Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Mango Meringues

I am not the best baker, and most times find myself completely clueless and a total novice. With that being said I have a couple things that I am confident on and one of those is meringues. They're my absolute favorite cookie, and I've made them so many times that I could probably do it in my sleep. 

Everything else can pretty much be a hit or miss but not when it comes down to meringues. I've tried out many different recipes and methods but I stand by this one recipe that never fails me! 

I have no idea where I picked it up but I have the recipe and steps memorized at this point so I just go with it. It was the first recipe I ever tried, and it has ruined all other recipes after it. It's simple and only requires 4 ingredients: egg whites, sugar, cream of tartar, and vanilla. That's it! 

Well, except for this recipe where I decided to add a mango twist. But the mango is totally optional or you could always substitute another fruit for it! Mango just happens to be one of my favorites :)

There are two very important things to consider while making meringues: the weather and oven temperature. I'm not kidding you when I say that it needs to be a non-humid and non-rainy day when you're trying to make them. I thought it was absolutely absurd when I heard that but seriously, I tried it once and could not get the egg whites to whip up properly since my house was too muggy and humid! It sounds crazy but believe me, it can make a difference.

Secondly, I have seen many recipes that vary with cooking time and oven temperature. The key to meringues is lowww and slowwww. I've tried recipes for 30 minutes at 350 and they did not turn out to be proper meringues! When you bite into one, it's supposed to be lightly crispy on the outside and then melt away in the inside. These were like chewy marshmallows and I was not a happy camper.

So, I cook mine at 200 degrees for about an hour and a half, and then turn off the oven and allow them to cool for another half an hour while still inside the oven. I learned that trick by accident once when I forgot about the meringues in the oven after I turned it off. Turns out, it worked! I've seen it in other recipes, too and it just helps the outside shell to get crispy without burning.

For the meringues you'll need:
3 large egg whites
3/4 cup super fine sugar (don't panic there's a substitution)
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 package of freeze-dried mangoes (or any fruit you want)

I've never used super fine sugar with meringues because I've never had it in my house or even know where to get it. All I do is throw the sugar in the food processor and turn it on for about a minute until the sugar is much finer. This just makes it easier to dissolve into the egg whites and not make the meringues so grainy. It's not necessary as I've seen recipes with just regular sugar. If you decide to do that then you just might have to whip the egg whites and sugar for a lot longer to really make sure the sugar dissolves into the batter.

Okay, so to make these:

1. preheat the oven to 200 degrees

2. Beat the egg whites on medium-high with a hand-held beater until they're foamy and fluffy

3. Add the 1/4 tsp of cream of tartar and whip the egg whites into soft peaks 

Soft peaks are when the egg whites are still soft enough that they can't hold their form. The peaks will kind of slump over and not remain fully up. 

4. Turn the beater on high and slowly add the sugar about a couple tablespoons at a time. I usually give it a good minute in between additions to really make sure the sugar incorporates. 

5. Once the sugar is fully incorporated (the batter won't feel grainy), add the tsp of vanilla extract and keep beating until stiff peaks form. These will hold their form and will be much thicker than the soft peaks. 

I split the batter up into plain and mango. I only used half the package of fruit but if you're not splitting it up, then use the whole thing. You want freeze-dried because you don't want any extra moisture. The egg whites are very delicate and any water from fresh or frozen fruits could completely ruin the meringues. If you haven't caught on by now, working with egg whites can be a pain! But totally worth it in the end. 

The bag I used was 1.7oz and it was pretty standard for a bag of freeze dried fruit. Anyway, it was probably about 1/2-3/4 cup chopped up. I just guesstimated and eyeballed it to make sure there was enough mango in the batter. 

I first spooned out the plain ones and then folded the chopped up mango pieces into the remaining batter. Make sure you are GENTLE when you do this as you don't want to upset the egg whites at all! 

Important note: DO NOT grease the cookie pan! I use either parchment paper or a silpat mat. Just something that is a non-stick surface. 

I got a total of 22 for this recipe-- 10 plain and 12 mango. Also, don't worry about the placement because meringues don't spread out while cooking. That's why my placement is really random because I didn't now exactly how many meringues I'd get sooo I just kinda put them wherever! 

Bake them at 200 degrees for an hour and a half to an hour and 45 minutes.

When they are done the outsides will no longer be so shiny and glossy, the outside shell will feel crisp, and the bottoms will be an off-white color (a tiny bit darker than the rest of the top). The test I use is if I'm able to pick up the meringue up and it doesn't cave in. I recommend cooking them for a minimum of an hour an a half.
Then, shut off the heat and allow the meringues to cool inside the oven for about 30 minutes or so.

One of my favorite parts about meringues? The macros!
Plain-- 27 calories, 6g carbs, 0g fat, and 1g protein
Mango-- 33 calories, 8g carbs, 0g fat, and 1g protein

What's your favorite cookie?

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