I got into an argument with a squirrel. Not just any squirrel, but the very same cheeky bugger that stole my spatula. Even with all of my verbal acuity and panache for pronunciation, I was defeated. I lost a battle of wits to a squirrel.
Let me explain.
I left a very small bag of garbage hanging out on the balcony. I didn't think much of it, until Mr. Squirrel walked his way around the balcony railing. He was cold and shivering and looked at me with such hopeless eyes that my heart reached out to him. For a brief moment, I seriously considered inviting him for a cup of tea. So when Mr. Squirrel started pawing his way through the trash bag, I almost encouraged him.
That is, until I realized he was going to make a mess.
By then, he had sliced open the bottom of the bag and spilled out graham cracker crumbs. I politely knocked on the door and asked him to leave. He dashed off and I returned to working in the kitchen. I saw him approach out of the corner of my eye, creeping along the balcony's ledge once again. I knocked on the door just as he was back to prancing about in the garbage. This time he didn't scamper off. He looked me dead in the eyes, picked up a banana peel and threw it across the balcony, as if to say What are you going to do about that?
I gasped. He tossed around some egg shells with an air of nonchalance. I was being taunted by a squirrel! I opened the balcony door and yelled at him. He scampered off looking terrified. I felt smug. That's right, Mr. Squirrel, run away, run away.
I underestimated the intelligence of Mr. Squirrel.
Instead of approaching along the balcony's edge (where he knew I'd see him), he trudged silently through the deep snow, keeping out of sight. He was back to making a royal mess. When I finally spotted him, I flung open the balcony door and let out a yell that would make Tarzan proud. Mr. Squirrel glanced up from his meal, but couldn't be bothered to move. I made loud warrior noises. Mr. Squirrel went back to munching. I pleaded a solid argument as to why he should leave using full and complete sentences. He didn't even look my way. Mr. Squirrel made it clear that he was going to do whatever he pleased and there was nothing I could do about it.
And that, my friends, is how I lost a battle of wits to a squirrel. He took away my spatula and then he took away my pride.
I flavored my candy striped meringues with a bit of almond extract. Like a good meringue, the cookies are crunchy with a soft interior. The chocolate ganache filling perfectly complements the almond meringues, providing the meringue sandwiches with a smooth texture. These cookies are small and gorgeous and so easy to make. I dare you not to eat 12 in one sitting.
Candy Striped Meringues
Adapted from Martha Stewart
Yields about 35 meringue sandwiches
3 large egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon peppermint (or almond) extract
Red gel-paste food coloring (not liquid)
1 cup heavy cream
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
Preheat the oven to 175 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a heatproof mixing bowl, mix together the egg whites and sugar. Place the bowl over a pot of boiling water and stir until the sugar has dissolved and the egg whites are warm to the touch, about 2-3 minutes.
Remove the bowl from heat and, using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites on medium high speed until stiff peaks form. Mix in the extract.
Using a new small paintbrush (straw, back of a spoon...), paint 2 or 3 stripes of red food coloring inside of a pastry bag. Place a small open star-shaped tip into the bag. Fill the bag with meringue and pipe small (3/4 inch high) star shapes onto the parchment covered baking sheets. Refill bag as necessary.
Bake cookies for 1 hour and 40 minutes, or until the meringues are crisp but not brown. Transfer the cookies to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.
In the meantime, make the ganache. In a small saucepan over medium high heat, heat the cream until just boiling. Place the chopped chocolate in a small bowl and pour the boiling cream on top. Let stand 5 minutes. Gently stir until smooth. Let ganache cool at room temperature, stirring every 5 to 10 minutes, until the chocolate is thick enough to hold its shape. This will take about 45 minutes. (If ganache sets before using, reheat in a double boiler and repeat the cooling process.)
Fit another pastry bag with a small plain round tip and fill with ganache. Pipe a small amount onto bottom of 1 meringue and sandwich with another. Repeat with remaining ganache and meringues. Transfer to a cooling rack and allow to set for 30 minutes.
The cookies can be stored in a single layer in airtight containers at room temperature for up to 2 days.