Posts Tagged 'work'

Pipe Dream #218: To Be Verbally Redeemed – Frosty Fresh Mint Brownies

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Pop culture words get me sometimes. Like, I stop reading classic novels for a while and my whole vocab goes down the drain, and I start giving in to saying “brb” out loud. And my food blog descriptions get lazy because I can’t be bothered to think of a more creative way to describe how something tastes and smells and experiences.

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For example, right now, all I can think about these brownies is:

Giyyyyssss, the cricklllly cristtttttt.

Translation: Guyyyyyyzzzzzz, the crackly cruuuuust.

Translation Secondo: Guys, the crackly top of this brownie is everything I ever dreamed of on a brownie. Like box mix, but homemade.

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So you see? Not only do I give a bad description (even after two translations, no one would call that inspired), but my description is peppered with extra letters that are really just a product of society’s devaluation of the English language.

The only redeeming quality about the above sentence is that it conveys how dang excited I am that these brownies have a crackly top. Will you forgive me? I’m redeemed, but my language is not. Thanks.

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Apparently, the crackly crust phenom is something to do with the ratio of fat to saturated fat (butter to oil) in the recipe. The blog post I linked to below explains these finnicky science baking things.

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One change: I would double the fresh mint  I used in this. A whole 1/4 cup, because the mint in this was not evident. I’m a bit of a mint fiend, so maybe other people with less sugar-wasted palates could discern it, but I would err on the side of mintier. I mean, unless you just want a regular perfect crackly top fudge brownie.

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Sidenote: One of the most useful things I learned in this whole year is that 1/4 cup is 4 tablespoons. I am not kidding. I use that conversion at least twice weekly. Oh, food.



Frosty Fresh Mint Brownies

Adapted heavily from Baking Illustrated via Brown-Eyed Baker

1/4 cup Dutch-processed cocoa
1/2 teaspoons instant espresso
1/3 cup plus 2 Tablespoons boiling water
1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
3 tablespoons butter, melted
1/4 cup plus 2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 3/4 cups white sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint (chocolate mint, if you can get it)

Adjust oven rack to lowest position and heat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9×9-inch baking pan with parchment paper, leaving an overhang on all sides. Spray with nonstick cooking spray.

Whisk cocoa, espresso powder, fresh mint and boiling water together in large bowl until smooth. Add the bittersweet chocolate and whisk until the chocolate is melted. Whisk the in melted butter and oil. Add the eggs, yolks, and vanilla and continue to whisk until smooth and homogeneous, then whisk in sugar until fully incorporated. Add the flour and salt and mix with a rubber spatula until combined.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake until a toothpick inserted halfway in the center comes out with a few moist crumbs attached, about 30. Transfer pan to wire rack and cool for 30 minutes, then lift the brownies and parchment out of the pan. Let cool fully, about 1 hour.

Once cool, remove the brownie layer from the parchment and stick it back in the pan. You may need to cut the brownie into four large squares to transfer it without breaking the layer. Mine broke. Learn from me.

Frost with chocolate boiled buttercream (recipe below) and fresh mint leaves.

Chocolate Boiled Buttercream

Prepare the buttercream using this recipe. I halved the recipe because the pan of brownies was small. Heat 3 ounces of bittersweet chocolate in a bowl in the microwave, stirring every 30 seconds until everything is melted. Let cool slightly, then beat the chocolate into the buttercream.

Pipe Dream #215: To Sweet Talk Pesky Traffic Violations – Choreo Cake

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First of all, can we talk about how alien neon those cherry stems look? I did not realize they looked that way until I saw them on another screen. What is happening in this world/my eyes? I need corrections.

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I made this cake at 11 p.m. on a Thursday night post traffic-citation, which I got because I was rushing home to make a cake that I was ultra jazzed about. Unfortunately, you can’t tell the cops that the reason you were speeding is because you were excited to get home and make a cake to bring back to them on their night shift. Unless you have cake in-hand, they probably will just think you are lying and bump up your violation.

If I could get away with it, I would have outlined all of the reasons I was rushing to make this.

Speeding Reason #1: I had the layers already baked and frozen, so I didn’t have to mess with them.

Speeding Reason #2: The layers have OREOS in them.

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Speeding Reason #3: This cake is a combination of fresh fruit and chocolate, which is always a total win. It’s kind of a play on a chocolate-covered cherry.

Speeding Reason #4: Cream cheese frosting. Duh. Especially when paired with that concentrated cherry flavoring oil I was so stoked to try.

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Reason #5: I knew it would make my work friends so happy on Friday.

Happiest of Mondays,


Choreo Cake

With a name like “Choreo,” this can only be an LH original

For the cake:

Half of any white or yellow cake mix

13 Oreos, crushed

For the frosting:

12 ounces (1.5 packs) cream cheese

6 ounces (1.5 sticks) butter

6 cups powdered sugar

a few tablespoons of cocoa powder

1/2 teaspoon cherry flavoring oil or cherry extract, to taste

a few drops red or pink food coloring

For the decoration:

Bing cherries


Chocolate-covered raisins (or chocolate-covered cherries would be appropriate here)

Prepare the cake according to package directions, then fold in the crushed Oreos. Split the mix into two 6″ circular pans lined with parchment paper and greased. Bake for a while. You’ll just have to watch it. The cake is done when a tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

Remove the cake pans to a wire rack and let cool for a half hour before running a sharp knife around the cake edges and inverting onto the rack. Peel off the parchment, and let the cakes cool completely. If desired, you can wrap the cakes in plastic wrap and freeze so that they are easier to work with when you need them.

To make the frosting, beat butter and cream cheese in the bowl of a stand mixer until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the powdered sugar, one cup at a time, until fully incorporated. Add cherry flavoring, then beat on high speed until the frosting is fluffy, about 4 minutes. Beat in the food coloring.

Remove a heaping half cup of frosting to a small bowl and mix in cocoa powder until the frosting looks chocolatey enough.

Split the cake layers so that you have four even layers. Alternate filling layers beginning and ending with the pink frosting. Frost the rest of the pink cake and garnish as desired. Store in the fridge.

Pipe Dream #208: To DIY – Banana Bourbon Cupcakes with Milk Chocolate Ganache

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I made the mistake of Instagramming these babies a few months ago. I was so proud of them, I couldn’t resist. (I have #problems and #vices. See Pipe Dream #207.) What followed was a deluge of requests for them, which I dismissed because I am just one girl and I get tired of peeling bananas sometimes. I mean, go make your own cupcakes. This is why I have a blog. DIY, or something, and then pay people to make your sandwiches.

This is a bit of an unfair attitude, I am realizing, mostly because I wasn’t going to post these on my blog until three months later, meaning that no once could technically make these yet. So I guess the only reasonable thing to do is either never Instagram again or make these for everyone. Back to the drawing board. :] But guys, you know how I actually love making people treats. It was an off day.

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And these are such a double treat. The banana cakes are less dense than a typical banana bread and studded with butterscotch and chocolate chips. The frosting is the dreamiest bourbon swiss meringue buttercream and holds little puddles of milk chocolate bourbon ganache that threaten to burst their bounds. It’s like a little pre-dessert drink.

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All in all, these were some of the most interesting cupcakes I’ve made in a while, and I thoroughly enjoyed the unusual flavor combination. Never mind the white balance/brightness in these photos. Just close your eyes and have that little pre-dinner drink.

Off-dazing, DIY-ing,


P.S. I think I will still Instagram things sometimes.

Banana Bourbon Cupcakes with Milk Chocolate Ganache

Adapted from How Sweet Eats

For the cupcakes (makes about 9):
2/3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 + 1/8 teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
sprinkle of nutmeg
1/2 large egg, at room temperature (beat the egg, give it your best shot)
1/2 + 1/8 cup loosely packed brown sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large ripe banana, mashed (about a 1/2 cup)
1/8 cup sour cream, at room temperature
1/4 (1/2 stick, 4 tablespoons) cup butter, melted
1/4 cup milk
1/2 cup chocolate chips, butterscotch chips or a mix of both

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a muffin tin with 9 cupcake liners.

Combine flour, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and nutmeg in a bowl and set aside.

In the bowl of a stand mixer (or just a regular bowl), whisk the egg and  brown sugar until smooth. Whisk in the vanilla extract. Add the sour cream and melted butter and mix.

Stir in dry ingredients, then add the mashed bananas and milk, mixing until just combined. Stir in the chocolate/butterscotch chips.

Using an ice cream scoop, scoop batter in liners until they are 2/3 of the way full. Bake for 15 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the middle comes out clean. Let the cakes cool completely on a rack before frosting.

For the bourbon italian buttercream:

Adapted from The Faux Martha

2 egg whites, at room temperature
heaping 1/3 cup + 2 tablespoons white sugar
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons cold water
1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) butter

Separate the egg whites into the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Measure a heaping 1/3 cup sugar and the water into a  heavy-bottomed saucepan. Gently stir to combine. Measure the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar into a separate bowl. Cut the butter into tablespoon sized pieces and set aside.

Place the candy thermometer in the saucepan and heat the mixture over medium-high heat. Do not stir after the sugar is dissolved, and wash down the sides of the pan with a wet pastry brush to prevent crystals forming. I had issues with crystals forming and had to start over once.

Whip the egg whites on high speed to soft peaks. Add the additional two tablespoons of sugar and whip until stiff peaks form.

Raise the heat under the sugar syrup to bring the syrup to 245° degrees F. When it has reached 245°, slowly pour the syrup into the meringue, with the mixer running.  Hold the pan just above the height of the mixer and pour confidently, trying to hit the meringue and not the side of the bowl.

After a minute or two, reduce the speed of the mixture to medium for 6-8 minutes and beat until the meringue is totally cool. Add the butter 1 tablespoon at a time, increasing the mixer speed to high for 2 to 4 minutes or until the butter is fully incorporated. Don’t worry if the mixture looks soupy; keep beating until everything comes together and the frosting reaches a mayo-like consistency.

For the bourbon milk chocolate ganache:
2 ounces milk chocolate chips
1 tablespoons heavy cream + 1 tablespoon whole milk
1 tablespoon bourbon

Heat the cream and cream in a microwave-safe bowl for twenty seconds–dont’ let it boil, but it should be really hot. Dump in the chocolate chips and let the mixture stand for a minute before whisking the chocolate and milk until smooth. Whisk in the bourbon, and let the ganache stand for at least 20 minutes. It will thicken as it cools.

To assemble the cupakes:

Using an extra large piping tip, pipe a big dollop of buttercream onto each cupcake. Use a small spoon to create a divet in each dollop. Fill, dip or drizzle the ganache to your heart’s content.

So Totally Creative: A Lion King Skit + South African Fruit Pizza


We had this thing for work. It was a wine and cheese tasting event, and each department had a theme. I’d like to say it was this cookie cake that won us the ‘Most Creative’ award, but actually, it was likely the giant, homemade elephant that poured wine out of its trunk and the artful rendition of the christening of Simba that did it. I mean, it was complete with theme music.

It was kind of difficult to come up with truly South African things with which to theme our table. I mean, do you know anything that defines South Africa? Besides the innumerable spoiled princesses who live there vacationing off their diamond-mining fortunes (a fact I know because of five years of Alias storylines, no doubt). So we resorted to a Lion King skit (the most authentically African thing Americans know about) + a cookie pizza decorated with the South African flag.

Here’s the thing: If you’re going to make a South African flag, you might as well make it in the form of a classic Midwestern dessert. I mean, why not? The “fruit pizza” is an old classic in these parts due to its simple preparation and delicious consumption. It is highly transportable and a cinch to do for a crowd, so it shows up at grad parties and potlucks more often than Lil’ Smokies.

Here’s the procedure:



Slice up ya dough and press it into the bottom of a lined 9 x 13″ pan. Bake according to package directions. I didn’t even make my own sugar cookie dough. Woops. Nope, actually I feel fine about that.



Whip up your cream cheese with some sugar. This is the reason this dessert is so heart-stealing. Spread this on the cooled cookie just prior to serving.




Then, fruitify. You can use any fruit you want, and I would . Berries work nicely, kiwis add color. For some reason, I feel like people only use kiwis on this dessert. Where else do you see people use them? Maybe they do in South Africa.


May you be the winner of every creativity contest you enter into with every unoriginal idea you’ve ever had. This is dramatic. Go forth and enjoy!


Midwest Fruit Pizza

A word of mouth classic

1 16.5 ounce roll of refrigerated sugar cookie dough (though you could make your own, or use a box mix too)

8 ounces cream cheese, softened

1/4 cup sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

assorted fruit (berries, mandarin oranges, kiwi, etc.)

Line a 9×13″ pan or a 12″ pizza pan with parchment paper. Slice up the sugar cookie dough, and press it into the pan, covering the bottom with an even layer of dough. Bake according to package directions, something like 11-13 minutes at 350 degrees F. Let cool.

While the cookie layer bakes, beat the cream cheese, sugar and vanilla together until well-blended. Spread the cream cheese over the cooled cookie layer and top with the desired fruit just before serving.

Pipe Dream #197: To Scare Them Away – Cookie Dough-Stuffed Rice Krispie Treats

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So I brought these to work, right? And I set them in their usual place of glory–the centrally-located filing cabinet space by the two fellas in my division. I mean, this positioning spares me some lectures from the ladies. (Ok, they don’t chastise me when I bring in treats, but we are just all so very, very aware that boys can handle eating mass amounts of treats and work a desk job without any adverse effects. Thus, the treats land there.)

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But before I brought these bars over, I walked past another dude from a different division. It’s a long hallway, and though there weren’t too many bars, I thought it would be rude to wave a plate of fabulous treats under his face and not offer him any, so I asked him if he wanted one.

As he reached for the plate, he asked, “What are these?”

I replied, “Chocolatechipcookiedough-stuffedRiceKrispiebars.”

Quick as a wink, he jerked his hand back from the plate.

Taken aback, I was like, “Dude, what’s up? Is that the worst thing you’ve ever heard of?”

And he said, “Wait, say that again. What are these? They had such a long name, I was worried that they were something weird.”

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And I was just amused. It’s just not the usual reaction people have to baked goods. What do these look like, chocolate covered scorpions? Glazed eel ovum? He seriously jerked away like they were going to bite. So scared of Rice Krispie bars, one of the most classically delicious treats out there.

And these bars just happen to be stuffed with marshmallows and cookie dough, a few other innocuously delectable American delicacies.

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You know you are going to make these tonight. Come on. So easy and fairly harmless compared to white chocolate cheesecakes. Like the Oreo-stuffed chocolate chip cookies I made once, these were a bit sweet for me, but they’re worth a shot as an easy weeknight treat.

Happy Halloween,


Cookie Dough-Stuffed Rice Krispie Treats

Inspired by averie cooks

For the cookie dough:

4 tablespoons salted butter, softened

1/8 cup coconut oil*

1/8 cup vegetable shortening*

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/4 cup white sugar

1 egg**

2 teaspoons vanilla

1 1/2 cups flour

1 teaspoon cornstarch

3/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 cup chocolate chips

* You can really use whatever fat you like, as long as you have 3/4 cup worth. So you could use all butter, all coconut oil, or all shortening, but there will be flavor differences for sure.

**This batch makes enough to stuff the bars and have some leftover for cookies, which is why I included an egg. If you’re worried about eating raw cookie dough, try a vegan version, like this one.

Melt the coconut oil and shortening in a microwave safe bowl, and set aside to cool. In a large bowl, cream the butter and sugars together, then add in the melted oil, stirring until well-mixed. Beat in the in egg and vanilla, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed. Dump all of the dry ingredients except the chocolate chips into the bowl and stir together until dough forms. Make sure to beat this pretty well to distribute everything if you don’t sift the dry ingredients together. Stir in chocolate chips. Stick this in the fridge to chill.

For the bars:

1 10 ounce bag of marshamallows + 1 cup mini marshmallows, reserved

4 tablespoons butter

5 1/2 cups Rice Krispies or other rice cereal

Melt the butter in a large pot of over medium heat. Add the marshmallows (not the mini marshamallows), stirring often until the butter and marshmallows are melted and combined. Remove from the heat and add the rice cereal, stirring until well-combined.

Spray a 9×13 pan with non-stick spray. Press half of the rice cereal mixture into the pan using a spatula sprayed with non-stick spray. (Mine only took up aabout 2/3 of the pan, but try to spread it out–my bars were a little thick.)

Remove the chilled cookie dough from the fridge and sprinkle decent-sized chunks all over the cereal layer. Sprinkle the mini marshmallows over the first layer as well. Take the remaining cereal mixture and spread that over the dough layer, pressing it down firmly. The “firmly” part of this is key, otherwise your bars will break apart.

Let cool, then cut into bars.

Pipe Dream #178: To Be Sophisticated Fresh – Brown Sugar Hazelnut Rounds

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Ho delicious. I just love hazelnut days. They rank somewhere between snow days and  this-clearance-item-is-ringing-up-even-lower-than-the-red-sticker-SAYS days.

So if your day is somewhat less than fab, I suggest you take this post to heart and get some hazelnutting in your life. Especially if you use a food processor to grind them up–food processors make life so much simpler in every way except the cleaning way.

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Technically, these biscuits fall under the category of the “slice and bake” cookie, but they are far removed from those store-bought sugar cookies you can pick up with pumpkins and Christmas trees on them, depending on the season. Those are best consumed before baking. At least, that is what I thought as a 10-year-old.

Consider these cookies the grown-up version. The brown butter alone would be enough to elevate the crispy, fragrant rounds, but with the addition of nearly a whole cup of ground hazelnuts, I’m ready to call them sophisticated. Who knew such sophistication could come out of a Better Homes and Garden Cookbook?

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They would also be really yummy solo, but I decided to make them sandwich cookies for fun and elegance. You can really cut them into any shape or no shape, but I decided to cut them with a cookie cutter after slicing them to give them a pretty edge. And then I filled them with brown butter icing. In other news, brown butter icing is ho oh so so fo wo delicious.

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Get ready for your close-up girls–totally irresistible!


Brown Sugar Hazelnut Sandwiches with Brown Butter Icing

Adapted from The Better Homes and Gardens Cookbook

1 cup butter, softened

1 1/4 cups brown sugar, packed

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

2 1/2 cups flour

3/4 cups ground hazelnuts (from about 2 ounces whole hazelnuts)

In a large mixing bowl, beat butter on medium speed for 30 seconds. Add the brown sugar, baking soda and salt, beating until combined and scraping the sides of the bowl occasionally. Beat in the egg and vanilla until combined, then beat in the flour. Stir in the hazelnuts.

Divide the dough in half, shaping each half into a 10-inch roll. Wrap each log in plastic wrap or waxed paper, and chill for 6 hours or overnight. I chilled mine for two hours–it was fine.

When the dough is firm enough to slice, preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Slice the rolls into 1/4 inch slices with a sharp serrated knife. Place slices 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet lined with parchment. Bake for 7 to 8 minutes until firm and light brown. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack and let cool. If desired, sandwich cookies together with brown butter icing (recipe follows) or Nutella.

These will keep for several days in an airtight container. Because they have a boatload of brown sugar in them, they will soften as time wears on, so if you like a crisp, shortbread-like cookie, they will be most like that on Day One.

Brown Butter Icing

2 tablespoons butter

1 1/2 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 tablespoon milk

Heat 2 tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the butter tuns light brown and smells nutty. Remove from heat, then beat in 1 1/2 cups powdered sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla. Stir in 1 tablespoon of milk, until the icing is spreadable. Add more for a thinner glaze.

Pipe Dream #168: To Be A Guilt-Free Addict Instead – Peppermint Meringues

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Here is how I could start this post:

“Peppermint Meringues: An Guilt-Free Addiction. These little buggers can be the spice of your life, especially in January, month of sugar overdose cleanse. Seriously, they’re like 15 calories a pop, perfect if you need a sweet but don’t feel like busting out a butter cake.”

But here is the thing. When you eat these, it won’t necessarily erase any post-holiday guilt you may be feeling. Party after party of canapes and cookies? Yeah, don’t act like you didn’t indulge a bit. Actually, I won’t act like I didn’t indulge a bit, because I did, and I won’t put words in your mouth. :]

Guilt is basically the result of feeling like we don’t measure up quite well enough, right? We all have different ways of coping with it. None of them are really healthy, because nothing we can do can really make us measure up to perfection. One thing I am really glad about today is this verse in Isaiah 6:

“With it he touched my mouth and said, “See, this has touched your lips; your guilt is taken away and your sin atoned for.”

It sounds super obscure and weird, right? And it kind of is, unless you read the story, but the thing that is blowing my mind is this: Not only does Jesus take away my imperfection, he actually takes away my guilt too. Imperfection gone, guilt gone, so I don’t have to live under it anymore.

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Some days, I wish that I could let these peppermint meringues touch my lips and be completely guilt-free, but that’s not how it works. I still deal with self-inflicted guilt over what-have-you. Verses like that help to remind me that I don’t have to.

So point of the story, you can make these to try and relieve post-holiday guilt, but they are a very poor substitute. A very delicious, poor substitute that looks like Whos from Who-ville.

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This is the first time I have baked my meringues in a true low ‘n slow fashion. (Usually I’m too impatient.) Instead of a quick-baked version that turns out hollow and a little chewy, these meringues are solid all the way through and light as air. Combined with the cool little food-dye party trick, these turned out to be pretty successful, yeah?

That’s all for now, folks,


Peppermint Meringues

2 egg whites, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract
3/4 cup regular or superfine sugar

Preheat oven to 200°F.

Beat egg whites until foamy. Add salt, cream of tartar and peppermint extract, and beat mixture until it holds soft peaks. Add the sugar gradually, beating the batter until it is stiff. Drop a few drops of red food coloring (gel or liquid) on the top of the meringue, but don’t stir it in. Spoon meringue into a piping bag, then pipe batter onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until light and crispy , but not brown. Let cool on baking sheets on a wire rack.

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