Salted Caramel Meringues

This is the recipe that popped out at me when I opened Erin McDowell’s The Fearless Baker. This book is full of fun and beautiful recipes, and I have already made a couple, but this one is a good one for a few pantry staples (especially if you happen to have salted caramel sitting in your fridge–which luckily, I did), so it might inspire those of us who are rather homebound.

My main alteration for next time would be to play with the baking times. I’ve liked baking meringues hot and fast rather than low and long (doesn’t that sound very 21st C.?) because I’m not a great ahead-of-time thinker and I’ve had terrific luck with it (like my Christmas Dream Drops), but I did as the recipe suggested here and went for low and long. It didn’t work great–I probably pulled the pans too soon, and the meringues collapsed. They tasted great and were still pretty, but I will go longer next time, or go fast and hot. Haven’t decided yet. In the meantime, I hope you enjoy these beautiful little cookies! My twelve-year-old is already asking for them again . . .

Salted Caramel Meringues

4 large egg whites
1/4 t. cream of tartar
1 c. granulated sugar
1/2 t. vanilla extract
1/4 t. fine sea salt
1 c. Salted Caramel Sauce

Preheat the oven to 325. Line two baking sheets with parchment.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment (or in a large bowl with a hand mixer), whip the egg whites and cream of tartar on medium speed until lightly foamy. Raise the mixer speed to high and add the sugar in a slow, steady stream. Continue whipping until the meringue holds medium peaks, 5-7 minutes. Add the vanilla and salt and mix to combine, about 1 minute.

Gently scoop the meringue onto the prepared sheets using a scoop or two spoons to create 1/4 c. dollops, leaving 1 1/2 inches between each. Use a small offset spatula to slightly flatten the mounds, keeping them circular. [I didn’t flatten them, but I did depress a mound in the center and then filled it with the sauce, and then swirled.]

Drizzle 2 teaspoons of the caramel sauce over each meringue (you can transfer the caramel to a disposable pastry bag to do this, or just use a spoon), then use the tip of a paring knife to gently swirl them together, keeping the swirl to one or two wide strokes (the more you swirl the more likely the meringues will deflate).

Transfer the meringues to the oven, lower the oven temperature to 250 and bake until the meringues are very dry to the touch (the caramel will melt slightly into the cookies.) How long this takes depends on how dry the weather is–anywhere between 45-90 minutes [aim for the longer–I live in a dry desert climate, and it wasn’t fully done at 60 min.]. When the meringues are dry, turn off the oven and leave the sheets in the oven until the cookies and sheets cool completely.

Salted Caramel Sauce

1 1/2 c. sugar
1/4 c. corn syrup
1/4 c. water
1 t. vanilla extract
4 oz. unsalted butter, cut into cubes, at room temperature
1/2 c. heavy cream
3/4 t. fine sea salt

Note: I think this is a particularly well written caramel recipe! If you’re a newcomer to caramel, the author explains the process very well.

Combine the sugar, corn syrup and water in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. You can stir the mixture before it boils to help dissolve the sugar, but stop stirring the moment it starts. Boil the syrup until it’s a medium amber color. Once it starts to color, tilt the pan occasionally–it’s easier to see the true color of the caramel when you’re looking at less of it (or it may seem darker than it really is). As soon as it’s close to medium amber, turn off the heat–the caramel will retain some heat, so it’s good to allow for carryover cooking.

Add the butter to the caramel and stir gently to combine. Stir in the cream (be careful–the caramel may bubble up and steam a lot. Just keep stirring and it will die down). The sauce should be smooth and creamy. If it seizes up and you see lumps of caramel that haven’t fully dissolved in the sauce, return the pan to low heat and stir occasionally, until the sauce is smooth. Stir in the salt and vanilla. Remove from heat and cool.

Whoopie! School’s Out!

Whoopie PIe with Salted Dulce
This was the recipe that caught my eye the most as I flipped through the cookbook, Home Baked Comfort, and I thought, yes, of every recipe, I will make this one right this minute. And I did. And honestly, a whoopie pie can be a little dangerous at high altitude, because sometimes the cookie will spread too much and flatten, but this recipe performed beautifully. (Okay, it can also be dangerous when trying to lower sugar intake, but, well, that’s the kind-of danger I like.) I also took this cookie with me to my nephew’s all-cookie birthday party (how is that not the perfect party idea?). The filling didn’t do great in the hot weather, but I kind-of enjoyed watching them slowly slip and slide. Maybe not the perfect 90-degree-weather-outside-party cookie, but definitely the perfect cookie to welcome in summer! Wouldn’t be so bad at any other time of the year, either.

Salty Dulce de Leche Whoopie Pie

For the cookies:
6 T. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 c. firmly packed light brown sugar
1 large egg
1 t. pure vanilla extract
3/4 c. all-purpose flour
1/2 c. natural cocoa powder (like Hershey’s)
1/2 t. baking soda (reduce slightly for high altitude, like a little shake less, or 1/4 t. less if doubling)
1/4 t. salt

For the filling:
4 T. unsalted butter, at room temperature
3/4 c. confectioners’ sugar
2 T. heavy cream
1/4 to 1/2 t. kosher salt
1/3 c. dulce de leche (you can find this at Latin American Grocers or Trader Joe’s)

To make the cookies, in the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and sugar on medium-high speed until combined. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until blended. Sift the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt into the bowl and beat just until blended. Cover the bowl and refrigerate the dough until firm, about 2 hours.

Space 2 racks evenly in the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment.

With dampened hands, shape tablespoonfuls of the dough into balls [I used a tablespoon cookie scoop]. Place them firmly on the prepared pans, spacing them slightly apart and squishing them a little. You should have about 20 balls. Bake until the cookies are puffed and slightly firm, 8 to 10 minutes, rotating the pans about halfway through. Let the cookies cool on the pans for 5 minutes, then transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

While the cookies are cooling, make the filling: In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter and confectioners’ sugar on medium-high speed until lightened. Stir in the cream and salt, to taste, on low speed, then stir in the dulce de leche until the filling is smooth.

Spread the flat side of half the cookies with a big dollop of the filling. Top each with a second cookie, placing the flat side on the filling. (You’ll probably have a bit more filling than you need, but if you’re like us, you’ll find a good use for it and will sneak spoonfuls here and there.) Refrigerate until the filling is set, at least 1 hour. Whoopie! Makes 10 whoopie pies.