Meringue Mushrooms

meringue mushrooms

There are cookie recipes everywhere I turn, a sure hallmark of the holiday season. They’re on the blogs, they’re in my email, and they’re are all over my food mags. They’re at my internship too. It’s the holidays and everyone loves the excuse to bake, including yours truly. I love setting aside whole days devoted to baking, then turning up the music in my apartment, plotting my recipes, and then stocking the fridge with a dozen different doughs that I turn out, one after another.

meringue mushrooms

I’ve been in pastry school for three months now and I’ve been a pastry intern for two. When I come calling with my cookie plates this year, people rightly have high expectations for the treats that I bring and I don’t want to let them down. So I’m pulling out the stops. I’m assembling all of my favorites together on one festive silver platter, and that platter could never, ever be complete without meringue mushrooms.

chocolate

Meringue mushrooms are the signature item on every dessert tray that Brian’s Aunt Karen has ever presented. She is the original culinary talent in the family, having owned and operated a very successful catering business on Long Island for many years. When I first saw these mushrooms, I was impressed and I couldn’t wait to add them to my own party rotation. They’re delicious for sure, with their light,melt-in-your-mouth exterior coupled with just a taste of solid dark chocolate, but their real appeal to me is that they look so real that they still cause me to do a double take.

mushrooms, drying

Best of all, they are actually quite simple to make. A little more time consuming than the rest of my cookies maybe, but now that I’m becoming a pastry chef I’m all about aesthetics and making things memorable, and this cookie pays off in spades on both counts.

mushroomMeringue Mushrooms
Adapted from Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Desserts

1/2 cup egg whites (this is from 3-4 large eggs) at room temperature
Scant 1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
cocoa
High-quality (Callebeut is my brand of choice) dark chocolate (61-70% is best)

Adjust two racks to divide the oven into thirds. Preheat the oven to 225 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with aluminum foil.

In the bowl of a mixer at med-low speed, beat the whites for about half an minute, until they start to get foamy. Add the salt and the cream of tartar. Increase the speed to moderate and beat for another minute until the whites hold a soft shape. Continue to beat on medium and start adding the sugar, one tablespoon at a time, beating 1/2 minute between additions. When half the sugar has been added, add the vanilla, continue beating, and resume adding the sugar as you were before. When all the sugar has been added, increase the speed to high and beat for 7 to 8 minutes or until the meringue is very stiff and the sugar is dissolved (rub some between two fingers to feel for grittiness). Depending on the power of your mixer, the total beating time will be between 15 and 18 minutes.

To hold the foil in place, pipe a little of the meringue onto each of the corners of the baking sheets and press the foil flat on to to adhere.

Do not allow the meringue to stand. Fit a large pastry bag (or gallon ziploc bag with the corner clipped) with a plain round tip (1/2 to 3/4 inch works best) and fill the bag with meringue. Pipe the stems onto one of the foil-lined baking sheets, by holding the bag at a right angle close to the foil and pressing the meringue out gently while slowly raising the bag straight up. ┬áThe base of the stem should be a bit wider for support. Hold the bag with one hand and use a knife to cut away the stream of meringue with the other. If you get little points on top do not worry, you can shape them away after baking using a microplane. The stems should be 1 – 1 1/2 inches tall. Be sure to make a few extras, just in case (of hunger, while assembing, which tends to happen).

Strain the cocoa through a fine strainer lightly over the stems to imitate soil and natural mushroom coloring.  Place in the oven on the high rack.

On the other piece of foil, shape the mushroom caps. Holding the bag straight up and close to the foil, press out flat, even rounds of meringue. The caps should average 1 1/2 – 2 inches in diameter. Sharply twist the bag away when finishing to avoid leaving a bump on the top (smooth over with a knife if you do).

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes or even longer, until the meringues may be lifted easily from the foil and the bottoms are firm to the touch. The longer they bake, the drier they are (and the better they are too) but they should not be allowed to brown at all as it will affect the taste. Turn the heat off, prop the oven door open slightly, and allow the meringues to dry out even more as the oven comes down to completely cool, approximately one hour.

Remove the meringues from the foil. They may be placed on a clean piece of foil, or parchment. Immediately, while the meringues are very crisp, use a microplane to shave away any points on the tops of the stems, making small, flat surfaces on top for easy gluing to the tops.

Weigh out one oz. of chocolate for every five mushroom caps that you have. Chop the chocolate coarsely and warm it over a double boiler until it is completely melted and smooth(not over 115 degrees). Turn off the heat to avoid burning. Allow the chocolate to come down to 91 degrees before using. (you can do this by adding additional room temp chocolate)

Hold a mushroom cap upside down and use a spoon to spread a thin layer of chocolate around the flat side of the cap. Adhere the stem to the center of the cap in the chocolate. Place the mushroom, stem side up in an empty egg carton to stabilize it. Freeze in the carton, only until the chocolate is completely set (it will go from shiny to matte) but no longer (the moisture will kill the meringues). Remove and store at room temperature.

Do NOT store the mushrooms in an airtight container. They should be stored under layers of parchment, in a very cool, dry place.

26 Comments

  1. Posted December 12, 2009 at 4:27 am | Permalink

    Wow. Well done you, they do look so real. Not sure I’d have the patience to make these myself, but hey, never say never LOL.

  2. Posted December 12, 2009 at 8:43 am | Permalink

    Lovely mushrooms. I make meringue mushrooms each year for my buche de noel, but they turn soft fairly quickly after I spread the chocolate underneath. Have you had the same experience? How do you counteract it?

  3. Posted December 12, 2009 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

    CiaochowLinda – Are you confident that they come out of the oven as dry as you can get them? If you dehydrate them for an extended period in an extremely low oven, there is little chance of them burning while you get the water out. It’s hard for recipe writers to be specific about timing for these because there are so many variables – size of meringue, all kinds of oven variations, local humidity etc. Don’t be afraid to dehydrate them for a very long time. Also, when you make the meringue, make sure that you are giving it a long whipping in the mixer and using cream of tartar to stabilize.

  4. Posted December 12, 2009 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    Wow I totally thought that was a real mushroom, haha. Fabulous job!

  5. Elizabeth
    Posted December 12, 2009 at 8:49 pm | Permalink

    I’ve had the same problem with the meringues going soft after applying ganache… The cookies are as dry as I can get them here in Austin and they stay crisp until I apply the chocolate. Probably has something to do with the humidity here.

  6. Posted December 12, 2009 at 9:14 pm | Permalink

    oh my gosh. Those look so realistic. You fooled me. I will have to try my hand at this. I can’t tell you how impressed i am by your creation.

  7. Posted December 12, 2009 at 9:38 pm | Permalink

    Wow, those look amazing. They really do look like mushrooms. I don’t know if I’d have the patience (or maybe ambition) for those either. Quite the impressive addition to a cookie tray.

  8. Inane
    Posted December 13, 2009 at 3:39 pm | Permalink

    It would be useful to see a couple pictures of the unbaked shapes.

  9. Leslie Jarrett
    Posted December 14, 2009 at 10:12 pm | Permalink

    This recipe is from Maida Heatter’s Book of Great Desserts.

  10. Jackie
    Posted December 16, 2009 at 1:42 am | Permalink

    first time i saw these i thought the mushrooms were real, and i didn’t think it would taste good at all (chocolate and mushrooms). i had to read it a couple times to understand that you were actually making the mushrooms…..
    i blame it on tiredness

    but great idea, i def. want to try this!

  11. jackie
    Posted December 16, 2009 at 2:37 am | Permalink

    Hi! Thank you so much for this recipe. I LOVE merengues, but never have any luck making them. I tried this recipe, and not only did they come out tasting great for the first time, they look amazing! Thanks!

  12. Posted December 16, 2009 at 11:51 am | Permalink

    These are super meringue mushrooms. The chocolate for the “glue” is a great way to get the stems and caps to hold together. I’ve used additional meringue to “glue” them, but I really like the idea of the melted, tempered chocolate.

  13. Posted December 16, 2009 at 7:35 pm | Permalink

    I honestly thought these were real mushrooms! Fantastic job on the meringues!

  14. Ruth
    Posted December 16, 2009 at 11:55 pm | Permalink

    How do you get the underside of the caps to be hollow? My meringues are always flat on the bottom when I pipe them.

    These are utterly gorgeous.

  15. Leslie Jarrett
    Posted December 17, 2009 at 8:45 am | Permalink

    @Ruth – I don’t hollow out the bottom of the “caps”; I spread the flat bottoms with Merken’s Dark Chocolate Coating and “glue” the stems on. This type of chocolate hardens fairly quickly and the stems stay on perfectly.

  16. Posted December 17, 2009 at 2:48 pm | Permalink

    Inane – I’ll be posting some on my flickr page soon, check back for the link.

    Leslie – Thank you so so much for helping me give credit to the deserving cook for this recipe! It’s been changed in the post. I’m also happy to know that the mystery of the anonymous frozen white chocolate mousse recipe has also been solved, thanks to you, since I can tell that the photocopies came from the same book.

    Ruth – Leslie speaks the truth, no hollowing necessary. The chocolate stands slightly off the meringue, so I just very carefully spread it a little less than to the edge, which gives it that great indented effect.

    Leslie – Thanks again for helping out in the comments – I saw questions coming in on my phone while I was at culinary school and I wanted to answer them, but one of the chefs caught me checking my email and subjected me to public humiliation. Appreciate your help!

  17. Posted December 20, 2009 at 11:02 am | Permalink

    Hi, I made these this weekend with a buche de Noel. Totally loved them, thanks! Here’s mine: http://zuccherodolce.blogspot.com/2009/12/buche-de-noel-holiday-yule-log-and.html

  18. Posted December 21, 2009 at 7:06 pm | Permalink

    Great blog, and congrats on the NYT feature!

  19. debbie
    Posted December 21, 2009 at 11:48 pm | Permalink

    Ok, saw this on the NYT website and am going to try them for sure to bring to someone’s house for Christmas! They look amazing. Thanks for the dehydrating tip – I’ll have to be extra careful on that front as I’m in Sydney and as it’s the middle of summer (and humid) I may have some issues there.

  20. karen
    Posted December 23, 2009 at 5:43 am | Permalink

    Also a foot-trafficker from the NYT site. I would love to make these sometime but I haven’t got a “real” oven, only a toaster oven. Any thoughts on how to adjust the baking time accordingly? These would be *impressive* (and tasty!) to show off.

  21. Posted December 23, 2009 at 10:17 am | Permalink

    Karen – Using a toaster oven for these may pose a challenge. Is there any way to get consistent, low heat for a long period of time using one? My worry is that toaster ovens are designed to toast, and you actually really need to avoid toasting when making these, what you really want to be doing is dehydrating them and giving them no color/caramelization at all. My other concern with a toaster oven is that your batch would be very small and not worth all that time and effort to yield what would probably be less than one dozen. Hate to sound like Negative Nellie, but because of these concerns, I’d be inclined to say that this might be a recipe that you save for when you have oven access.

  22. Ana
    Posted December 27, 2009 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    These are beautiful. Great photos. It would be nice to see some photos of the mushrooms in progress. Your description of how to make the stems is a little confusing.

  23. gezelle
    Posted December 30, 2009 at 12:50 am | Permalink

    those. are. incredible. You’ll probably hate me for saying this but I’d like to try it with marshmallows… it wouldn’t take nearly as long at any rate ^_^

  24. Hilary
    Posted January 17, 2010 at 2:09 am | Permalink

    I had mushrooms like that on my 10th birthday cake! My mom had commissioned a specialty baker to make my cake that year. The theme was frogs and she made a little swamp and snuck little water squirting frogs into the fondt and sprinkles!

  25. Posted January 25, 2010 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

    These are fantastic and the first time I’ve seen anything like them!

  26. Whitney
    Posted October 8, 2011 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

    I glue my mushrooms the opposite way, by hollowing out a little dent in the bottom of the cap and dipping the stem into the chocolate. It’s better if the stem has a little point, the crushed meringue blends with the chocolate and makes a super-glue. Love the idea of coco on top…Making tonight!

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