woodland meringues - xmas week 2020

Welcome to Day 2 of Xmas week 2020. Each year for Christmas I like to make cookies to give to my neighbours. These woodland meringues from Sweet by Yotam Ottolenghi and Helen Goh looked very cute, so I decided to make a batch.

Each meringue is dipped in chocolate then either rolled in chopped toasted hazelnuts or finely chopped freeze dried strawberries. I decided to make both versions but I wasn't to know how fiddly they were. The recipe made fewer meringues than suggested and also required considerably more chocolate, chopped nuts and dried strawberries.
Here’s the recipe for you which made 60 meringues. For all my recipes I use a 250ml cup and a 20 ml tablespoon, unsalted butter and 60g eggs. My oven is a conventional gas oven so if your oven is fan forced you may need to reduce the oven temperature by 20°C.

Woodland meringues
125 g egg whites (from 3 large eggs)
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
240 g caster sugar
3/4 teaspoon cornflour
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
Dark Chocolate Coating and White Chocolate Coating (halve the quantities if you are doing a mix of dark and white chocolate)

Dark Chocolate Coating
200 g hazelnuts
100 g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), chopped into 2-cm pieces
40 g milk chocolate, chopped into 2-cm pieces
White Chocolate Coating
140 g white chocolate, chopped into 2-cm pieces
55 g freeze-dried strawberries, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 180°C. If making the dark chocolate coating, spread the hazelnuts out on a small rimmed baking sheet and roast for 10 minutes. Transfer to a clean kitchen towel, draw in the sides and then rub together to remove some of the skins. Chop the nuts very finely—it’s better to do this by hand, rather than in a food processor, where the nuts will become dusty—then set aside in a bowl.
To make the meringue, lower the oven temperature to 140°C. Place the egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer with the whisk attachment in place. Beat on medium-high speed for about 2 minutes, until they appear foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue to beat until they are stiff but not dry or crumbly, about 30 seconds. Place the sugar in a bowl, add the cornflour and baking powder (adding both ensures a completely dry and crisp meringue), and gradually—a tablespoon at a time—add the sugar to the egg whites. Continue to beat for about 3 minutes, until the mixture is thick and glossy. Beat in the vanilla extract, then spoon into a piping bag with a 1.5-cm tip in place.

Line two large baking sheets with baking paper (sticking each piece of paper firmly to the baking sheet with a bit of the meringue mix). Pipe small droplets—or kisses—onto each lined baking sheet; the base of each droplet should be about 2.5 cm wide. Raise the piping bag as you pipe, so that they are about 5 cm high and you create a fine tip at the top. Once all the meringues have been piped, place both baking sheets in the oven at once. Immediately lower the oven temperature to 120°C—you want it to be slightly hotter when they go in, to give the meringues a crunch—and bake for 2 ½ hours. The meringues are done when they look dry and sound hollow when tapped gently underneath. Turn off the oven but leave the meringues inside until they are cool, propping the door open with a wooden spoon.
To make the dark chocolate coating, place the dark and milk chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water, making sure the base of the bowl is not touching the water. Stir occasionally until melted. One at a time, dip the base of the meringues into the melted chocolate, followed by the chopped hazelnuts, then place on a parchment-lined baking sheet to set.
To make the white chocolate coating, follow the instructions for the dark chocolate topping, dipping the base into the dried strawberries instead. 

The white chocolate meringues coated with freeze dried strawberries were the clear winner. I'm still trialling cookies for this year's gifts, so I'll share the winner with you in Xmas week 2021.

See you all again tomorrow with some more baking for Xmas week 2020.

Bye for now,


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