Big Fat (Vanilla) Beans

Though I’m glad I was able to acquire a bunch of lovely, fat, juicy vanilla beans relatively cheaply online, I’ve been trying to come up with vanilla-filled goodies to make.  Since I had more egg whites left over from the wine buttercream, I decided to try some vanilla bean meringues.

All dressed up!
All dressed up!

I had a lot of fun piping the little vanilla blobs, and got creative making fun shapes with a star tip.  These didn’t dry out as thoroughly on the inside as the peppermint ones, but it’s not like they’re full of runny raw whites or anything.  They’re a little reminiscent of marshmallows, with a bit of a chewy center.  They don’t turn into delicious minty dust upon hitting your tongue, but they’re sweet and elegant nonetheless.

I used the same basic recipe as the peppermint ones, but I’ll post my recipe anyway.  More experimentation with the fun and fluffy world of meringues to come after Christmas, since Z has requested more for himself once I’m done baking for everyone else!

Vanilla Bean Meringues

Oops! Someone knocked over the meringues...
Oops! Someone knocked them over...

3 egg whites

3/4 cup sugar

1 small vanilla bean (3-4″ in length)

Preheat the oven to 175 (my oven only goes down to 200 on the dial, so I just set it as low as I can).  Thoroughly scrape out the insides of the vanilla bean.  Set aside, and wrap the pod tightly in plastic wrap for later use (I still have to use mine).  Place whites and sugar in a metal mixing bowl (the one that goes with your stand mixer if you have one), then place the bowl over a shallow pot of simmering water.  Stirring constantly (but gently), allow the sugar to dissolve into the whites.  Once the mixture is warm (after a minute or two), move it to the mixer and whip on high until it holds stiff peaks (at least 5 minutes).  Gently beat in the vanilla bean until just incorporated, then scoop the meringue into a pastry bag fitted with a star tip.  You’ll have to do 2 or 3 batches in the pastry bag.  Pipe into little towers on a baking sheet (lined with either parchment or a silicone mat…I also end up having to use two of them)…their bases should be between the size of a quarter and a half-dollar.  Allow the meringues to sit on the counter for a few minutes for a “skin” to develop on them.  Bake for at least an hour, or until they are dry and hollow-feeling.  Once they seem done, turn off the oven and allow the meringues to sit inside while it cools down.  If you’re afraid they might get overdone, you can leave the oven door propped open while it cools down.  Once the oven reaches room temperature, you can easily remove the meringues from the baking sheets and place in an airtight container for up to a couple weeks.

THEY'RE ESCAPING! Stop them...with your mouth!
THEY'RE ESCAPING! Stop them...with your mouth!

To make them all blobby and bumpy and cute like I did, make sure you use a star tip and give a few squeezes per meringue, kind of stacking the little blobs.  I think they look snowy and elegant; a perfect winter treat!

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