Thursday, December 11, 2014

Christmas Tree Meringues and Deconstructed Chocolate Mint & Raspberry Pavlova Parfaits

One of my favorite things about Christmas is to put up our traditional tree. Each of us has a box (or two) of ornaments that we put on the tree. The ornaments are each a remembrance of something special from the year. I search everywhere until I find an ornament for my girls. We started this tradition when my Mom gave the girls a set of porcelain baby shoes for the tree the year they were born.

Each year that has followed I have searched for an ornament that told some of the story of their year. Such as the year my daughter Mandy was in the school play of the Twelve Days of Christmas, she also requested a glass ornament that year because she was a big girl now; I found her a glass pear for her that year. My daughter Trina wanted to be a ballerina when she was little so she got a ballerina. Later she started figure skating and so she almost always gets a pair of skates. After 20 years of skating our tree has many sets of skates and skating dolls. This year I found it very hard to put my ornaments on the tree as my Mom has given me a beautiful ornament every year. With her loss in the spring it made me cry while I put those ornaments on the tree. You can read more about or christmas tree tradition here.
I still like to make the tree decorating night as special as possible, and that is where the idea came for a tree trimming party. I am happy to share this tradition with a group of my blogging friends. I had originally planned on three recipes for this post, but I had a nasty fall this week which has slowed me down and did not allow me to manage so many recipes. The goodies for this year’s tree trimming became a little easier. I used a mix from the store to make my hot apple cider and hot chocolate from a can. The appetizers ended up being premade from the store. Just pop them in the oven. I did manage though before my fall to make my sweet recipe of gluten and dairy free mint meringue Christmas trees. They are great by themselves, but I took them a step farther and made them into deconstructed mini Pavlova Parfaits. I still have a whole platter of meringues for the remainder of the season. I hope you enjoy my addition to the Christmas season.

Mint Christmas Tree Meringues Recipe
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 1/3 cup of berry sugar
½ tsp of cream of tartar
1 tsp of mint extract
½ tsp of Christmas green gel food colouring
1 pkg. of pearl or silver cake decoration balls
1 pkg. of mini star cake decorations

Preheat the oven to 250 F, and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
In the bowl of your electric mixer add the 4 room temperature egg whites. For the best volume make sure your bowl is clear of any grease. It is also important to make sure there are no yolks in with the egg whites. Beat the egg whites on high until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar a 1/3 of a cup at a time. You want the sugar crystals to dissolve into the egg whites. Once the sugar has been incorporated, you can add the mint extract and the green food colouring. Beat until the egg whites are glossy and very firm stiff peaks are formed. Pinch as small amount of the mixture between your fingers to ensure that the sugar has completely dissolved into the egg whites.

When the whites are done mixing place them in a large piping bag with a ½ inch large star tip. Pipe the mixture onto the parchment lined baking sheets in a tree shape. 

Start with a 1 inch circle on the bottom and make your circle smaller as you go in a spiral motion to create a tree shape. Leave a ½ inch between each tree to allow for the meringue to expand while baking. Top each tree with a star and add little round cake decorations randomly to represent decorations.

Bake the meringues for about 45 to 60 minutes or until they are dry and cooked through. They should easily lift off of the parchment paper. Check them often to keep them from browning. If they begin to brown turn the oven down a little and increase the baking time. When they are ready turn the oven off and allow them to cool completely in the oven. I like to leave mine to cool in the oven overnight if I have time. Once they are cool store them in an airtight container. Makes 36 to 48 depending on the size of your trees.

You can make them without the mint extract if you wish too. Or you could do ½ of them with and half without.

Mini Deconstructed Chocolate Raspberry Pavlova Parfaits

Once you have prepared your meringues you can use them to create a wonderful mini Pavlova. I made chocolate whipped cream and used frozen raspberries in mine, but feel free to express yourself with yours.

Chocolate Whipped Cream Recipe

1 tbsp. cocoa powder, sifted
3 tbsp. berry sugar
1 cup of whipping cream
½ tsp of vanilla extract

Add the whipping cream to the bowl of your electric mixer. Sift in the cocoa powder to prevent lumps. Whip until the cream begins to thicken. Add the vanilla extract and add the sugar one tablespoon at a time. Beat the whipping cream until soft peaks form. If you over mix the whipped cream you will make chocolate butter.

1 recipe of chocolate whipped cream, prepared
½ cup of frozen raspberries, thawed
Four to six Christmas tree meringues

Add two large spoonful’s of chocolate whipping cream to the bottom of your parfait glass. I used a tall wine glass for mine. The only thing wrong with a wineglass is that it is difficult to get the ingredients in without making a mess of the container. I had to wipe the rims clean when I was done. Add a layer of broken meringues and a little more of the whipped cream. Add a layer of raspberries and finish the parfait with more whipped cream. Fill the top of the container with whole Christmas tree meringues. Refrigerate the parfait until you are ready to serve. This will soften the meringue layer. Enjoy.