Zip-lock bags are among my favorite kitchen tools, used most often for decorating cupcakes and piping things that might otherwise require a piping bag. Best of all – they’re disposable (washing buttery, sticky goo out of an icing bag is among my least favorite kitchen jobs). Zip-lock bags are great for melting and drizzling chocolate, shaping marshmallows, and piping meringue into any shape you like – besides letters, numbers and shapes, you can do hearts for Valentine’s Day. Meringues are an inexpensive treat to make, and easy to do in large quantities (6 egg whites and 1 1/2 cups of sugar will produce a ton of meringues). Bonus: they’re nut, gluten and dairy-free, if you’re looking for a treat to send to school and are concerned with allergies.
Kids will love helping with these – give them each their own bag and let them get creative with their meringues. The shapes will hold in the oven, and be firm enough to peel off once they’re crisp and dry. For birthdays, pipe out numbers (and spike them with any color you like) or letters, or just for fun, let kids spell out their names or names of their friends – as a gift, or for no reason at all.
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 tsp. cornstarch
6 large egg whites
a few drops of red food coloring (optional)
1/2 tsp. vanilla
Preheat the oven to 250°F and line two large baking sheets with foil or parchment.
Stir together the sugar and cornstarch in a small dish or measuring cup. In a large, clean glass or stainless steel bowl, beat the egg whites with an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar a bit at a time, beating constantly until the mixture holds stiff, glossy peaks, like shaving cream. Beat in the food coloring and vanilla.
Spoon the meringue into a large, heavy-duty zip-lock freezer bag. Seal and snip off one corner. Pipe the mixture in any shapes you like – hearts, numbers, letters – onto the prepared sheets.
Bake one sheet at a time (or both in a convection oven), for 1 hour, until crisp and dry. Let the meringues cool completely, then peel them off the foil or parchment. Makes lots.