Valentine's Day Snack Mix + Mini Meringue How-To

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Happy President's Day Weekend! Hope everyone is sleeping in, catching up on Oscar-nominated films, and slurping some coffee :). I made this snack mix/granola mix/cereal mix as the party favor for my Galentine's Day bash. Full confession, it was actually the most labor-intensive baked good I made for the party which is so silly because it's the party favor haha. The mix is based around making homemade tiny heart-shaped sugar cookies and pink mini meringues (inspired by this recipe), and then you can fill the rest of the mix with whatever you want--it is super flexible. I used a 1/2 batch of my favorite sugar cookie recipe for the tiny heart sugar cookies, and cut them out using a fondant cutter (see below). I cut mine out 2 weeks ahead and froze them until the day before I wanted to assemble the bags. 

Teeny, tiny sugar cokies!

Teeny, tiny sugar cokies!

I got my heart cutter in  this set

I got my heart cutter in this set

For the rest of the mix I used the following: roasted hazelnuts, yogurt covered pretzels, dried cranberries, white chocolate chips, toasted coconut (unsweetened), dark chocolate chunks, in addition to the mini meringues and sugar cookies. In terms of how much of each to use, a good rule of thumb is to plan for 1 cup of mix for each party favor you want to make. I wanted to make 25 party favors, so I needed 25 cups of fillings, evenly divided among all the different goodies. This came out to about 3 cups of each item, but I used extra pretzels to make the bags look more full. 

By far the hardest part of making these were the meringues. The first time I tried the sugar wasn't dissolved enough and "weeped" out of the egg whites in the oven. The second time I tried I took them out of the oven too soon and they deflated :(. The last time I finally got it right! Here's the recipe I used and the tips and tricks I learned from the mess-ups:

Mini Meringues--Meringue Girl Recipe

  • 75 g egg whites
  • 1 small pinch cream of tartar 
  • 150 g superfine granulated sugar 
  • gel food coloring 

Preheat oven to 400 and weigh out ingredients. A kitchen scale is your best friend here. You want these ratios to be perfect. You also want your eggs to be fresh. Start by putting measured egg whites in a clean bowl, preferably metal. It is crucial that your bowl be free of any sort of grease or water. If you are even the slightest bit doubtful, rub down your bowl with some white vinegar before you add your egg whites. On a cookie sheet lined with parchment, spread your superfine sugar out and place in oven once it is preheated. 

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You want your sugar to get juuuuuuust melty around the edges, not caramelized, not browned. By heating the sugar, you are helping it dissolve into the egg whites more easily, thus preventing the leaking during baking. This will take about 5 minutes, keep an eagle eye on it. While it is heating, start beating your egg whites on low-medium speed for 1 minute, before going to medium-high speed. You want the egg whites to get stiff (ie, when you lift up beater they make a stiff peak, they don't flop over) but you do NOT want them to be overbeat (when they are overbeat they look like cotton bolls). A good test is to tip your bowl upside down, if the mixture doesn't move at all and you have stiff peaks, stop beating. At this point your sugar will be ready or is almost ready. Remove from the oven as SOON as you start to see any of it look wet. Turn oven off! Transfer hot sugar to a clean bowl. It's okay to have some clumps, but if any of your sugar became a little browned do not add it and throw it out. 

Add hot sugar to meringue, 1 spoonful at a time. The sugar will deflate meringue, so make sure you beat it back up to stiff peaks after every single sugar addition. This is where it is easy to get lazy, and add the sugar too quickly, but that will deflate your meringue, and once it is deflated, you can't get it back, it's like pandora's box. 

Hot, allllmlost melty sugar ready to be added to meringue. 

Hot, allllmlost melty sugar ready to be added to meringue. 

Once all your sugar is added and your meringue is stiff and shiny, add your gel food coloring and mix well. At this point your sugar should be dissolved--rub a small bit of batter to make sure you feel zero or very very few sugar granules between your fingers. If you feel a lot, keep beating. Transfer to piping bag immediately. I used a 1/8th inch round tip. 

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Pipe kisses onto parchment paper. The kisses will not spread, so you can pipe them close together. Turn on oven again and preheat to 200 degrees F. Use an oven thermometer to make sure the oven temp has come down appropriately before you put your meringues in. Bake for 35-45 minutes. It seems like a long time but I promise it correct. The second time I made these I thought because mine were so small I should take them out at 20 minutes, but when I did this they deflated and were still raw inside so keep them in the oven and check at 35 minutes. They are done when they can easily be removed from parchment with a light tap and are thoroughly crisp like a Lucky Charms marshmallow. 

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ASSEMBLY

Because I had 25 cups of ingredients here and didn't have a bowl big enough to mix it all together before transferring to bags, I thought it was easiest to keep all ingredients separate and assemble each bag individually. That way you make sure each bag gets enough of every ingredient. I started with the heavier ingredients--nuts and pretzels (3 pretzels per bag), and then added chocolate, coconut, and cranberries. I added meringues and cookies last since they were the most fragile ingredients.  

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To make the tags I bought plain white gift tags from Michaels and a watermelon pink stamp pad. In the clearance section I found a set of Valentine's Day stamps for $2, that included an arrow and a heart. I used a fine black pen to do "fake" calligraphy. I secured each bag using thin white ribbon tied in a bow. 

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Thanks for reading! Xx

Thanksgiving Pies and DIY Banners

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To be honest, I've never been a turkey person for Thanksgiving, but pies are something I can always get behind and I love spending the night before Thanksgiving baking with my mom in the kitchen. Every year I make a chocolate cream pie using this recipe and it's always a hit with family and friends. The downside is it uses a lot of dishes (I prefer 1-bowel recipes and this one uses at least 3-4) but I've never found a chocolate cream pie recipe that comes close to this one. I skip the whipped cream on top and just do chocolate shavings so people can add their own whipped cream later.  

Also I found key limes at the grocery store the other day, which I always freak out about because I LOVE key lime-flavored things and they are so hard to find, so naturally key lime pie was added to the pie menu! I figured it would be a non-traditional twist to contrast with the sweeter desserts. I used this recipe which is great because the filling only has three ingredients. It's on the tarter side which I am a fan of but you could always decrease the lime juice.

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And lastly we had cherry! I always used to be scared of cherry pie because pie cherries are only in season for two weeks in the summer and I figured it would be impossible to make good cherry pie with canned fruit but I was wrong. I've found this brand of canned cherries in a couple stores and they make for a great-tasting pie! I just used the recipe on the site. Just be sure to drain the fruit well so the pie isn't too runny.

And lastly these pie banners were a new addition this year and they were super easy to make! I was inspired by these from Food52 (looooove everything on this site!) but they were not budget-friendly and so I decided to attempt to recreate them! I just bought felt, fabric glue, cream-colored ribbon, and 1/4-inch wooden dowels at Michaels Crafts. I cut out little banner shapes in one color (I made one that I felt was the right size and then used it as a template to make the rest). I free-handed the letters because I was too lazy to try and trace them or look for pre-made ones. Plus, even though the letters aren't perfect I think that's almost better because it makes it look more homey! Attach the letters with fabric glue to the felt (I found I had to use quite a bit because felt absorbs the glue) and then glue the banners to the ribbon, making sure the width stays shorter than a pie plate (about 9"). I used hot glue to attach the banners to the dowels, and garden shears to cut the dowels a bit shorter. Overall, these were pretty simple and inexpensive to make! I'm now thinking of all the desserts I can potentially "banner." 

Here are the banners drying on my pathology textbook...probably not the best thing I've ever used the book for!

Here are the banners drying on my pathology textbook...probably not the best thing I've ever used the book for!

Final product! My mom made the pumpkin!

Final product! My mom made the pumpkin!

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