Meringue Christmas Trees
Christmas is a special time of year; I’m sure you’ve heard it all before. I love Christmas at home in Cape Breton – the perfect, white snow on the ground, lots of visitors coming around for tea and cookies, church on Christmas Eve (more of a social event than a religious gathering), and the Christmas cheer that never seems to stop flowing. Christmas in Ireland is a different kind of wonderful. Instead of snow we have lush, green fields. At dinner we have both ham and turkey (all at once; can you believe it?!). After mass on Christmas Eve, the congregation largely moves onto the pub for a quick pint or two before going home to family and gifts. Different, but still lovely.
The best Christmas I can remember was when I was six years old. I got nearly everything I asked Santa for – a crayola craft kit, a barbie you can take into the bath and dress in foam and, the best gift of all, a kitten I called Belle (I also got Beauty and the Beast that Christmas). Belle would live for nearly 22 years, making her my longest-running and most-loved Christmas gift. She was a wonderful pet.
A Christmas tradition I will always treasure are my mom’s amazing Christmas cookies. She would keep the frosted beauties in the fridge – they were amazing eaten cold – and would use almond extract in her buttercream, which I loved. Now that I’m the mom, I think about the Christmas traditions I want to start with my kids and baking cookies is obviously very high on the list.
These sweet meringue treats are the perfect snack for Santa to have with his glass of milk on Christmas Eve. Like a real Christmas tree, no two meringue trees are alike – some are even Dr. Seuss-esque! This is such a fun recipe to do with your kids over the weekend. All you need is a large piping bag and a large (4B or 6B is good) star piping tip. I got mine at the cook shop in Ballymaloe – that shop has amazing professional cookware! *On that note, if anyone knows of a place in Waterford to find great cooking supplies, please let me know.
It’s important not to over-mix your meringue when making these little guys. You don’t want all kinds of air bubbles in the meringue; you’re looking for a velvety, smooth mixture that can hold its shape. It’s also important not to open the oven door once they’re in – like, don’t open it even for a second. You want them to bake evenly and then dry out, which is why both the baking and the cooling process take place in the oven.
Meringue Christmas Trees
4 egg whites, at room temperature
3/4 cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp vanilla, almond or mint extract
Christmas sprinkles (I found these ball shapes at Lidl)
Dark green food colouring
- Preheat your oven to 200 degrees (90 degrees Celsius, no fan). Line a cookie sheet with parchment and set aside. Fit your large piping bag with the large star tip and set aside.
- Using a hand mixer or stand mixer fitted with a whisk, whisk the egg whites and cream of tartar on medium until frothy. Then, slowly start adding the sifted confectioner’s sugar by the tablespoonful until the 3/4 cup is in the egg white mixture.
- When the meringue mixture has reached the desired consistency (holds its own shape, is velvety and smooth with no lumps or big air bubbles), turn off the stand mixer. Using the whisk, incorporate the flavouring and green food colouring by hand until everything is mixed together well.
- Fill the piping bag with the green meringue. Twist the top of the piping bag, closing it up.
- Holding the piping bag where you twisted it, gently pipe 3 stars on top of each other, each one slightly smaller than the last, until you’ve made something that looks like a tree. You can make them bigger, but this will make a nice 1-2 bite meringue. Repeat this process until you’ve filled the baking sheet.
- Sprinkle the trees with the holiday sprinkles until they’re evenly covered. Place the cookie sheet on the oven’s center rack, close the door and set a timer for two hours.
- After two hours, turn off the oven without opening the door. Leave the meringues in the oven to cool and harden for an additional two hours. Store in an airtight container until you’re ready to serve!