This fall, a new cookbook will hit store shelves that will please both you and your littlest bakers: Baking Kids Love (Andrews McMeel Publishing, $20, October 2009), by Cindy Mushet and Sur la Table. (And did I mention that Baking Kids Love has the cutest cover in the history of cookbooks?) The book will feature sweet and savory kid-friendly recipes for everything from breads to muffins to cakes. Plus, it’s filled with baking tips that even adults will find handy. Even though Baking Kids Love doesn’t come out until October, I have a sneak peek of two yummy recipes that you’ll be wanting to try with your wee ones pronto! (Check back tomorrow for Baking Kids Love’s Rustic Apple Pie recipe).
3 large egg whites
¾ cup sugar
Colored sugar or candy-coated almonds, for decorating
Measuring cups and spoons
2 baking sheets
14-inch pastry bag and a ³⁄8-inch round plain tip
1. Before you begin
Position 1 oven rack in the top ¹⁄³ of the oven and 1 oven rack in the bottom ¹⁄³ of the oven, and preheat the oven to 225°F. Line the baking sheets with the parchment paper.
2. Make the meringue
Be sure your bowl and beaters are very clean and there is not a speck of yolk in the egg whites. Any dirt or grease will prevent the whites from whipping. Put the egg whites in the large bowl. Using the mixer, beat on medium speed until they look like whipped cream and form soft peaks. To check, turn off the mixer, lift the beaters straight out, and then turn them upside down. The slope leading to the tip should be soft and barely holding its shape.
With the mixer on medium speed, add the sugar, about ¼ cup at a time, shaking it gently over the bowl and letting it blend in slowly. Once all the sugar has been added, turn the mixer to high speed and continue to beat for 1 to 2 minutes, until the mixture is very fluffy and shiny and forms firm peaks. This is a meringue. Turn off the mixer and check the peaks again. At this point, the slope should be nearly vertical.
3. Pipe the cookies
Put the tip into the pastry bag. Spoon the meringue into the bag until it is half full. Grasp the bag just above the mound of meringue and twist it 3 times (this prevents the mixture from coming out the wrong end of the bag).
Squeeze from the twisted part of the bag, while guiding the bag with a couple of fingers near the tip. Pipe the meringue onto the prepared baking sheets into any shape you like: letters of the alphabet, rounds, or zigzags, for example. Keep the tip of the bag about 1 inch from the surface of the pan, and let the meringue fall out of the bag onto the pan in a thick rope.
Once the bag is empty, untwist, open the top, and fill with the remaining meringue. Re-twist and continue piping until you have used all the meringue. If you like, sprinkle the cookies with colored sugar.
4. Bake the cookies
Place 1 baking sheet on each oven rack. Bake for 1 hour. Turn off the oven and leave the pans inside overnight to finish drying the meringues. Tape a note to the oven door reminding your family not to turn on the oven! In the morning, remove the cookies from the oven and store them in an airtight container at room temperature. They will keep for up to 8 weeks, as long as they are kept dry.