Saturday, January 5, 2013

Chai Meringue Christmas Trees

YUMMY! I love meringues! Fast, delicious, and... dare I say it... it isn't awful if you break down and eat 5 or 10 at onceWhen you nee to make a whole lot of cookies for Christmas or gifts, even better!

Chai is one of the new "it" flavors, so me and all my friends being teenagers are in on the craze. I took my go to meringue recipe and made it CHAILICIOUS.

Then in honor of Christmas, I had to follow a pintrest idea and pipe them into Chrismas trees!

I will definately do a complete fail-proof meringue post in the future with an plain recipe to play with, but I'll try to outline key points here too in italics.

Here is what I came up with:


(I doubled the batch, but one batch makes about 60 small meringues)

Recipe:
-2 egg whites
-1/8 tsp vinegar
-1/8 tsp salt
-1/3 cup sugar
-1 tsp vanilla
-1 chai tea bag
-sprinkles (opt)

see how glossy and big
it is getting :)
Instructions:
- take eggs out of the fridge and let come to room temp (can speed up by placing in bowl of warm water for 5 min)
Its impt. to get them to room temp because they whip bigger

-Preheat oven to 225

-Separate eggs and place in clean oil free metal bowl with vinegar and salt

-Begin whipping at med-slow speed, moving to med and beat until soft peaks formThis will take 5+ minutes
*it is crucial that you resist the temptation to beat at high speed, if you go too fast you will get crumbly whites and it won't get voluminous. 

-When soft peaks form, increase speed to med-high and begin to slowly add sugar (sprinkle in gradually) and beat until glossy with stiff peaks (pic)
Stiff peak
(another 5 min or so)

-Add vanilla extract toward end

-Mix in chai by hand by folding with a spatula so not to deflate your meringue

-Place into a piping bag or a large ziplock with the corner snipped and a piping tip placed on (if not making trees or shapes, no need for a tip)


-Pipe in small spirals on sheet lines with parchment paper with 1 in spacing

-decorate with sprinkles :)

-Bake until dry for ~90 min

-Remove from oven. I lift the parchment paper up off hot sheet so they cool faster (working against humidity) and remove/peel the cookies off when bottoms cool

-Cool and package in air-tight tupperware or freezer-ziplock (if you live in Hawaii or somewhere humid: as soon as they are no longer warm... package)
























Anyone can make meringues :) I wish you luck :)

Ribbon Candy Adventure (Homemade Ribbon Candy)

Have you ever tried pulling sugar? I don't mean taffy, but real hard sugar candy. I did over the holidays and it was quite the experience. 
My Grandfather loves ribbon candy. It is a Christmas tradition he grew up with, and today that tradition seems to be disapearing and the candy is becoming harder to come by. This year I decided that I would make some for him as a Christmas gift (he is quite hard to find gifts for). I followed the instructions from this site: http://candy.about.com/od/hardcandyrecipes/r/ribbon_candy.htm and went to work.
(If your going to try this, definitely look at the site, they have step by step sugar pulling instructions with pictures.) 

I practiced in the days prior with itty bitty batches (1tbs in place of 1 cup proportions unflavored) I would recommend trying this with maybe a bit more (2 tbs/cup or something) because it is quite helpful to practice the twist and pull, but my itty batch made a tad to little and the candy would cool and behave naughty. It is good to know that more is easier to work with, so don't be discouraged.

I ended up making 3 different colored solid ribbon candies instead of a striped one after I realized I was still in the learning phase and wanted to make pretty candy. For a first try you may want to do the same. The advantage is when you mess up/have too little to make another ribbon you can add it to a clump of the same color and put it to warm in the oven. Redos! :)



You need:
-3 cup sugar
-1 cup corn syrup
-1/4 cup water
-1/2 or 1 tsp peppermint extract (depend on taste)
-food coloring red and green
-PLASTIC GLOVES (impt!)
-a loving friend to help shape

Preheat oven to 200. Lightly grease 3 (4 ideal, but who has 4?) cookie sheets.

Mix all ingredients except coloring in 2qt pot and stir until steady boil over med heat. Stick in thermometer and don't stir. Let boil and heat until reach soft-crack at 285.

Pour 1/3 mix on a cookie sheet and stick in oven

Pour next 1/3 on another sheet, add sprinkle few drops green       food coloring on top, and stick in oven

Pour final 1/3 on granite slab if have (or cookie sheet) and let sit momentarily till form very thin skin (happens fast). Use bench scraper or a butter knife to "work" and cool sugar (see website for instructions)

Once cool enough to handle (still hot) use gloves lightly greased with cooking spray to pull and twist candy (PLEASE SEE WEBSITE, PICTURES SUUUUPER HELPFUL!)

How start pull
Pull into 2 inch wide log and stick in oven

Here is where I stray from instructions a bit:
Once repeat with all colors, you will have 3 big logs and some will probably be all melty and you may need to re-work them. Since I did single colors, here's how it went:
-take greased cooking scissors and cut of chunk (2-3 in long) and begin to press/pull out flatter into ribbon, be consistent with pressure and slip to end when pulling. Hold with one hand, pull with other (Like 1st picture)

*remember that as the ribbon gets longer it will thin in width. If you don't monitor it, you will get 1/2 in wide ribbons ans need to redo by reheating.*

Continue pulling out over "working tray" until long, THIN, and ribbon-like. Your loving friend (thank you Mom) will snip a length (~10-12 inches is good) and shape it. Here is a good video with a slow how-to shape toward the end (don't worry you have more than the quoted 8 sec to shape xD )

Good mid-pull shot (sorry it's blurry)
Once the candy is set enough, move to a drying rack. When totally dry, put in covered container (if you live in Hawaii like me and it is always kind of humid, so this during the process every so often so your sugar babies don't become sticky)


Work through all your candy. You will get better and the last ones will be BEAUTIFUL!












Some tips:

-When you have a baby chunk in hand from pulling, you can reheat it with another clump and pull later (don't stress over pulling itty clumps)

-As you get better try pulling with more candy. It moves faster but is overwhelming at first

-Be sure you work/pull/twist well in the beginning. In my green batch I had a much easier time because it was worked the best. It pulls easier and moves easier.

-If you have ever pulled a ceramic handle, this is exactly the same except keep your fingers pressed so it stays flat
(you could probably learn pulling from ceramic videos if you get stuck now that I think of it, there will be more out there)



Good luck to you all!
Homemade ribbon candy IS possible for even beginners despite what some sites claim (if a 17 year-old did it, can't you?)