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Peppermint Meringues

Adapted from Joy of, Beantown Baker, and Martha Stewart Cookies
Makes about 10 dozen

3 large egg whites
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
¾ cup of granulated sugar
¼ teaspoon peppermint extract
Red gel-paste food coloring

1 cup chopped chocolate pieces
1 tablespoon shortening
¼ peppermint extract
1 cup crushed peppermint candies

1. Preheat oven to 200F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone liners. Set aside. Fit a pastry bag or ziptop bag with an open star tip. Set aside.
2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium-low speed until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue beating the whites until they hold soft peaks. Add the sugar gradually and continue to beat until the meringue holds very stiff peaks. Beat in peppermint extract.
3. Using a small paintbrush (preferably new, or one used only for food), paint two or three stripes of red gel-paste food coloring inside the pastry bag. Fill bag with 1 to 2 cups of meringue. Pipe small (3/4-inch high) star shapes onto prepared baking sheets. Refill bag as necessary, adding food coloring each time. Bake cookies, rotating halfway through, until crisp but not brown, about 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes. Let cool completely on wire racks.
4. When meringues are completely cooled, prepare chocolate dip:
Spread crushed peppermint candies in a shallow dish. Set aside. In a small saucepan , combine chocolate and shortening. Cook over low heat, stirring constantly until the chocolate is just melted. Remove from heat and stir in peppermint extract.
5. Dip the bottom of meringues in chocolate, then dip in candy. Place on waxed paper and let stand until chocolate is set.

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