Sunday, December 5, 2010

Peppermint Christmas Kisses

I don’t make as many Christmas cookies as I used to, Mr. Fabulous and I find sweets too hard to resist and end up eating what we don’t give as gifts. But every year I make these festive cookies. They are so light and airy, and they don’t have what seems to be the primary ingredient in so many holiday cookies ... butter! They are simple to prepare and are good keepers if stored in an air tight container. Peppermint Christmas kisses are rather delicate, so handle with care.

Tidbits for perfection: Eggs are easier to separate when their cold, but the egg whites will beat to a higher volume when allowed to come to room temperature. So separate just out of the refrigerator and let stand until they come to room temperature, about 15 minutes. The condition and type of bowl you beat egg whites really makes a difference. Bowls should be glass, ceramic or metal and should be dry and free of any residual oil, precisely what prevents whites from whipping into stiff peaks. The key to a successful peppermint Christmas kiss, (aka, meringue cookie) is to use superfine (castor) sugar; it dissolves easier in the whites than granulated sugar. If you don’t have any on hand, process granulated white sugar in a food processor or use a mortar and pestle, process until very fine. Hard candy can be stubborn to crack, use a pastry roller or mallet, and spank the candy it until you have small pieces.

2 egg whites, room temperature

⅛ teaspoon cream of tartar

½ cup sugar, superfine (castor)

¼ teaspoon vanilla

¼ to a ½ cup (the amount is a matter of preference) peppermint candy pieces

Preheat oven to 200°. Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper (to prevent the parchment paper from sliding, place a little of the meringue on the underside of each corner of the parchment paper.) Beat egg whites on medium speed until foamy. Add the cream of tartar; increase speed to high, continue to beat until they hold stiff peaks. Slowly add sugar, continue to beat until the meringue is stiff and doesn’t feel gritty when you rub a little between your fingers. Add vanilla and beat until fully blended. Fold in peppermint candy pieces. Dollop kisses onto each parchment lined baking sheet, 24 kisses per sheet. Bake kisses for 1½ hours, after 45 minutes, switch baking sheets and rotate, this ensures even baking. Turn off the oven; leave peppermint Christmas kisses in oven overnight to finish their drying process. Yield: About 4 dozen kisses.