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Meringues

Meringhe

MAKES 4 DOZEN

Wispy meringues, pink puffs of melt-in-your-mouth lightness, with a scattering of colored confetti over their tops make a holiday statement when they come out of the oven.

Although they are found all over Italy, I am partial to the huge pink ones of Assisi. Meringues require nothing more than egg whites and sugar, with a little flavoring. In this version, I have used Alchermes as a flavoring and coloring agent. This syrupy-red clove and cinnamon liqueur, made from cochineal, can be found in Italian specialty stores. Red food coloring or cranberry juice are other options, or just leave the meringues uncolored.

Ingredients

4 large egg whites, at room temperature

3 3/4 cups sifted confectioners' sugar

2 teaspoons Alchermes liqueur or other flavoring

Colored sprinkles

Parchment paper

Directions

Preheat the oven to 300ºF. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper, or lightly butter and flour them. In a clean glass or copper bowl, with an electric mixer, beat the egg whites and 2 cups of the confectioners' sugar together until smooth. Beat in the remaining 1¾ cups sugar and the Alchermes or other flavoring and continue beating until stiff glossy peaks form.

Fill a large pastry bag fitted with a large star tip with the meringue. Pipe 1 1/2-inch meringues onto the cookie sheets, spacing them about 1 inch apart. Sprinkle the tops of the meringues with colored sprinkles.

Bake, rotating the sheets once or twice, for about 1 hour, or until the meringues are firm and completely dry. Remove from the parchment paper and let cool completely on wire racks.

Variation: Sandwich the meringues together with sweetened whipped cream and serve with sliced strawberries for an elegant dessert.

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