. i’m sure everyone understands. =]

    Reply
  • 36. Julia @ Mélanger  |  December 7, 2009 at 12:15 am

    These little cookies look lovely. I always love to bake when I’m having a bad day, too. Sorry that you’ve not baked as much as you like.

    Reply
  • 37. megan  |  December 7, 2009 at 8:07 am

    Great post! and great lesson from your dad. i struggled with that myself this weekend – In the course of 24 hours, I baked a batch of cookie bars that tasted terrible, had to through out a whole batch of fudge that never hardened, and completely left the sugar out of a batch of cookies. i cried. then i moved on. sometimes it happens. :) your pictures look beautiful by the way.

    Reply
  • 38. Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction  |  December 7, 2009 at 8:50 am

    Your meringues are absolutely stunning. Chocolate and peppermint is one of my favorite flavor combos, so I will have to give these a try. Love the story about deviled egg days… a great lesson for all of us! Thanks for sharing.

    Reply
  • 39. Devona  |  December 7, 2009 at 11:02 am

    These meringues look flawless, great job!

    Reply
  • 40. Fey  |  December 7, 2009 at 11:05 am

    These are beautiful – if I may make a suggestion about the peppermint oil? Crushed up candy canes or starlight mints work very well as well… and they don’t flatten your kisses =)

    Reply
  • 41. Baking Monster  |  December 7, 2009 at 6:11 pm

    That sounds like a lot of my senior year. Your so great at writing. All the hard work will pay off once you get that first acceptence letter and then again when your principal hands you your diploma. These look really good and not like a mess up at all. I’m going to have to try these.

    Reply
  • 42. Jet  |  December 7, 2009 at 8:15 pm

    wonderful post and stories and photos as always – i love the light in the meringue on the wisk photo

    as to publisher’s info, look at glutenfreegirl.com and orangette.com – local food bloggers who got book deals – there may be information there re: agents, publishers, and process

    Reply
  • 43. Monica H  |  December 7, 2009 at 9:34 pm

    These are so pretty and cute. A perfect holiday treat.

    I’ve never heard of meringue not liking pepermint oil- that’s crazy!What if next time you added the extract into the ganache ?

    I like the story of your Dad’s deviled egg days. I’ll have to remember that one.

    Reply
  • 44. gratinee  |  December 8, 2009 at 2:21 pm

    I’ve been thinking of making meringues lately but thought they seemed boring. These look wonderful. Never thought of making them this way. Thanks for the recipe and hope December is a bit brighter for you, Elissa.

    Reply
  • 45. Xiaolu @ 6 Bittersweets  |  December 8, 2009 at 10:35 pm

    There’s definitely no loss in appeal from the loss in meringue volume, Elissa. These are cute as can be. I know exactly where you’re coming from as I still seem to be under the cloud of bad days. It’s good to hear that things have perked up, and just in time for the holidays. Thanks for sharing your story.

    Reply
  • 46. Lookie-Lookie Cookie « Notes on the Laudable  |  December 13, 2009 at 1:45 pm

    [...] will live up to that morsel of  wonderful. Enough complaining from me. I think that I will make Peppermint Meringues. They are just to pretty not to want to make or eat!  From 17 & [...]

    Reply
  • 47. Kelly  |  December 13, 2009 at 4:07 pm

    These cookies are the cutest! And seriously girl, you should be a food photographer!

    Reply
  • 48. Danae (The Busty Baker)  |  December 15, 2009 at 10:26 am

    I’m so glad to see this post! I just attempted to make these, and my batch is currently residing in the trash because I thought I did something horribly wrong. After reading this, I think it was the peppermint that did me in! Wish I would have seen this earlier! I would have continued on to pipe out really cute little meringues like yours! Ah well. Back to the kitchen I go, in hopes that my meringues turn out as pretty as your gorgeous pictures!

    Reply
  • 49. Eliana  |  December 16, 2009 at 11:22 am

    These look so sophisticated and delicious. You have really out done yourself Elissa.

    Reply
  • 50. lavienouveau  |  December 16, 2009 at 9:08 pm

    Im allergic to peppermint but these look so gorgeous – you make anything look gorgeous though!

    Reply
  • 51. Juliana  |  December 26, 2009 at 7:36 pm

    wow. the first time i saw this the blog, i knew what i wanted to do. I wanted to cook, and write my own blog about it. Thank you for inspiring me! now, i just have to stock up the kitchen….

    Reply
  • 52. Elizbeth  |  December 26, 2009 at 8:13 pm

    Elissa,
    How did you make the ganache? I recently tried making it, and it did not turn out very well. It was fine until after I chilled it, but then it turned into a giant truffle in a bowl.
    This is my first time reading your blog, I saw an article on you on
    Aol, and decided to check it out. I think it is really awesome that you do this, it is such an inspiration.

    Elizabeth, 12 years old, 6th grade

    Reply
    • 53. Elissa  |  December 28, 2009 at 5:52 pm

      Elizbeth – Sorry to hear you had problems with the ganache. I wouldn’t chill it, like you said, it makes it one big truffle. Let it cool to room temperature by leaving it in the bowl on the counter. It should be cool enough that you can dip a finger in it and it’s not warm, but it shouldn’t be cold. Then you can put some into a piping bag and make the sandwiches. Keep baking! :)

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Elissa Bernstein



I'm Elissa: a 17 (now 21) year old baker in Seattle Boston juggling creative nonfiction workshops, subway maps, and my passions for writing, baking, and photography. Photo above © Michelle Moore

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