Theoretically, I am a Yolk man. I can work through a hill of egg yolks in a matter of days if I am feeling game for a run of rich chocolate puddings and velvety ice creams. Inevitably, I am left with a surplus of egg whites. And when I have extra egg whites, I make meringues. A meringue is a simple cloudlike confection of whipped egg whites and sugar, and it is likely they have been part of the baking pantheon for hundreds of years. They are crunchy, light, and very sweet, a lovely little afternoon snack. Our meringue mushrooms are a featured accompaniment to our Stump de Noël, but I encourage you not to limit your meringue making to holiday cake decor. Make them any time you have leftover egg whites (assuming you won’t be using them for Angel frosting). It should be noted that these meringues are dedicated to a kind customer, Shandi, who had a limitless appetite for these candies.
Whisk the egg whites and sugar together in the heat proof bowl of a standing mixer. Set the bowl over a saucepan of simmering water (double boiler method). Cook, whisking constantly, until the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture registers 140 degrees F on an instant-read thermometer, 6 to 8 minutes.
Transfer the bowl to a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat it on high speed until stiff peaks form. Add the cream of tartar when the mixture begins to thicken, or after 3 minutes. Keep beating for another minute or so until stiff peaks hold.
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a large round tip with the meringue. To make the caps, hold the pastry bag close to the parchment paper–lined pan and pipe out a small dome (about a tablespoon) of meringue, pulling up at the very end of piping to give your cap some height.
To form the mushroom stems, hold the bag close to the parchment paper and pipe the meringue, pulling up as you go, into small cone shapes. Make the same number of stems as caps.
Place the pans in the oven and
Turn the caps over and use a toothpick to make a tiny hole large enough to fit the tip of the stem into. Fill the hole with a tiny bit of white chocolate. Gently press the stem into place and allow the chocolate to set. Sift cocoa powder over the assembled mushrooms.
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