Light, crisp, melt-in-your-mouth Candy Cane Meringues are flavored with peppermint and are a sweet addition to a cookie spread around the holidays.
Crisp meringues are one of my favorite Christmas “cookies”. Can they really even be called cookies? Meringues are much simpler than most cookies, requiring only egg whites and sugar, and they can be formed and baked into just about any shape. Last year I did Christmas Tree Meringues, but this year’s pick is a candy cane that is lightly flavored with peppermint. Totally easy, totally fun. Here are the details!
What is Crisp Meringue?
Meringue is a sweet confection made when egg whites and sugar are beaten together. To make crisp meringue, they are beat into stiff peaks, piped into shapes, and then baked at a very low temperature until dry and crisp. These are light, airy, and melt in your mouth.
To make a sturdier meringue, you can add a stabilizer to the egg whites. The most common stabilizer is cream of tartar, but a small amount of white vinegar or lemon juice will also work.
How to Make Light, Crisp Meringue
- Let egg whites come to room temperature. Room temperature egg whites will beat more easily, so separate out the whites and let them come to room temperature (10 to 15 minutes) before you begin.
- Clean your mixing bowl. A clean, dry mixing bowl is necessary to get stiff egg white peaks when beating. Stainless steel, glass, ceramic, or copper bowls are best. Make sure there is no trace of oil in the bowl before you begin.
- Beat egg whites until soft peaks form. Combine egg whites and stabilizer (like cream of tartar) and beat on medium speed until the egg whites are soft and fluffy. When you lift the beater out of the egg whites, the whites should for soft peaks that fold over themselves.
- Add sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. With the beater on low-medium speed, slowly add sugar to the bowl. Increase speed to high and beat on high until egg whites form stiff peaks that stand up straight and don’t fold over when you pull the beater out of the bowl. The mixture should be silky smooth and have a bit of shine.
- Pipe onto a lined sheet pan. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and pipe the meringue into any shape you’d like.
- Bake. For crisp meringues, you want to bake the meringue low and slow at 200 degrees F. The time needed will vary, depending on how large / thick the meringue shapes are. Start with an hour and then test one of the meringues. You’re looking for a light, crisp crunch and they should be completely dry in the middle. Continue baking as long as needed.
How to Make Candy Cane Meringues
To get those even red candy cane strips into the meringues, place a piping bag (or any plastic bag) in a cup or bowl so that it is held open.
Dip a small paintbrush, skewer, or the tip of a knife in red food color gel and “paint” stripes up the sides of the plastic bag.
Gently spoon the meringue into the plastic bag.
Cut the tip of the plastic bag and gently squeeze meringue out onto a parchment-lined baking sheet in candy cane shapes.
Tools for Making Meringues
KitchenAid Stand Mixer – Reliably making light, crisp meringues in my kitchen since 2005.
Half Sheet Pan – A good, sturdy half sheet pan is a must-have for even baking.
Parchment Paper Sheets – I only recent discovered these, and I’m totally hooked. These sheets are perfectly sized to fit on a half sheet pan (as opposed to rolls of parchment paper that never quite fit). They even have a very faint grid across the surface that helps with keeping an even amount of space between meringues as they bake.
Red food color gel – A little of this food color gel goes a long way, so it’s great for providing bright, consistent
- 3 Egg Whites, at room temperature
- ½ tsp Cream of Tartar (see note)
- ½ cup Granulated Sugar
- ¼ tsp Pure Peppermint Extract
- Red food coloring (food coloring paste or gel is a bit easier to work with, but food color drops are fine)
- Before starting: Make sure your mixing bowl and beaters are very clean with no traces of oil / butter from previous recipes. If in doubt, rub the bowl and beaters with a bit of white vinegar and then rinse them to remove any trace of oil.
- Crack eggs and separate whites and yolks. (Note: Do this carefully. If there are any yolks mixed in with the whites, they will not whip correctly.) Let egg whites come to room temperature (10 to 15 minutes).
- Heat oven to 200 degrees F.
- Line two sheet pans with parchment paper.
- Prepare a pastry bag and fit it with a large plain / round tip. (If you don't have a pastry bag, just use a large zip-top bag with one corner cut off.)
- In the bowl of a standing mixer or with a hand mixer, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar on medium until soft peaks form (light and foamy),~2 minutes.
- With the mixer running on low-medium, slowly add sugar and then peppermint extract.
- Increase mixer to high and continue mixing until egg whites are smooth and glossy, ~5 minutes more. (Note: You'll know this is done when the mixture forms "stiff peaks" and stays in those peaks if you turn the beater upside down.)
- To get those even red candy cane strips into the meringues, place a piping bag (or any plastic bag) in a cup or bowl so that it is held open. Dip a small paintbrush, skewer, or the tip of a knife in red food color gel and “paint” stripes up the sides of the plastic bag. Gently spoon the meringue into the plastic bag.
- Pipe meringue into candy cane shapes on prepared sheet pans.
- Bake until very dry and crisp, rotating the pans halfway through, 1 to 1.5 hours. Test for doneness by pulling one of the candy canes off the parchment paper. If it releases easily and is very crunchy, it's done. (If the trees show any signs of turning golden brown before they are crisp, reduce heat to 175 degrees F.)
- Store in an airtight container at room temperature. Will keep for 3 to 5 days.
What might be the most exciting holiday-related thing at our house this week? (Well…besides all the cookies, of course.) Musical ornaments! Thanks to Hallmark, we’ve got a lot of them. And at least one is always playing.
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