Meringue is easy to form when wet but holds its shape after baking, so it's ideal for creating pastries in fanciful shapes. Chef Michel Richard, of Citronelle in Washington, D.C., uses meringue to build these charming snowmen, which are filled with chocolate mousse and decorated with marzipan hats and scarves.
- 8 large egg whites
- Pinch of salt
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup sifted confectioners' sugar, plus more for decorating
- Pearl sugar, for sprinkling
- Red food coloring
- 13 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted
- 2 cups heavy cream, whipped to soft peaks
- 11 ounces almond paste
Heat oven to 200 degrees. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whisk egg whites and salt, slowly adding 1/4 cup of granulated sugar. Continue to whisk until mixture is stiff. With a rubber spatula, gently fold in remaining granulated sugar and confectioners' sugar.
Transfer meringue to a large pastry bag fitted with a 3/4-inch round tip. On a parchment-lined baking sheet, pipe a 3-inch mound of meringue to form a snowman's body. To form the arms, pipe meringue on top of the body in the shape of sideways C (with the curve at the snowman's back). For the head, pipe a 1 1/2-inch mound of meringue on top of the center of the body, inside the curve of the arms. Repeat to form seven more snowmen. Sprinkle snowmen with pearl sugar.
In a small bowl, combine remaining meringue and a few drops of red food coloring. Transfer to a parchment cone or a small pastry bag fitted with a #2 tip, and pipe a red nose onto each snowman.
Bake snowmen until the outside is set but the inside is still soft, about 30 minutes. Remove from oven, and let cool. When cool, pick up the snowmen one by one, and scoop out the insides of the body with a spoon; discard. Return hollow snowmen to oven, and bake until firm, 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Watch the snowmen to be sure they remain white; once they are firm (or if they begin to color), remove them from the oven, and set aside to cool.
Meanwhile, roll 7 ounces of almond paste to a thickness of 1/2 inch. Using a 3/4-inch-diameter cutter, cut out 8 circles for hats. With a toothpick, pick up each circle, and dip it into melted chocolate. Transfer circles to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Swirl them slightly as they hit the parchment, spreading the dripping chocolate around to form a brim for each hat. Repeat with remaining hats, and let cool completely. Reserve 1/4 cup of the melted chocolate for decorating.
In a large bowl, make mousse filling by combining remaining chocolate and heavy cream. Transfer chocolate mousse to a large pastry bag fitted with a 3/4-inch round tip. Pick up the cooled snowmen, and fill the bodies with mousse. Carefully replace filled snowmen onto parchment.
Add a few drops of red food coloring to remaining 4 ounces of almond paste; knead until completely combined. Roll to 1/8 inch thick. Cut into eight 8-by-1/2-inch strips to form scarves.
Place scarves around snowmen's necks, and top heads with cooled hats. Transfer reserved chocolate to a small parchment cone or pastry bag fitted with a #1 tip; pipe eyes, mouths, and buttons on each snowman. Serve immediately.