I love, love, love Valentine’s Day!
Unlike New Year’s Eve where I’ve always felt like the world requires you to have someone to kiss at midnight, for me, Valentine’s Day is about ALL the love. Love for parents, kids, friends and of course, if you have a special someone, well…I simply consider that a bonus.
I love making Valentine’s treats and this year, I decided to whip up some pretty little Valentine Meringues. They’re somewhat of a guilt free pleasure (relative to the other decadent treats available this time of year.) It’s been awhile since I’d made meringues, but they’re pretty easy if you just follow the directions. These are French meringues, so we’re basically just going to whip up some egg whites with sugar.
You must start with a clean bowl. There should be no residual fat from any other baking endeavor. I like to swish my bowl with a little vinegar and water (dry thoroughly) just to make sure. Then there’s four ingredients: egg whites, confectioner’s sugar, cream of tartar and salt. That’s it!
Now, it’s all about the whipping. Whip the egg whites until foamy…adding in the cream of tartar and salt. (The cream of tartar helps stabilize the egg foam.) Then gradually add the confectioner’s sugar and whip and whip until you get a beautiful glossy mixture with stiff peaks.
I lamented over what shape I would pipe the meringue into…hearts? roses? nests that I would later fill with some yummy filling? I was pretty close to deciding on the nest since I had my leftover yolks and you know extra yolks means mandatory lemon curd to me. Until, that is, I found out that my husband used those extra yolks. He rarely uses the left over of anything in the refrigerator and he knows I hate to waste food and am always looking to use up all the fruit/veg or whatever we have that needs to be used. He was quite proud of the fact that he noticed them and added them to our scrambled eggs that morning. (Yep..who knew our scrambled eggs were a splurge that day? Oh right, my husband did ;)
So…no nests. Hearts it is! But I wanted to make them a little more interesting so I took half of the meringue and added a couple drops of food coloring. I generally like to avoid food coloring, but I will use it now and then and I really wanted just a hint of pink to contrast with the white.
Okay…so I’ve never piped hearts before. I needed some practice. I started with a 1/2″ round piping tip and began piping my little teardrops. Basically you begin piping a circular mound for the top of the heart, then release the pressure while you pull down to a point. I did this with the white, then went back to finish the hearts with the pink. I used any leftover color to pipe single color hearts.
So, it does take a little practice, but you’ll be surprised how easily they “become” hearts when you pipe the other half. I found that some of the hearts that I thought would turn out badly because the first half was a little suspect came out quite nicely once I finished up with the second half.
I’m sure no two of my hearts ended up looking exactly the same. I like to think of them like snowflakes…no two alike…each one unique and special :) (Nevermind my daughter who stopped by to say that they looked like butts…or my husband who came over to agree with her.)
Then I gathered up every Valentine colored sprinkle I had in my pantry. Turns out, I have quite a few. I was thinking that I should have a separate container that just holds Valentine sprinkles. I should have taken a picture…of the sprinkles and my face when I saw them all lined up together.
I thought I would use sprinkles and sugar hearts and pearls and, and… all kinds of stuff! I tested the sprinkles out on my practice meringues, but none of it looked right on my pretty pretty hearts. It was all a little too bright and garish for these little lovelies. So I skipped the sprinkles and carried the whole load back to the pantry.
Into the oven for three hours. Yep. Three. You bake them at a low heat until the meringues are dry and crisp. I will confess that I may have over baked some of mine. You want them dry and crisp with no browning. They should release cleanly from the parchment lined baking sheet. Mine never released completely cleanly, as in leaving no evidence of ever being there. They released easily, but there was the ultra thinnest meringue print left on the sheet. I should have ignored it and taken them out, but I left them in for a bit longer and some of them began to brown. So, once you are approaching the 3 hour mark, check them for doneness. Or check at 2 and half hours, just to be sure.
Once the meringues were out of the oven and cooling, I headed back to the pantry…I switched gears from sprinkles and grabbed the dark chocolate….then I chopped it up and melted it. Once the meringues were cool, I dipped just the bottom of each one into the pool of melted chocolate, then placed it on wax paper to set up.
Meringues can be sweet and the dark chocolate was the perfect counterpoint to balance it. Crispy meringue and creamy dark chocolate, this was an infinitely better idea than sprinkles. Valentine Meringues. They’re a nice change from frosted cookies, cakes and candy…or maybe I should say a nice addition to cookies and cakes and candy. Any way you slice it, or pipe it, Valentine’s Day is a wonderful time to share a sweet treat with your favorite peeps. So go on now…
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