Just when you think the holiday candy making and cookie baking is done, I've got a candy thermometer immersed in boiling sugar water... What's that all about?
Yes, I said boiling sugar water - don't go sticking your fingers in this stuff! This picture was taken at the low 200's temperature - where it just sits for awhile before the temperature starts to shoot up again. I was aiming for hard ball stage. The nice thing about that long wait is you can get other stuff done (so long as you keep checking the thermometer!).
While the sugar water was cooking I'd whipped up four egg whites til the had soft peaks. Once the sugar water hit hard ball I cranked up the speed on the mixer and SLOWLY trickled in the sugar water.
And off to the side sat one tablespoon of cocoa to get added to this whipped up mix. Since I didn't want to risk lumps of cocoa in my whipped egg whites, I put the cocoa in a tea strainer gadget - like a mini sifter!
Ok, all the sugar water has been added and the whites have been whipped another five minutes or so... There was a lot of "spun sugar" around the edges of the bowl, and a little on the whisk attachment. Around this time I also started taste testing. Yum!
In two rounds I sifted- and folded-in cocoa powder.
Which resulted in a slightly tan meringue mixture:
The fun part was getting this into a pastry bag. And by "fun" I mean "real pain in the ass". As you can see from this picture, the first pastry bag got a bit overfilled. I had to lick some of the cocoa'd meringue off my fingers after I was done. Darn.
These are mushroom parts. I felt like I was working on building a Smurf village. This is just one of two trays of meringue mushroom parts. I quickly got bored with doing standard-issue mushrooms (think "white button mushrooms") and dabbled a little with the shape of some. We'll see how they look when assembled later.
Maybe it was because I had two trays worth of parts, but it took MUCH longer to bake these guys til they were dry than the recipe suggested. Two hours ran closer to four hours maybe?? And, unfortunately, in that time most of my perfectly upright mushroom stems laid over...bummer! Oh well - once assembled and attached to a Yule Log, I don't think it'll be such a big deal.
These guys are sitting in the oven, and thankfully our air is SUPER dry right now, so they won't absorb any moisture from the air. The next stage is to make a chocolate ganache and attach the stems to the base of the mushroom cups. I'm sure I'll have to taste more at that stage - just to make sure they're not poison mushrooms! ;-)