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

Snowflake Shortbread Cut-out Cookies

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I've been on the hunt for the perfect cut-out cookie recipe for years. One that isn't sickly sweet, doesn't spread too much in the oven, is sturdy enough to frost, and rolls out nicely. Finally, I found one that fits all of my criteria. My momma is a middle school teacher and for years one of her students (and her subsequent siblings) would give her a box of homemade sugar cookies for Christmas. They were amazing--like fight all your siblings for the last one amazing. After years of eating these cookies my mom finally asked her student's mom for the recipe. I was surprised by the recipe because it only has a couple of ingredients and uses no granulated sugar, only powdered sugar, no eggs, no baking powder or baking soda. It's really more of a shortbread than your traditional sugar cookie which is great because it falls apart in your mouth and isn't too sweet. I always hate it when you eat a cookie and between the cookie and the frosting you feel sick after. I've tweaked it a bit to my liking and here's the final recipe:

Cut-Out Shortbread Cookies--adapted from Bon Appetit

3 sticks of butter at room temperature

1 cup powdered sugar

3 and 1/4th cups flour

1 1/4 teaspoons salt

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract 

3-4 teaspoons pure almond extract 

Cream butter at medium speed for 1 minute. Add extracts followed by sugar and salt and blend well, then slowly add flour and mix until the dough just comes together. Don't over mix or you'll have a "tough" cookie. Wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes. Roll cookies out until they are just slightly thinner than 1/4 inch. 

Bake at 325 degrees until the edges are barely browned. If you find your shortbread has bubbles in it take a flat spatula (the kind you'd flip a pancake with) and lightly press down on the hot cookie to flatten out any bubbles so you have a flat surface to frost. 

For the royal icing I used the same recipe as here but I made a lot more. My measurements were: 

1 bag powdered sugar

1/3 cup meringue powder

1 tablespoon corn syrup 

3 teaspoons almond extract (don't use vanilla or it will turn the icing an off-white color or use artificial vanilla which is clear.)

enough water until it's "flood" consistency  

To frost these guys it's easiest if you make two consistencies of icing: one flood icing and one outline icing. Make the flood icing first--add enough water until you can lift up a spoonful of icing and let it drip down to the bowl and it quickly loses it's "ribbon" shape. So it's not "soupy" but it is definitely runny. If you've ever wondered how Starbucks makes those perfectly frosted snowman cookies, flood icing is the key! 

Place a little more than 3/4 of your flood icing in a large piping bag. With the remaining icing slowly add powdered sugar until the icing is stiff--this is your outline icing. The icing should make stiff peaks when you lift it up from the bowl. 

To ice your cookies follow these steps:

From here you can do whatever you want decorating-wise. If you want to add sprinkles like I did apply them when the icing is still wet (it dries very quickly!). You can also let the icing dry then add more outline icing on top to make it more three-dimensional.  

My momma and I wrapped these up and gave them out as gifts to our neighbors. I tied up stacks of 6 cookies with baking twine (seriously, what doesn't this stuff look cute on?), put them in cellophane bags, and tied them up with a Rudolph tag I recreated based on a Pinterest photo. I bought craft paper tags and some red pompoms. I made a cardboard Rudolph head template out of some stiff paper that I traced onto the tags, and freehanded the eyes and antlers before affixing the nose with a dollop of hot glue. 

Here's what they look like all wrapped up! Merry Christmas Eve!!! Hope everyone's night is full of family and egg nog and cookies and fun. Xx