Holiday Peppermint Meringues

Meringues have a bad rep for being too high maintenance. They certainly are sensitive, but there’s no denying that this gorgeousness is worth any extra effort:

Peppermint Meringues

There are a few very important (and not so complicated!) steps to take to ensure that your meringues come out perfectly fluffy and delicious:

  • Make sure that your mixing bowl, whisk, and all utensils are exceptionally clean-absolutely no residue whatsoever! Meringues are very particular and will not fluff up properly if they come in contact with any moisture, grease, or fat of any kind – even oils from your skin, so keep your hands to yourself!
  • Save meringues for a sunny day! If it’s a rainy and or humid day, the moisture in the air may prevent the egg whites from whipping up.
  • The temperature of your egg whites makes a huge difference. Room temperature eggs will whip up faster and with more volume than cold eggs. Leave your eggs out for at least 30 minutes before your start your meringues.
  • There can be positively no yolks in your whites-the fat from the yolks will interfere with the foaming process.

See, that’s not so intimidating is it? Now that you’ve learned the essentials, you’re ready to whip up some festive, fluffy, awesomeness!

What you’ll need:Meringue Ingredients

  • 6 egg whites at room temperature
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1 1/3 cups sugar
  • red gel food coloring
  • a small paint brush
  • a pastry bag with large star tip
  • a mixing bowl with whisk attachment or an electric mixer

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees. Place the egg whites, cream of tartar, pinch of salt, and vanilla and peppermint extracts in your mixing bowl. Beat until the egg whites form soft peaks, meaning that when you pull the whip or beater out of the whites, the peaks that form will have tips that bend over the beater.

Ready for a beating

Ready for a beating

After a few minutes the egg whites start to foam

After a few minutes the egg whites begin to foam

This is what your mixture will look like once soft peaks have formed

This is what your mixture will look like once soft peaks have formed

Once soft peaks have formed, continue to whip the egg whites while slowly adding in the sugar. Be very careful when adding the sugar-if it’s not streamed in slowly and gently, it might cause the egg whites to deflate and or collapse. Once you’ve added all the sugar, continue beating the meringue until it becomes thick and glossy and forms stiff peaks (meaning that the peaks stand straight up over the end of the beater)

Stiff peaks- the peak stands straight up (except for the cute, curled little end)

Stiff peaks- the peak stands straight up (except for the cute, curled little end)

Now you are ready to pipe the meringues! Using the gel food coloring and small paint brush, paint stripes down the inside of the pasty bag. Gently transfer your meringue to the pastry bag and pipe meringues onto a baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper and sprayed lightly with cooking spray.

Painting the bag

Piping Meringues

Ready to bake

Bake your meringues for 1 t0 1 1/2 hours until they are slightly firm to the touch but not browned. Let cool for 30 minutes before enjoying.

Holiday tip: meringues are very durable and have quite a long shelf life-perfect for shipping to your far away loved ones as holiday gifts!

Peppermint Meringues

All photographs taken by Julie Chagnon

Death by Hot Chocolate

We’re just going to let the picture do the talking for a minute:

Spiced white hot chocolate

Yes it really is as good as it looks, possibly even better.

So you probably want to know how to make it, right? This recipe is very simple and can be used to make white or regular hot chocolate (we decided to make both since we clearly have a giant, insatiable sweet tooth).

For both recipes you will need:

  •   4 1/2 cups whole milk
  •  1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Plus….

For regular hot chocolate:

  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 4 ounces good quality dark chocolate, chopped

For white hot chocolate:

  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 12 ounces white chocolate, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons sugar

In a medium saucepan, heat 4 cups of the milk and vanilla over low heat-do not let the milk boil. In a small mixing bowl, whisk together remaining milk and, for regular hot chocolate, the cocoa powder and sugar, or for white hot chocolate, the sugar and spices. Once these ingredients have been combined, add the mixture to the warm milk and stir. Continue to warm until hot.

Once your milk mixture is nice and hot, add the chopped chocolate (either white or dark, depending on which recipe you’re following).

Once the chocolate has melted and your cocoa is hot, pour it into 4 mugs, top with desired goodies, and DRINK UP!

Variations and suggested toppings:

  • Substitute Nutella for the 4 oz. of chocolate and garnish with whipped cream and chopped  hazelnuts (regular hot chocolate only)
  • Add a teaspoon of peppermint extract and garnish with candy canes
  • Add a teaspoon of almond extract and garnish with whipped cream and slivered toasted almonds
  • Add a couple of ounces of your favorite liquor like Kahlua, Irish Cream, or Amaretto

One of our favorite things about this recipe is that it can be prepared and then put directly into a crock pot and kept on low for all of your holiday gatherings! Cheers!

all photographs taken by Julie Chagnon

Quest for Crust

Just take a moment and envision the perfect pie crust; it’s buttery, flaky, golden brown, melt-in-your-mouth delicious.

But why must such a delightful thing be so seemingly difficult to perfect? It’s just not fair is it? Well, you’re in luck- the holidays are about giving so we’re sharing our secrets on how to create the most perfect pie crust- and just in time for Thanksgiving!

First things first- the ingredients:

You will need:

  • Sifted pastry flour. We like to use pastry flour in place of all-purpouse; it has a lower protein content which keeps the dough from forming gluten, making your crust flakier and less chewy.
  • Salted butter (cut into small pieces)
  • Vegetable shortening (cut into small pieces)
  • Sugar
  • Iced cold water

Second- the fat (the good stuff!):

There is a lot of debate about which makes a better crust- butter or shortening. Both have different properties that are essential to making the perfect crust. Using butter will create a rich, salty, buttery (duh) taste that you cannot get from shortening alone. Shortening will give you a light and flaky crust, creating lots of beautiful layers. So since we are soft-hearted liberals who celebrate diversity (and lovely crust), we like to use a combo of butter and shortening- about 1/3 butter to 2/3 shortening.

Next- the proper mixing technique:

There are a couple of different machines you can use to mix your dough: a food processor, or a mixer with a paddle attachment.  The problem with both of these methods is that it is too easy to over mix your dough, making your crust tough. We like to do it the old fashioned way and use a pastry cutter.

Yes, it is more work, and your arm might get a little tired, but if you want the perfect crust you have to be willing to put in the time and effort. Trust us, it’s worth it!

Cut the butter and shortening into the flour until your mixture looks like coarse bread crumbs (you should see pea-sized pieces of butter and shortening). If you don’t cut your butter and shortening small enough, you might wind up with holes in your crust due to large chunks that melted while baking.

This is what your mixture should look like

Add your ice water in small increments and mix just until it forms a ball. It’s very important that you don’t over mix your dough, that’s what keeps it soft and flaky!

Finally- rolling and baking your crust:

After refrigerating your dough for several hours, lightly flour your work surface and begin to roll out your crust. After every couple of rolls, rotate your crust a quarter turn-this keeps the crust round. Continue rolling and turning your dough until it is 1/8” thick. Lay your pie pan face down on the crust and use a knife to cut 1 1/2 inches around the diameter of the pan.

Place your crust into the pan and roll the edges over like so:

This gives the edges a more polished look.

Once you’ve rolled your edges, you can style them any way you please. For a classic look, use two fingers to pinch the dough and another finger to press from the other side, making a little V shape.

 

Next, line your crust with a circle of wax paper and fill the crust with dried beans or pie weights- this will help your crust hold its shape. Then it’s back to the fridge for 30 minutes.

*Note: you only need to fill your shell with weights or beans if you are making a single crust pie, where the crust must be baked before the filling is added (i.e. a cream pie). If you are making a pie with a top crust, such as an apple pie, simply chill the crust one more time, add your filling, cover with top crust, finish off the edges, and bake.

After you have chilled your finished crust, you may follow your own delicious recipe.

Tadaaaah! Look at this baby!

Tips and Troubleshooting:

  • It’s very important that all of your ingredients are very cold, especially the butter and shortening. After you have cut your butter and shortening into small pieces, place them back in the fridge to re-chill them. We even like to combine the dry ingredients and then set them in the fridge for at least an hour before cutting in the butter and shortening.
  • If your crust is too tough, you probably over mixed or over-rolled your dough, used the wrong type of flour, or a combination of these things.
  • If your pie crust sags over the edge during baking, you may have rolled the pie crust out too thick, resulting in too thick an edge on the crust (which then spills over off of the pie plate) OR the shell or pie wasn’t cold enough when it went into the oven to bake.
  • To prevent over browning of your crust edges, you can cover the edges with tin foil or use a handy silicone ring during the last 10-15 minutes of baking.
  • To make your crust that wonderful shade of golden brown, brush the top with an egg wash before baking (one egg yolk beaten with a splash of milk).
  • The better your ingredients, the better your finished product will be. As someone wise once said, don’t cook with wine you wouldn’t drink! If you wouldn’t eat that apple pie filling straight out of the can, don’t use it in your pie!

Happy baking and we wish you all a wonderful, filling, and relaxing Thanksgiving!

all photographs taken by Julie Chagnon