Mushroom Meringues

For years, Elizabeth has written, she used to make a different kind of cookie every day between Dec. 1 and Christmas Eve. This recipe, which she shared in last December's cookie issue, was a favorite of hers -- and the colleagues she shared them with at the annual holiday potluck. Here's what she said about the recipe last year: "To me, meringue mushrooms are the quintessential Christmas gift cookie. Whomever you give them to will be delighted because of the obvious time you put into your gift. (Not to mention the fact that these trompe l'oeil goodies are delicious.) ... A co-worker asked me, 'Why mushrooms?' I think it must be because they were first made to go around a buche de noel, and now they seem Christmas-y on their own." Makes: 24-36 cookies 1/2 cup egg whites, room temperature 1/4 teaspoon salt 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar 1 teaspoon vanilla 1 cup sugar unsweetened cocoa powder 6-8 ounces semisweet chocolate Line two cookie sheets with foil. Preheat oven to 225 degrees. Gradually beat the egg whites until foamy, add the salt, cream of tartar and vanilla. Increase beater speed and slowly add sugar until stiff peaks form. Place the meringue in a large pastry bag with a plain round tip. (I use a 3/8-inch size.) On one cookie sheet form the mushroom caps by placing the bag close to the sheet. On the other, make stems by forming a base and then pulling up the bag. Dust with cocoa through a small strainer to create "dirt" on the stems and caps. Bake for one hour. Cool completely, then cut off the tips of the stems with a sharp knife. Melt the chocolate and with a butter knife cover the base of each cap with chocolate and then stick on a stem. Place in the fridge for five minutes -- no longer -- to harden the chocolate. --Adapted from Maida Heatter's "Book of Great Desserts"
Sun photo by Lloyd Fox
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