Meringue, a mixture of egg whites and sugar is a (super)natural for Halloween baking. Ghostly white, like the color of bare, bleached bones, meringue is a great medium for fun Halloween treats. Left soft and fluffy, meringue can be plopped on top of cupcakes, then shaped into ghostly figures using a couple of spoons or your clean fingers (tip: dip the spoons or fingers into cold water and shake off the excess, leaving a thin film of water – this will keep the meringue from sticking). Or pipe the meringue through a plain round tip onto parchment-lined baking sheets to form gravestones, skulls or, my favorite, fingers and bones, which are then baked until crisp and dry.
French meringue is the easiest type to make, and is what I use for my meringue bones. There are several things you can do to ensure success with meringue. Start with a clean bowl and whisk attachment or beaters – wash them in hot soapy water just before use. Separate your eggs carefully so there are no bits of yolk in the whites (fat and dirt inhibit the whipping of whites, and may render them completely useless). Have everything you need ready to complete the project prepped and ready-to-use before you begin whipping. Preheat the oven. Trace your templates onto parchment (or simply pipe freehand, if you prefer), and turn the parchment pencil-side down on the baking sheet. For templates, draw a bone or finger, or trace around a bone-shaped dog treat. Put your piping tip in your pastry bag. If you are going to make bony fingers, paint whole, blanched almonds with red or black food coloring to use as fingernails, and give them 30 minutes to dry before starting the meringue (or, use candy-covered wedding almonds, which come in an array of pastel and bright colors).
In addition to being fun and creepy and sweetly delicious all at the same time, these are great make-ahead treats. They are baked for an hour, then left in a turned-off oven all night to finish drying completely. In the morning, they will be, ahem, bone-dry and very crispy. Stored in an airtight container, they will keep for weeks. Note: Do not attempt to make these on a humid day or they will never dry properly, remaining soft and soggy. The bony fingers with colored nails will be finished when baked, but I like to finish any other types of bones with a bit of “blood.” Melt white candy melts and tint with red food color (or purchase dark red melts if you can find them). Holding a bone by one end straight up and down, pour a spoonful of red “blood” over the end of the bone, allowing any excess to drip down the length of the bone. Once the chocolate has stopped moving, set the bone down on the parchment and allow the “blood” time to cool and set. You can also use this technique on the fingers, dipping the severed end of the finger in the “blood.” For a bit of extra fun, melt some additional colored-melts and pipe fancy rings on the fingers – you can even top the “jewels” with sparkling sugar crystals for extra glamour. These are good, crunchy cookie snacks, and are great fun tucked into clear cellophane bags tied with a black bow as party favors. I’ve even served them with chocolate fondue!
More Rattling Meringue Bone ideas and recipes follow after the jump
Makes about fifty-five to sixty-five 3 or 4-inch long bones or fingers
Equipment: Two baking sheets lined with parchment paper (if you like, trace the shape of bones or fingers on the paper, then turn them pencil-side down on the pans), Hand mixer or stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, Silicone or rubber spatula, Pastry bag fitted with a 1/4-inch wide plain round tip, Double boiler (to melt candy-melts for “blood”), Small paint brush (to color almonds for fingernails)
- 3 large egg whites
- 3/4 cup (5-1/4 ounces) granulated sugar
- Preheat the oven to 225F. Position two oven racks in the top and bottom thirds of the oven.
- In the very clean bowl of a mixer, whip the egg whites on medium speed until they form soft peaks. With the mixer running, rain in the sugar in a slow, steady stream. Once all the sugar has been added, turn the mixer to high and continue to beat until firm peaks form.
- Spoon the meringue into the prepared pastry bag and pipe your desired shapes onto the parchment-lined baking sheets. To pipe bones, make an elongated version of the classic dog treat bones. For fingers, pipe a straight line with a knobby center for the knuckle and a tapered end for the fingernail. Just before baking, set one of the colored almonds into the meringue at the tapered end. Bake for 1 hour, rotating the baking pans between the shelves after 30 minutes. Turn off the oven and leave the pans inside to finish drying overnight (be sure to leave a note taped to the oven door to remind yourself).
- Remove from the oven and finish the bones by covering with red candy melt “blood” as described above. Store in an airtight container until needed.
Recipes and Photos are reprinted with permission from Andrews McMeel Publishing, LLC. The Art and Soul of Baking © copyright 2008 by Sur La Table, Inc.