Baking fixes everything

Posted on | Sunday, December 19, 2010 | 3 Comments

This past week has been difficult. Between Kael being hospitalized, having one of my finals almost blow up in my face, issues with an incompetent pediatrician, my autoimmune disease acting up, a certain munchkin accidentally spilling milk all over my netbook, packing/planning for the Las Vegas trip, and a sudden inability to breathe through my nose -- it's no wonder that I had become a blubbering mess.

Thankfully, I discovered over the past few months the catharsis of baking. When I am overwhelmed and stressed there’s no better way to find that deep inner calm than to get lost in a baking project. Sure, I have times when I get in over my head and probably have a meltdown or two, but there’s nothing better than coming home after a hard day and whipping up a batch of cookies. Cookies fresh out of the oven will cure anything.

Which is why Friday evening I decided to make meringue cookies. I have a mixer, eggs, and sugar... and it couldn't be THAT hard, right? I mean, if Emeril could make meringues it shouldn't be that difficult. This mentality would become a highlight of the evening.

The first step was to separate the eggs. I had one of these handy gadgets that makes the whole process easier. Unless you are like me and break two eggs yolks before finally succeeding. Whoops. The recipe only called for two eggs whites two which I said, "Seriously?? This can't possibly make two sheets of cookies!" And added another egg white.

I obviously knew nothing about the impressive power of meringue.

Next, toss those egg whites into the mixing bowl and start mixing. The recipe said to mix until the eggs turned "foamy". That is a very vague term to someone who had no idea what meringue foam is supposed to look like. Just sayin'.

If this what foamy egg white was supposed to look like I wasn't very impressed. It didn't look much like cookies to me. At all. I tried adding th cream of tartar and a tablespoon of sugar to see if maybe it just needing a bit of extra help. Nope. Still just a frothy mess.

After another few minutes of mixing the decision was made to transfer the frothy egg mixture into the smaller mixing bowl in hopes of having better luck.

And then suddenly things began to happen. The egg whites quadrupled in size, much to my delight. I added the remainder of the sugar and the vanilla extract and watched as the concoction grew and grew. I remembered somewhere in a distant memory someone saying that meringue was done when you could flip the bowl upside down and nothing fell out.

Oh yeah. That looked like meringue to me. I had no idea what stiff peaks looked like but assumed that the pointy things at the bottom of the beaters were what I was looking for. Those were stiff peaks right?

I crossed my fingers and hoped I was right as I transfered the meringue to the baking sheets. The recipe said to just use two spoons and dollop the mixture onto the baking sheet. Simple enough.

One half of the mixture I left plain, although the formation of my cookies left something to be desired. Apparently spoons didn't guarantee the traditional meringue shape I was accustomed to seeing. Next time I might make a pastry bag out of a ziplock baggie to have prettier and more uniformed results.

The second batch I made were what Mr. Emeril called 'Forgotten Kisses' -- meringue mixed with walnuts and semi-sweet chocolate chips.

Then it was into the oven. This part I followed word for word what the recipe said, after numerous goof ups and improvisations I wasn't about to burn my meringues! I left them to dry out over night and crossed my fingers that I wouldn't be disappointed in the morning.

Well, it looked like a meringue...

And it tasted like one too! Success! Albeit these meringues were still squishy after almost 10 hours of being left out to dry. I tried to bake them a bit more to make them crispy and they turned brown (D'oh!) but they still tasted delicious. Next time I make them I will have a better grasp of what I'm doing and maybe even follow the recipe.



3 Responses to “Baking fixes everything”

  1. Alexander
    December 19, 2010 at 12:30 PM

    Mom informs me that it is IMPOSSIBLE to make proper meringue if the weather outside is frightful, no matter how delightful your fire is. If it was rainy, that's probably why they didn't dry right.

  2. --Sharon
    December 19, 2010 at 1:05 PM

    I did tell him it was impossible (and some recipes will tell you not to attempt it). If, for whatever reason you just HAVE to have a meringue cookie on a rainy day, count on baking them for an additional half hour. If you see them start to brown this means that the sugar is caramelizing, so lower the temperature about 25 degrees.

    Yes, those were stiff peaks. The only thing that's really tricky at all about beating egg whites with a mixer (well...two things) is to be careful not to overbeat them. If you overbeat them they will go from your lovely stiff peaks and they will re-liquefy and there is nothing to do at that point except to throw them away and start all over again.

    The other thing is to be scrupulous about fat. Fat of any kind in egg whites will impede your progress dramatically. So your bowl and beaters must be very clean. Separate each egg over a small bowl (like you were doing in the picture) in case a yolk breaks because you don't want even a speck of yolk in the white.

    Oh -- one more thing, while I'm thinking of it. If you bring the eggs to room temperature first they will beat up higher and fluffier. I have found that it's a little easier to separate them, too, because the white is more liquid-y.

  3. Alisha
    December 19, 2010 at 1:12 PM

    Thanks for the tips! I might try to make them again after we get back from Vegas. Hopefully with better results!


Photobucket I was born and raised in California. I have also lived in Hungary, Texas, Alabama, Oklahoma, and I will be moving again this summer. Kael is my incredibly awesome kiddo who is growing up far too quickly, and Alex is my fiance who makes me happier than should be legally allowed. I write about them a lot. I'm mildly obsessed with cooking and photography. I write about those things, too.