Holiday Almanac December 15: Meringue Kisses

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Meringues are something I didn't appreciate while living in France, and I don't think I had ever actually had one at all until a dear friend introduced me to them while on a road trip four years ago. How had I missed out for so long? The answer is simple: I grew up in Florida, where the humidity is so bad that there would be no way to keep a meringue crunchy even by the time you got it out of the oven, much less for long enough to take it to a party.

Consequently, I'm still pretty new to the meringue game (though living in the UK is rapidly catching me up: they're a major part of the British dessert scene). This is the first time I've ever made my own, so I defaulted to a Jamie Oliver recipe since I can't buy 'meringue mix' from the supermarket (also, what would that even be? Just a box of powdered egg whites?? Eww).

Before this week, I was never too sure what the texture of a meringue was supposed to be, honestly. But then I did some research, and Martha Stewart, that great oracle of baking usefulness, says that they can be either chewy in the centre or crunchy all the way through. I prefer them chewy, personally, but having never made them and knowing they're a little temperamental, it's nice to know that they can go either way.

Anyway, if you can get your hands on Hershey's Kisses, then make a batch of these mini meringues with Kisses sunken into them and you'll love them.* (And OMG, if you live Stateside and can get those peppermint Hershey's Hugs they sell at Christmas, they would be amaaaaaazing here). But if you live here in the UK, you can either use Dairy Milk Buttons or chocolate chips, either one works!

*Fun fact: In my office, whenever someone goes on vacation, they bring back Hershey's Kisses for the office as a foreign treat. But so far no one has brought them back from the US-- only from Singapore, Thailand, Australia, and Japan.

The verdict:

5 spoons out of five. These are so much easier than I thought they would be, and with only 3 ingredients (plus an optional fourth as garnish), they couldn't be faster or cheaper. Seriously, make these! (Or if you don't need a whole bunch, make one giant one and serve it at your next dinner party topped with whipped cream and fruit. Pavlovas are where it's at!)

The recipe:

Meringue Kisses

(adapted from Jamie Oliver's Cook with Jamie)

the directions:

Preheat oven to 150C/300F and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Separate the eggs very carefully and make sure there are no yolk bits in the whites.
Beat eggs on medium speed until stiff peaks form (in Jamie Oliver's words, you'll know stiff peaks have formed when you can turn the bowl upside down over your head and nothing falls out).
Once this has happened, with the mixer still on, gradually stir in sugar and salt.
Keep mixing on medium-to-high speed for 5-7 minutes until meringue is glossy and smooth.
When mix looks smooth, dip your finger in it and rub to be sure it's totally smooth (this takes awhile).
Be careful not to overmix as meringue will collapse.
Dollop heaping tablespoons onto paper-lined cookie sheets and press chocolate candy into the centre of each meringue.
Use the back of a spoon to cover the chocolate completely with meringue.
Bake meringues for 30-40 minutes until they are firm on the outside, slightly tan, and they lift easily from the parchment.

the ingredients:

3 egg whites
½ c + 2 ½ tbsp sugar
1 large pinch of salt
Handful of Hershey's Kisses or Dairy Milk Buttons (optional)