Striped Peppermint Meringues with Chocolate Ganache

December 3, 2009 at 8:53 pm 219 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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219 Comments Add your own

  • 1. John  |  December 26, 2009 at 8:23 pm

    Elissa

    I have just subscribed to Canal House Cooking. It is written and published by two women who have similar passions – writing, photography, and cooking. You can see portions on their website. It is brand new so not readily available. You should check it out. And keep up the cooking. Ruth Reichl always said food was a way of bringing people together.

    John, an old man, but lifelong cook.

    Reply
  • 2. Deena  |  December 26, 2009 at 10:50 pm

    Is this recipe from Martha Stewart? She has the identical
    beautiful cookies on her web page this week. They look yummy.

    Reply
  • 3. Deena  |  December 26, 2009 at 11:14 pm

    WHOOPS! and apologies. I didn’t see the recipe (must be tired)
    and that it was Martha Stewart’s. Please accept my apologies.
    I have not seen your blog before and I must say you have a great knack for engaging writing and have me hooked on your blog. Your photography is spectacular. I love baking more than any other type of cooking and I too started in childhood. I would hope you would become a journalist and I think your talent will bring you far! Lots of luck!

    Reply
  • 4. Diane  |  December 27, 2009 at 9:16 am

    Elissa, you are just too cute and talented! I found this blog through a story on aol, and found it thoroughly enjoyable. I especially loved the photos of your meringue cookies…..they looked like fancy clams. I hope as you find your career path that you will find a way to continue with what you obviously have a very great talent for – writing and photography. I cannot comment on your cooking skills, having never tasted any of your concoctions, but by the looks of it, you are no wallflower in that department, either. Kudos to you!

    Reply
  • 5. Yumi  |  December 28, 2009 at 5:12 pm

    Just noting, meringue doesn’t much like oil in general–it causes air bubbles to deflate, which is probably why so yours went soft. I’m glad to hear they came through great in the end, though. I’ve only recently figured out how to whisk egg whites into foam (yes, it’s taken me two years) so I’m excited to try this recipe soon!

    Reply
  • 6. Amber  |  December 28, 2009 at 7:11 pm

    Your blog is inspiring! I love the things you bake. My mom and I come back to your website whenever we need a boost. Everything you make is beautiful, keep going for your goals. You have real talent.

    Reply
  • 7. Basht  |  December 31, 2009 at 3:20 pm

    I’m making these as i type this, though i couldn’t whip the whites to stiff peaks to save my life. they just wouldn’t do it. I even left out the extract (as i could only find it with pep oil)… guess it’s just one of those days lolI’m sure my little colourful circles will taste great though :)

    Reply
  • 8. Amelia  |  January 2, 2010 at 5:35 pm

    These look delicious! I’ll have to try some sometime. Reading your blog is really making me want to head in the kitchen and do some baking :) &&I know all about those bad days, I’ve been having some lately too…

    Reply
  • 9. asiajo  |  February 9, 2010 at 10:31 am

    your blog is exceptional and so enjoyable! Thank you for baking, writing and sharing … I think I will try to make your meringues for the Valentine’s day :)

    Reply
  • 10. Irene  |  March 17, 2010 at 7:29 pm

    Elissa, what a coincidence finding your blog! I was just making a pie that called for a meringue topping and my meringue mixture just wouldn’t thicken (the first time this has happened to me and I have been making meringues for years) I believe the problem was that I had gotten some egg yolk in the mixture (I thought I had gotten all of it out, evidently not) so after finding the problem I started all over again, Minus any yolk, Ha ha, and it worked beautifully. Basht, maybe this was the problem you had. Anyway I continued on to get some more ideas for making some different kinds of desserts using meringues and that’s how I found this blog.
    Elissa, how I wish I had your talant for writing (not my best subject in school as you can probably tell by my writing now) Anyway, it sounds as if you have a great dad and a wonderful future ahead of you.
    Hang in there regarding the stress with picking a college, my grandaughter went through the same thing and now she will be graduating in June with straight A’s.
    I’m now going to find some of your other recipes.—–Happy baking.
    Proud grandma of six.

    Reply
  • 11. Indigo  |  June 26, 2010 at 12:55 am

    These look wonderful but I was wondering if there was a typo with the temperature? 175 seems way too low, most recipes I’ve seen say 375?

    Reply
    • 12. Elissa  |  June 26, 2010 at 10:21 am

      Indigo – It’s correct! Meringues are baked for a long time at a low temperature so they cook without browning.

  • 13. Indigo  |  June 27, 2010 at 1:28 pm

    Thanks Elissa, I think I was getting confused with something else. I need to find peppermint extract so I can make these.

    Reply
  • 14. Recipes to Try (Seasonal) | Schmelly Eats  |  August 26, 2010 at 12:35 pm

    [...] Striped Peppermint Meringues with Chocolate Ganache From 17 and Baking (12/03/09) This entry was posted in To Be Attempted. Bookmark the permalink. ← Recipes to Try (Decorative) Recipes to Try (Breakfarst) → [...]

    Reply
  • 15. » The Daily Eat: Holiday Cookies, Day 4.  |  September 8, 2010 at 12:25 pm

    [...] Cookies{recipe and photo Sass & Veracity} Lime Meltaways{recipe and photo Martha Stewart} Peppermint Meringues{recipe and photo 17 and Baking} Posted by kbeall » holidays, recipes, round [...]

    Reply
  • 16. Lesli Douglass  |  November 19, 2010 at 12:22 am

    Just came across your blog tonight after two unsuccessful attempts to get stiff peaks on a similar recipe on the last page of this December’s MS Living (2010). Same idea, except the meringue is piped to make nests, with the ganache inside and crushed candy canes on top.;-) How long does it take to get the egg whites to stiff peaks once you start beating? Mine just never would stiffen up. Very gooey. Giving up tonight, but if you have any advice, I would love it. Three egg whites, 3/4 cup sugar, clean bowl, simmering water, cooked only until sugar dissolved (less than the three minutes specified in the recipe), alternated between speeds 6 & 8 on my KitchenAid for 6, then 8, then 10 minutes. Looked the same at every stage and just couldn’t see it changing. Meringue failure.;-(

    Reply
  • 17. Jasmine Lilly Fox  |  November 20, 2010 at 9:31 am

    Your blog is so great! I’m so glad I found it!
    I started to make these peppermint meringues by using a recipe that called for caster (finely ground but not powdered) sugar and egg white… previously I have only used powdered sugar when making meringue, so I was curious about this. Then when I couldn’t make the meringue stiff enough, I was convinced it was because of the heavy sugar granules. So I came online to have a look, and I found this blog of yours. I hadn’t added the peppermint yet, so I can’t blame my soft meringue on that. I probably got some yolk in my mixture.

    ANYWAYS, after reading that meringue doesn’t like peppermint oil and realising that the essence I was going to use contains it, I’ve been trying my hardest to find a place (online) that sells artificial peppermint flavouring that DOESN’T contain peppermint oil. I can’t seem to find any. Not many places sell the essence, and if they do they never mention the ingredients. I plan to check gourmet food stores tomorrow morning, but until then, I only have my imagination.
    I’ve come up with one suggestion to solve this peppermint meringue problem, and I wanted to ask your opinion;

    The meringue mixture is affected if the peppermint oil is added when the meringue is being whipped. So we can’t flavour the meringue at that stage. The idea of putting peppermint in the ganache is a cool idea, but I’m not sandwiching my meringues and I’m not using ganache so that option wouldn’t work for me. What if the meringues were flavoured with peppermint AFTER they were baked? The only way to do it would be to make a little spray bottle of peppermint essence (perhaps mixed with water?) and then the meringues would be lightly sprayed with the liquid after they’ve been baked and cooled.
    Obviously, the liquid would soak into the meringue a bit and it could possibly make the meringue soggy. But it might not be so bad? A little spritz of peppermint spray might do the trick?

    What does everyone think of this suggestion? I haven’t worked with meringue that much (despite being a pastry chef) so I’m not sure how it will go. I’d love to try it right now but I’ve been awake almost 24 hours now.

    Any ideas on my idea? :P
    PS one other option is to sprinkle peppermint flavoured sprinkles on top before baking. I found some little white balls by wilton; it’s a cool idea but I’d rather the meringue was flavoured personally :)

    Reply
    • 18. Jasmine Lilly Fox  |  November 20, 2010 at 9:09 pm

      I’ve been doing some experiments this morning with peppermint meringue and I thought I’d share my results so far :)

      I could not accept the fact that peppermint oil in meringue would deflate the mixture, ruining my xmas present idea of peppermint meringues dipped in chocolate. So I checked all of my baking books (I have way more than one human needs) and found at least 50 DIFFERENT recipes for meringue. I couldn’t find any that used peppermint, but I found several that used coffee or vanilla or some other kind of flavouring.
      Some recipes used cornflour and vinegar, and the sugar and essence had to be heated in a pan to dissolve and become a thin syrup. I thought this syrup idea might work with peppermint so I tried it. (you know when you bring alcohol to the boil to remove the alcohol taste? I hoped that bringing the peppermint to the boil would magically remove the oil from it LOL)

      So I heated the sugar and peppermint essence (containing peppermint oil) in a pan untilt he sugar dissolved and the mixture boiled for about 10 seconds. I removed it from the heat to cool slightly and began whisking my egg white. When the egg white was a bit foamy, I added the cornflour and vinegar like the recipe said, and beat it a little more, then added the syrup in a thin stream while the beater continued to beat.

      The result was interesting…
      The syrup smelled very strongly of peppermint and when I sniffed it, my nose felt like it was burning inside, kinda like when you sniff harsh chemicals. I was worried the peppermint taste might be too strong but when I added it to the meringue and continued to beat it, it tasted pepperminty but not overpoweringly so.

      I was concerned about the texture of my meringue though, because even though it was very stiff and held its shape well, it was very foamy and bubbly which is not the texture I want.
      I continued anyway, and painted the inside of my piping bag with red and green stripes and piped the foamy stars onto my trays and baked them.

      I’m pleased to say that they held their shape perfectly. No deflation whatsoever. Some of them are actually too tall for my liking because of the way I piped them. Even though they held shape, they somehow lost their peppermint taste and it’s so hard to tell that they’re flavoured peppermint that it seems pointless to advertise them as peppermint flavoured kisses.

      Also, another disappointment is the texture of them. The foamy-ness is not what I wanted, and the end result doesn’t look the way I want them to look. They are also extremely sticky to touch and won’t let go of my fingers, therefore they’d be impossible to dip into melted chocolate.

      I was determined to rectify those problems though, so I started again.

      I assumed the over foamy-ness was because of the vinegar and cornflour, so I did the entire recipe again but without those two ingredients. I boiled the syrup and added it into the meringue, contuining to beat.
      I was very disappointed and frustrated at this point, because the meringue would not stiffen. It was a shiny, white liquid mess that failed to hold its peaks and I wanted to die. I didn’t want to throw it away so as a last resort I added the vinegar and cornflour just to see what would happen… and like magic, it stiffened.

      I was pretty smug now, because I thought I had solved my problem. The meringue was the perfect texture I wanted it to be; not foamy and airy, it was stiff, thick, glossy, and pepperminty.

      I was too eager to see how they’d bake to bother painting my piping bag, so I swirled some colouring into the mixture to see how successful that would be. (It failed – red and green turns into latte/brown when mixed together.)

      Even though the colour of the mixture wasn’t appealing, the texture seemed perfect so I piped them anyway.
      I put them in the oven and returned after a few minutes to see how they were progressing, and I wanted to die again. They had deflated! They looked just like the ones you made; kinda dome shaped but not peaked at all.

      At the moment I’m deciding whether I want to go to the store to buy more sugar so I can try again, but I’m starting to lose hope.
      Whoever thought peppermint meringue would cause such a fuss?

      My end conclusions:

      adding vinegar and cornflour to the mixture thickens it
      but
      they deflated in the oven anyways.

      I guess the best solution is to make the meringue very, very foamy before adding the syrup and cornflour and vinegar, which results in an extremely foamy mixture that holds its shape when baked but turns out very sticky. Maybe I need to cook them longer to crisp so they lose the stickyness? And maybe they won’t lose their pepperminty flavour if I make it stronger this time?

      I’ll keep trying and report my results.

  • 19. Jasmine Lilly Fox  |  November 20, 2010 at 9:56 pm

    Update:

    I put the tray of sticky, foamy meringue kisses into a cooling oven and let them dry out; now they’re not sticky anymore and they’re nice and crisp. So it’s basically the best result I can get.
    Not deflated, but not strongly flavoured.

    Reply
    • 20. Jasmine Lilly Fox  |  November 21, 2010 at 4:15 am

      I’ve had a long day of experimenting, and I’ve found the best way to make these without deflation.

      I found a few recipes for meringue online that use cream of tartar, so I tried it.
      I whisked 3 egg whites with 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar and a pinch of salt. One recipe for peppermint meringue said to add the peppermint in at this stage, but I didn’t.
      I whisked this mixture until it had soft peaks, then with the beaters still beating I slowly added 3/4 cup caster sugar. (finely ground white sugar but not powdered sugar)

      I beat this mixture until it had firm peaks, then removed the beaters. I added a few drops of peppermint essence (containing the dreaded peppermint oil) and VERY SLOWLY AND CAREFULLY folded it through without beating.
      I tasted it to make sure it had enough peppermint flavour and it tasted perfect to me, so I piped the stars onto the tray and baked them for about 25 minutes at 100 degrees Celcius.

      They almost completely held their shape! They VERY slightly deflated, and I mean VERY slightly. They are so cute and lovely!

      My idea is to dip the bottoms in melted chocolate instead of sandwiching them, so I did that and they look so gorgeous!

      I hope this helps other people because it worked very well for me! I guess beating the peppermint oil through the meringue just works it in too much and the fat content destroys it. But lightly folding with a metal spoon seems ok.

      Good luck everyone! :D

  • 21. monicakay  |  December 16, 2010 at 1:04 pm

    thank you so much for posting this…i was having the same problem in the kitchen and ready to throw in the towel…then I read this and was re-inspired. And, no, mine are not star tipped and pretty, but they are cute little buttons and taste good too. I would have just thrown out the SECOND batch like i did the first.
    Thank you!!!

    Reply
  • 22. Julie  |  May 14, 2011 at 11:26 am

    Hey would you mind stating which blog platform you’re using? I’m going to start my own blog in the near future but I’m having a hard time choosing between BlogEngine/Wordpress/B2evolution and Drupal. The reason I ask is because your layout seems different then most blogs and I’m looking for something unique. P.S Sorry for being off-topic but I had to ask!

    Reply
  • 23. Ellen  |  September 26, 2011 at 11:51 pm

    I found this post about a year ago, and I googled ‘deviled egg days’ to find it again. I just needed to read up on it again, it really encouraged me last time! I’ve had some bad kitchen days, too, and a whole sucky week with crappy friends. So thanks for this :)

    P.S. Cut down on the extract girl! 1/8 teaspoon, maybe even just a dash. But it works wonders! I love these though! So cute. I had the same problem and did a bunch of research on it. Google has saved my life so many times.

    Reply
    • 24. Elissa  |  September 27, 2011 at 3:38 pm

      Ellen – This meant a lot to me, thank you :)

  • 25. terri  |  April 21, 2012 at 12:43 pm

    Instead of the peppermint oil, try finely crushed candy cane. I purchase them after Christmas on sale just for this purpose. They add a burst of slightly chewy peppermint when you hit the larger dots of them. Family favorite. Love your site.

    Reply
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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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