So, I’ve been hoarding food pictures for months now. I find it very easy to head into the kitchen on a whim to whip up some ridiculous baked good or goodie. One that gets every single dish in the house dirty mind you, only to leave them piled in the sink for the week to come ( I weekly chastise myself for taking for granted the dishwasher I lived with a few years ago).
I find great pleasure in diving into a new recipe or and old favorite, just because the mood strikes.
Be it noon or midnight, when the baking addiction calls, I happily answer with a leap and a bound and a clatter… as I happen to be a bit of a klutz. (Please don’t tell any prospective employers. I haven’t lost any full digits yet and what they can’t see at first glance, they don’t need to know about.)
Yes folks, I love to play in the kitchen but this writing thing has me stumped most days. It does not come naturally to me except on rare occasions when it seems that everyone wants my attention and I am trying to (FINALLY) get the blog text done.
Today’s topic: meringue mushrooms. I got it in my head that I would make overflowing basket of french meringues to give out at my husband’s office for Christmas gifts this year.
I found the perfect, authentic recipe from a favorite book of Paris patisseries, went to the store and bought dozens of eggs and began cracking only to realize my foolishness once I remembered the cooking times required.
My hope was to make 12 gift baskets, each containing about 5 or 6 grapefruit-sized beauties. So, how would this actually have to be worked out?
Each sheet pan would hold 6 meringues and my oven has 2 racks. That’s 12 meringues per round. Each batch needs to bake for 3 to 4 hours and I wanted to make a total of around… 75 meringues???!!!
Let’s do a tad more math, shall we?
That would need to be around 7 rounds of baking for a total baking time of… 21 to 28 hours!
So… THAT didn’t happen.
Instead, I decided to bake the double batch that I had mixing in the bowl into charming objects rather than a tummy-satisfying ones.
I decided on whimsical, chocolate and mint flavored mushrooms, inspired by an Etsy post sent to me by a friend.
I love these little poison toadstools and always decorate my Christmas tree with a few glass ones. I can’t help myself and pick them up when ever I find them. They seem to be always planted next to little gnomes these days… maybe I’ll have to make meringue gnomes next. (I kid!)
Anyway, off I set with charm in mind. I made 2 sheet pans full of mushroom caps (Then dropped a whole sheet pan of them on the floor and ended up with 30 instead of 50. ARGH!!!) The next day I baked 2 sheet pans of mushroom stems.
I piped the caps onto parchment paper as my silpat baking mats give the bottoms a really strange and rough texture which is hard to decorate with chocolate when making the mushrooms. (more on that later) While they were still raw, I dusted the tops with unsweetened cocoa powder
(I will now share with you all a favorite little trick that I came up with:
Use one of those little wire mesh tea balls that you squeeze open and close. It’s fairly mess free you can use it to scoop up the powder while keeping your hands clean and It works great for powdered sugar too!
It would be perfect to place on the table if you are serving French toast or crepes with lemon. Wouldn’t it be cute to fill it with powdered sugar and set it in a little cup next to a guests plate at a brunch party? I fully plan on buying 8 of these and hosting just such a brunch one day when I own a house big enough to put a table in 🙂 ….
Now, go forth and sift with ease! )
After sifting the cocoa, I gently touched the tops to get rid of any peaks that were poking up and to give them an organic texture so that they would have that nice mushroomy shape. Don’t be afraid to go back and add more batter (before you dust with cocoa) if the caps are too small. Just stick the piping tip down into the center of the already-piped-cap and squeeze in a bit more. I did this to mound up the tops a bit so they wouldn’t be too flat.
When piping the mushroom stems, gently lift the piping bag up slowly, while you apply gentle pressure. This will give you height. Leave the pointed tips on top of the stems to make it easier to attach the caps later. I only made my stems about an inch tall. Any taller and they would have fallen over.
Many of them were tipped to the side a tad anyway which added charm in the end as it made many of the caps look like they were nodding a’la Fantasia style. I thought about dusting the tops with red food coloring but opted for the much tastier and less chemically cocoa powder.
After the caps came out of the oven and cooled I dipped the bottoms in a mixture of melted chocolate chips with a bit of coconut oil. (This makes a quick coating chocolate that hardens kind of fast.
You could also try “Magic shell” from the ice cream section of the store and that might work ok too.) Also, if I were to make them again I think I would dip them in white chocolate first, let it set, then dip them in dark chocolate so when the toothpick is dragged through to make the lines on the bottom it would look more detailed and taste more yummied.
After dipping them in the chocolate and smoothing it off with a spatula I set the chocolate side up to set partially. Once it began to set, I scraped lines in it with a toothpick for an extra texture and realism.
To attach the tops to the bottoms I made a royal icing of egg whites and powdered sugar. Make it thick so it won’t drip and ruin your creations.
I took the tip of a sharp knife and twisted into the center of each cap (about 1/4 inch wide) to make an opening for the stem.
Fill the hole with enough royal icing to gently stick the stem on. Set them to dry over night so that they get sturdy enough to paint the grass on.
For the grass I mixed a tad of food coloring paste with some vodka to thin it out. One drop of color to 1/4 tsp of alcohol should do and use a very fine brush that has never seen paint! I just freehanded the grass as an afterthought and found that when I went back over it with a bit of brown mixed into the remaining green it gave a very nice effect.
Hope you have fun if you give these a try. And let me know how yours turn out in the comments below!