1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar OR 3/4 teaspoon white vinegar / lemon juice
Mascarpone whipped cream:
3/4 cup (180 ml) whipping cream
1/3 cup (80 g) mascarpone cream
2 tablespoons powdered sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
[Before beginning, I highly recommend reading the tips at the end of the recipe.]
Prepare the mixing bowl: Take out a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer and the whisk attachment. Make sure both are completely clean and free of any grease or water.
Separate the egg whites: Separate the whites when eggs are still cold from the fridge, as it is the easiest. Be careful not to get a single drop of yolk in your whites. If you want to be extra careful, separate one egg at a time into a small bowl first and only place the white in your stand mixer bowl once you're successful. Don’t use any whites contaminated with yolk (keep those for breakfast scramble). Now let the egg whites come to room temperature before proceeding as they will whip up fluffier.
Prepare the meringue: Preheat oven to 250f. Line either one large or two smaller baking sheets with parchment paper. Whisk the egg whites on medium high (level 6 on stand mixer) until soft peaks which means the peaks are just starting to form but doesn't stand on their own (this The Kitchn article provides a great visual guide for soft, medium, firm peaks), about two to three minutes on my machine. Stir in the cream of tartar (or vinegar or lemon juice). Turn the mixer to high speed (level 8 or 10) and start adding the sugar by the tablespoon as the machine is running. Ensure each spoon of sugar is fully incorporated before adding the next. After all the sugar is in, continue beating on high for four to five minutes more or until the mixture is thick and glossy, and the sugar is completely dissolved. Rub a bit of mixture between your fingers to confirm there is no grit from undissolved sugar. If there are sugar granules, whisk longer just until it is smooth. At this point, the meringue should be so stiff that it will not budge or fall out of the bowl even if you turn it upside down. This is an entertaining, but not entirely necessary, step.
Form the meringue cookies: Dab a bit of meringue on the underside of each four corner of the prepared parchment to keep it from lifting up when you form the cookies. Place meringue mixture into a piping bag fitted with a star or round tip if you want them to look like nests (I used a Wilton #32 tip). Otherwise, you can simply use a spring-loaded ice cream scoop or two spoons to dollop them onto the parchment paper – pushing a spoon down the center to create a deep, rounded indent for toppings later. For nests, first pipe a 2” disc onto the parchment paper, then pipe twice around the edge to form a 3/4”-high wall all the way around. Space the nests with at least 1” clearance all around.
Bake: Place the baking sheet(s) gently into the oven and close the oven door, preferably without banging anything. Bake without opening the door for 50-60 minutes, or whenever the meringue lifts easily off the parchment and sounds hollow when you tap the bottom. If you want to check one, the center should not be gummy or sticky. Once you’ve confirmed they’re done, don’t remove the trays from the oven. Turn the oven off, open the oven door a bit and wedge a wooden spoon to keep it ajar and allow the cookies to cool fully – at least one to two hours, or up to overnight if more convenient.
Prepare the Mascarpone Whipped Cream: Add the heavy cream, mascarpone cheese, sugar and vanilla extract into the clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment. Start whisking at medium speed (just to avoid splashing) and increasing promptly to medium-high speed (8 on stand mixer) until you achieve thick and airy soft peaks, which takes no more than 45-60 seconds on my stand mixer.
Assemble (do this as close to serving as possible as the meringue will absorb the moisture from the cream and surrounding air and lose crispness): Spoon a small dollop of mascarpone whipped cream into the center indent of each cookie. Top with chocolate mini eggs or fruit or lemon curd or any other toppings of choice. Enjoy! Everyone will love them and love you for making them.
Make sure mixing bowl and balloon whisk are pristine with no traces of grease. Fats/oils prevent egg whites from whipping up properly.
Use a kitchen scale: Ideally, weigh your whites on a scale since not all “large eggs” are identical. This recipe uses three large egg whites which should weigh 3 3/4 oz (106g).
Traditional white granulated sugar versus organic granulated sugar: organic granulated sugar bakes up slightly more yellow because it is not whitened the way regular granulated sugar is. Apart from colour, there is no difference.
Separating the Whites: Separate the whites while the eggs are fridge-cold because it’s easier. You do not want any bit of yolk (fat) in the whites which makes it harder for the whites to whip up. Then wait for the whites to come to room temperature before starting as room temperature whites whip up fluffier than cold whites.
Cream of Tartar: This comes in powder form (I get mine at Bulk Barn) and is an acid that helps keep the structure of the whipped whites. You can also use white vinegar or lemon juice. Add this in at any point before adding sugar.
Oven temperature: For my full-sized pavlovas, I preheat the oven then turn it down to bake it at 250f. For these smaller cookies, I prefer the simplicity of using one lower temperature of 250f. Not all ovens are equal - mine runs on the hot side and I bake mine for 45 minutes. Yours may take up to 60 minutes or more. Check that they lift off the parchment easily and sound hollow when you tap the bottom.
Allowing the meringue to cool inside the turned-off oven: It is preferable to bake the meringue and allow it ample time to cool down without disturbing it or taking it out of the oven – at least one hour. The slow cooling down helps prevent collapsing and cracking, and properly drying out the inside.
The meringue cookies may turn a bit creamy in colour from baking. This is due to the oven temperature. This recipe uses the French meringue technique, which is quickest and most straight forward but is slightly less stable than meringue made from one of the other few techniques. As a result, we bake these at 250F while other more stable meringues can be baked at as low as 150f (for a lot longer) and maintain white colour.