Are you a gory or cutesy Halloween fan? I used to be all about the cutesy Halloween decorations (you know, the smiling Jack-o-Lanterns and friendly ghosts), but a few years ago I got the taste for the gruesome stuff when we were having work done on the house. We had a plastic sheet dividing two rooms, and I painted a drippy HELP in huge blood-red letters across it. I thought I was hilarious! I haven’t looked back since! I moved on, to bloody witch finger bread sticks and strawberry brain pudding. This year, I was going to make meringue ghosts but they looked far too adorable, so I scraped them off the baking sheet and ended up with these Scream Meringue Cookies instead. You can use them as dessert toppers, serve them as cookies, or wrap a few in a cellophane bag to leave on your friends’ doorsteps to freak them out! Mwa-ha-ha….
Ingredients for 20 5-inch Meringues
slice of lemon
4 egg whites, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
pinch of fine sea salt
3/4 cup caster/superfine sugar*
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
*if you don’t have superfine sugar, just blitz regular sugar in a food processor for 10 seconds
You’ll also need a piping bag with a 1/4-inch (60mm) round tip to shape the scream faces.
Preheat the oven to 200F (95C). Wipe the inside of a large bowl, or the bowl of your stand mixer, with a slice of lemon. This will get rid of any greasy residue which may prevent the egg whites from stiffening.
When you separate the eggs, don’t get any yolk mixed in with the whites. The yolks are fatty and even the smallest splatter will mess it up. If you get yolk mixed in, it’s better to put that egg white aside for another use, such as scrambled eggs, or your next baking project!
Whip the egg whites at high speed until the mixture becomes white and fluffy, about 1-2 minutes. Add the cream of tartar and salt, and continue to whip. Slowly add the sugar, bit by bit. It will become nice and glossy. When you have a mixture that holds its shape and has increased in volume, add the vanilla sugar and whip to incorporate.
Transfer the mixture to a piping bag with a large, round tip. You can either sketch the faces onto the back of parchment paper so the faces are easier to pipe, or you can do it free hand. I looked up ‘scream faces’ online and used those as a guide.
Dab a bit of meringue mixture onto each corner of two baking sheets and place the parchment paper on top, this will secure the paper and stop it from moving around whilst you pipe onto it.
With a steady hand, pipe the shapes, leaving gaps for the eyes and mouth. If there are any peaks or parts you want to smooth out, use a finger dipped in water to do so. Transfer the baking sheets to the oven and bake for 1 hour. When the time is up, turn off the oven, DO NOT OPEN THE DOOR, and leave them in the over for another hour. Transfer to a cooling rack and store in an airtight container as soon as they’re cold. These will keep for up to three days at room temperature.
If they get soggy, which they might if the climate is humid, just pop them back in a 200F (95C) oven for 10 minutes to crisp up before serving.