Making meringue mushrooms is fun work. It’s a pity it’s a step that’s so often rushed, because you can really do some fun things. I’m the type of person that likes a lot of mushrooms on a yule log. Call me crazy, I like to array them in bunches on the log since they seem a little more realistic to me that way. But heck, decorate your own log however you will.
Set your oven to 250 degrees Fahrenheit. Prepare your French meringue and scoop some of it into a pastry bag. You can use a proper bag with a large plain tip, or you can just use a small disposable bag without a tip, as I’m doing here. For the caps, place the tip about half an inch above the surface of a sheet pan lined with parchment paper, then squeeze. Don’t move the tip up, just let the meringue spread outward, then lift. If you’re really good you won’t get those little points. I do of course, but I plan doing something about those later (you’ll see).
For the stems, try to achieve as much height has you reasonably can. I get a little extra altitude by gently “dabbing” meringue a few times on the same spot. Something about the subtle up-and-down piling action allows me to make the drops taller. The stems get little bulges in them, but who’s going to notice those? I’ll tell you who: nobody. Don’t worry if a few flop over. Just make a lot.
Bake them with the handle of a wooden spoon jammed in the oven door for 25 minutes or so, then check for color. If they’re browning and you prefer them white, turn the oven down to 200. If you want the color, keep on truckin’ for the next half hour. Some people like their caps very, very brown, and it’s a neat effect, evocative of these sorts of fungi, especially if the stems are baked only lightly and remain mostly white.
I didn’t push the heat to that extreme, just to a light tan. Some cracking is inevitable. It’s why you make plenty.
Cool your shrooms completely, then apply the stems to the caps. For glue, use a simple paste of powdered sugar and water, which will make a firm seal. Whatever you do, don’t use buttercream or ganache. Your mushrooms will just fall apart on you.
Eat what you don’t use. I sent little Jo off to school with a baggie full this week for show and tell. Her fellow first graders we amazed.
UPDATE: Here are some of pastry chef Laura’s meringue mushrooms, baked with cocoa powder already applied. Ingeniously, she’s used chocolate underneath the caps, both to color the underside and to affix the stem. Crikey, that’s good work. I’m jealous.
And reader Taina gets a very cool effect with flat pieces of meringue, like this:
Nice work all the way around!