Today's post is a little weird, but still a very fun and inexpensive way to share a little Christmas love. I have given these as hostess gifts, housewarming gifts, teacher's gifts, in fact I have given them to anyone I thought needed a touch of whimsy with a little remembrance.
Yesterday I bought 4 cartons of mushrooms from Aldi, so today as I was processing them I had these mushroom cartons left over and it did become the inspiration for todays post.
Mushroom carton or small box or basket
3 egg whites
4 tablespoons sugar
pastry bag or plastic bag with one corner cut off
chocolate bits for melting (I did not measure these because I have a mug I keep in a plastic bag in the freezer. Whenever I need to dip something I pull it out and melt it. You are smart people and you can guesstimate, maybe 1/4-1/2 cup)
wire cake rack
Ribbon or raffia (optional)
Plastic wrap (optional)
Fabric for lining the container (optional)
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Beat the egg whites until they are foamy. gradually add the sugar and continue beating until stiff peaks form. (I forgot to take a picture of the egg whites holding peaks, sorry!) Put the egg white mixture into a pastry bag or plastic bag with one end snipped off. Line the baking sheet with parchment paper. Pipe stems about 1 to 1 1/2 inches long on the sheet and then make button caps. Just put the tip on the baking sheet, start pressing out the meringue and pull the bag up. It will automatically form a cap for the mushroom. Remember to make more than you think you will need. You will lose some to breakage.
Pop them in the oven and just leave them alone for at least an hour. You really just want all the moisture to dry out, with the meringue remaining as white as possible. When they are nicely dry remove the pan from the oven and begin the process of carefully peeling the stems and caps from the paper. Like I said before some will break. It's ok and that is why you made extras to begin with.
At this point I take a sharp knife and make a small hollow in the underside of the caps. (Just a divot really)
Melt some chocolate bits either in the microwave or in a double boiler until smooth. Using a small knife (I use a little canapé' knife for this) spread a thin coating of chocolate on the underside of the mushroom cap then dip the tip of one end of the stem into the melted chocolate. Attach the two pieces in the divot, holding them long enough for a bond to form. Put them on a paper towel , a plate or wire rack cap side down to cool. When the chocolate has hardened, place them in your chosen container dust them with cocoa powder, decorate and give them away. If you are waiting more than a day to give them away you need to store the meringues in an airtight container without doing the chocolate step, then put them together shortly before presenting them as a gift. (Sorry but I just can't use the word gift as a verb) . I live in such a humid place that these have a fairly short shelf life. If your climate is drier they will last longer.
This is an insanely inexpensive gift and packs a huge visual bang for the actual buck. It takes about 2 dozen "mushrooms " to fill a standard mushroom container.
Hope you enjoy this. Now go get your Christmas on!
Next week is something inedible and a gift suitable for just about any female on our gift list. Actually with a slight alteration it would work for any guy too. I will try it both ways!
p.s. The mushroom carton photo would have looked much better if I had not tried to tie raffia around the carton after I had put the meringues in it. I dropped it and most of them were toast. What you see a picture of is lots of bits and pieces with the 6 or 7 intact mushrooms on the top. These are fragile little suckers, so decorate first then arrange the meringues afterwards. I seem to always take one for the team.