Long, long ago (actually, it will be two years this March since I quit and become a stay-at-home-mom; best career change ever) I worked at Publix in the bakery. Every holiday brought it’s own set of challenges. Thanksgiving will forever be associated in my mind with hundreds of pumpkin and sweet potato pies and Christmas is now welcomed with relief knowing I don’t have to make any red and green candy canes out of bread dough. Even now, the month of February is hard to distinguish in my mind from the countless orders we received for chocolate covered strawberries. Personally, I prefer my chocolate and fruit separate, and, really, would take chocolate over fruit, if I was ever faced with the choice. Let’s keep fruit as the Lord intended and if we must integrate it in a dessert, how about in some airy meringue cookies?
Sometimes a dream is placed in our hearts, but the path to achieving it is not yet clear. That is what happened with these meringue cookies. The idea for strawberry meringue kisses came to me, but it took me a long time to figure out how to make these a reality. Meringue by nature is so fragile; it is what makes it good. When you bite into it, the meringue should nearly shatter in your mouth and be airy and delicate. Adding strawberries risked ruining that texture. My best guess was to make a strawberry sauce and try to swirl it in the meringue without taking too much air out of it but I was nervous. And then, in a New Year miracle, Christine, the genius behind Dessert For Two, posted a recipe for raspberry marshmallows. I was instantly intrigued–I thought I “knew” her (I don’t know her at all, but she does follow me on Instagram!) well enough that she probably achieved this without food coloring, but I just didn’t see how it was possible. Marshmallows, like meringue, are a tricky sort. Amazingly, she was able to get the flavor of raspberry and their pretty pink hue into the marshmallows by using freeze dried fruit. Perfect! Problem solved.
I have heard that Trader Joes carries a variety of freeze dried fruit and I was able to find some at Target, in the baking aisle. The texture of the strawberries reminded me of these astronaut space foods my brother and I ate once. The slices of berries were light as air, packed with flavor, and easily became a beautiful red powder after a few seconds in the food processor. I gradually added the strawberry powder to the meringue, at the same time as I added the sugar. A few tablespoons was all it took to turn the meringue a pretty pink and to impart an unmistakable strawberry flavor.
I made these meringue kisses slightly bigger than an average meringue cookie. More is more seems to be my modi operandi in the kitchen, despite my efforts to implement an “everything in moderation” attitude. Either way, this recipe will yield about 24-30 kisses, though it can be easily doubled, if need be.
- 3 egg whites, at room temperature
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 oz of freeze dried strawberries, ground into a powder (you need abut 3 Tablespoons)
- 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Preheat oven to 225 and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar. Mix on low, until the egg whites become frothy. Increase the speed to high and continue mixing until soft peaks form.
- With the mixer on, gradually add the sugar and strawberry powder. Add the vanilla and beat the mixture until the meringue is glossy and stiff peaks form.
- You can form these meringues with a piping bag and a large tip (I used a 2D), two spoons to scoop small mounds, or even a small cookie scoop. Using whatever method you'd like, portion the meringue into small cookies. They won't spread in the oven, so you can place them close together (though not touching). I got about 24 meringues, but they were on the large side.
- Bake for an hour and a half, then turn off the oven, leaving the meringues inside. They need to stay in there a minimum of one hour and up to overnight. Meringues are best eaten the day of, but can be stored in an air-tight container.