Thursday, August 11, 2011

Midnight Meringues and Mixing in the Laundry Room

The other night I was awake and craving something sweet. My husband was at work and my youngest had fallen asleep on the couch (he's not feeling well), so I was on my own. I thought about meringue cookies and decided that was just the thing. I didn't want to wake anyone, though, so I took my hand mixer into the laundry room. Then, using the washing machine as my counter top, I whipped up some very pretty, opalescent, stiff egg whites. I had a sense of the ridiculous and giggled a bit, but that made it even more fun. Now, my favorite meringue cookies are mint cocoa, but I was out of cocoa and chocolate chips. The only chocolate in the house was a little bottle of chocolate sprinkles. Done! I put my peppermint extract in and then, as a finishing touch, I dotted the little dollops of meringue with chocolate sprinkles. The result was delicious and subtle. I'll warn you, though, that midnight meringues are not for the faint of heart or the must-have-it-nows. It takes at least an hour in the oven, so it is a commitment. Totally worth it! Here's my recipe. You can add in any flavor or food coloring. These are fun at Easter with pastels.

Meringue Cookies
2 Egg Whites
3/4 C. White Sugar
1/8 Tsp Salt
1/8 Tsp Cream of Tartar
1 Tsp Vanilla Extract
1/2 Tsp Peppermint Extract
1/2 C. Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1/2 C. Mini Chocolate Chips
1/4 Tsp Food Coloring
Colored Sugar

Preheat oven to 275 degrees. It a mixing bowl, whisk egg whites, salt and cream of tartar until eggs are light and frothy. Now you need the mixer. Starting on low speed, mix the egg whites and slowly add in the sugar. Once you have incorporated all your sugar, you can add the vanilla and any other flavors. Increase your mixer speed to medium and continue mixing for several minutes. You'll notice that the mixture starts to look creamy and thickens up. It will also double in size before you are finished. It takes a good 10 minutes before you get stiff peaks, meaning that when you turn off the mixer and pull it out of the bowl, the meringue stretches and streams behind, leaving little peaks. If you want to add cocoa powder or chips, gently fold them in with a spatula. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Using a teaspoon, drop little, imperfect dollops of meringue on the cookie sheet. For the more advanced you can put the meringue in a pastry bag and pipe onto the cookie sheet with a decorative tip. These are whimsical and cute, so don't obsess about making them round or even. Top off with any sprinkles and put in the oven for at least 45 minutes. I usually turn my oven off after that and leave them in for another 15 minutes. Allow to cool completely, or they will come apart when you remove from the cookie sheet. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

A Tisket, a Tasket, I Made My First Brisket!

We are a brisket loving family. So, when I got a 6lb brisket on sale, I was all about it. One problem, though: I've never made brisket! My husband really wanted to smoke it, but we didn't have enough wood. Not to be discouraged, I just jumped on All Recipes and looked up brisket. I found very easy directions for roasting it. I already knew that the trick was cooking it low and slow, meaning low temperature and long cooking time.
So, Sunday morning, I pulled my prize meat (roughly the size of a newborn baby) out of the fridge and attacked it. I started off by trimming away most of the fat, then made slices across the grain. This way any fat left didn't shrink during cooking. Then I took a bowl of black pepper and seasoned salt and used my hands to rub the mix all over both sides. Finally, I minced two cloves of garlic and rubbed it onto the exposed side. I poured about a cup of water into my roasting pan with the brisket. Then I put the lid on, put it in the oven at 275 degrees and got ready to go to church. By the time we got home, the timer I'd set to 4 hours had only 30 minutes left. The house smelled amazing and I had just enough time to boil potatoes for mashing. We had a beautiful, tender, juicy brisket for a late lunch and then snacked on it for the rest of the evening. Then Monday, we had brisket sandwiches. We plan on smoking it next time, just to experiment, but this was no disappointment for a first timer!