With the holiday season upon us, I've been working on some special items for Small Batch. One item is this Buche de Noel (also known as a yule log) with meringue mushrooms.
Buche de Noel, along with many other Christmas treats, are not difficult to make, but they are time consuming.... And many people this time of year simply are too busy to make one themselves. So, Small Batch will be making Buche de Noel, as well as other holiday specials decorated gingerbread or sugar cookies and cookie platters.
Since this Buche de Noel is a Small Batch item, I can't share the full recipe with you. But I can share the recipe for the meringue mushrooms. Aren't the mushrooms just so adorable? French meringue, melted chocolate chips, cocoa powder & patience are the only ingredients necessary to make your own meringue mushrooms. One word of caution, I wouldn't make these mushrooms on a rainy or especially humid day.... Meringue and humidity do not mix, and soggy, sticky mushrooms are usually the result :(
Of all the meringues, french meringue is the easiest to make. Egg whites (absolutely NO yolk present), granulated sugar & a little cream of tartar are beaten together until stiff peaks are formed. Cream of tartar helps to keep the meringue white, in case you were wondering. No heating involved, like is needed for swiss or italian meringues.
The thick, white, glossy meringue is placed into a piping bag fitted with a large round tip. Don't worry about your piping skills (or lack-thereof) . Remember that mushrooms are rustic. They grow in nature. No two are exactly the same. Plus, once they're decorated and placed on a dessert, everyone will be so busy gushing over their adorableness that no one will notice any irregularities.
Mushroom caps are piped onto one parchment-lined baking sheet. Mushroom stems are piped onto another. Why separate pans? Just in case they bake at different rates. If they're on separate pans, they can be removed from the oven at different times, if it is necessary. The meringues are baked at a low temperature to make them hard and crispy, but not to brown them at all. The mushrooms should be white before they're baked AND after they're baked.
Once the meringues are cooled, the assembly process begins. Using a toothpick or sharp paring knife, a small hole is made in the bottom of each cap so that the caps & stems can be joined. The tops of the caps are dusted with a little bit of sifted cocoa powder. Melted chocolate chips are used to paint the bottom of the cap to look like the mushroom gills. The chocolate is also piped into the hole to join the caps & stems. Once they are joined, the chocolate just needs to harden before they are ready for use.
After the chocolate hardens, immediately use the mushrooms on something like a yule log, or store them in an airtight container. They should (fingers crossed) last for a couple weeks before becoming soggy.
adapted from Joy of Baking
yields approximately 24 mushrooms
2 large egg whites, completely free from yolk
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
100 g Granulated Sugar
1 oz Chocolate Chips, melted
Cocoa Powder, for dusting
1. Wash the bowl to a stand mixer to ensure it is completely free of any fat particles that may cause the meringue not to increase in volume.
2. While the eggs are still cold, separate them into whites and yolks. Place the whites into the clean mixer bowl. Cover and allow to sit at room temperature to warm up.
3. Preheat the oven to 200 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Fit pastry bags with large round tips (I used an Ateco size 808 for the caps and size 804 for the stems).
4. Combine the granulated sugar with the cream of tartar.
5. Once the egg whites have come to room temperature, whip them, using the whisk attachment, until foamy. Add the sugar/cream of tartar mixture. Increase the mixer speed to high & whip until the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture holds stiff peaks. During mixing, scrape down the bowl a couple of times to ensure the sugar has not collected on the sides of the bowl. To test if the meringue is at stiff peaks, remove the bowl from the mixer, swirl the whip attachment around the bowl a couple of times, then raise lift the whip attachment out of the bowl and turn it over. If the peak on the top of the whip stands straight up, it has reached stiff peaks. If it falls over, beat the meringue a little longer.
6. Once the meringue reaches stiff peaks & has become very thick and glossy, portion approximately 2/3 to 3/4 of the meringue into the pastry bag fitted with the larger tip and the remaining meringue into the bag fitted with the smaller tip.
7. On the parchment lined sheet pans, pipe caps onto one pan and stems onto another. For the caps, pipe even rounds of meringue. Try to make as even as possible. Once the volume & size you desire is reached, immediately stop pressure on the piping bag & swirl clockwise to end. If you end up with a little bit of a peak, dip your finger in a little water and smooth out the top. But don't stress too much... after all, the mushrooms should look natural and rustic. I like to pipe different sizes of caps, some small and some larger.
8. For the stems, use the smaller tip to pipe a cone shape. Make sure to pipe the base wide enough to hold up the mushroom caps. As you pipe, lift the bag upwards, release pressure on the bag & swirl off. Sometimes the bases fall over during the piping or baking process, so give them some additional room between & pipe a few extras.
9. Once the shapes are piped, place them into the preheated oven. Bake for 45 minutes, leaving the oven door shut throughout. At the 45 minute mark, rotate the pans and continue baking for another 15 to 20 minutes, or until the meringues are hard, but have not developed any color.
10. Once baked, allow the meringues to cool completely.
11. To assemble, use a tooth pick or sharp paring knife to carefully make a small hole in the bottom of each mushroom cap--the hole should be just large enough to fit the tips of the mushroom stems. Use a fine sifter to sift a little cocoa powder "dirt" over each mushroom cap. A dry brush may be used to smudge the cocoa, if desired.
12. Paint the bottom of the caps with chocolate to make the mushroom gils & pipe a little chocolate into each hole. Fit the tip of the seem into the cap. Set back on the pan and allow the chocolate to set completely.
13. Once the chocolate has completely hardened, use the meringues immediately or store them in an airtight container at room temperature until ready to use. Caution, do not refrigerate the meringues or they will become soggy!