Swiss meringue pipes like a dream and makes an ideal base for heart-shaped meringue pops. Valentine's Day always makes me think of chocolate, so I nestle a few chocolate chips inside each pop for a tasty surprise.
12 paper straws or lollipop sticks; piping bags fitted with large star tips or round tips
Trace six 3-inch heart shapes in two rows on a 12-by-18-inch sheet of parchment. Repeat with a second sheet of parchment. Line 2 baking sheets with the parchment, pencil-side down, and set aside.
Combine the sugar and egg whites in a large heatproof bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer (make sure the bowl is very clean). Place an inch or two of water in the bottom of a medium saucepan and bring to a simmer. Place the bottom of the bowl over the simmering water, making sure the bowl does not touch the water. Whisk the egg whites and sugar together until the mixture becomes whiter, the sugar has dissolved and the mixture registers about 140 degrees F. This will take 3 to 4 minutes.
Place the bowl in a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Add the vinegar and
salt. Beat on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Add the vanilla and continue beating until the mixture forms stiff peaks with tips that stand straight up. The meringue will gather in a mass around the whisk attachment when it is ready.
Transfer a third of the meringue to a small bowl to tint pink and a third to a separate small bowl to tint red. (Keep the remaining third white.) Add a small amount of gel food color to each bowl and whisk to incorporate. Transfer the meringue to piping bags with large tips; star tips and round tips work well.
Place 2 racks towards the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F. Pipe about 1 tablespoon of meringue into the center of each heart and spread a bit with a small spoon. Sprinkle a few chocolate chips over the meringue if using. Place a paper straw or lollipop stick into the center of each meringue. Use the meringue in the pastry bags to pipe stars, swirls and rosettes to fill in the heart shapes. Aim to make the meringue hearts about 1/2 to 3/4 inch thick. Top with sprinkles, sugar pearls or more chocolate chips if desired.
Once piped, tap each baking sheet on the counter a couple of times. Place the pans on racks in the center of the oven and bake until the meringue is dried, about 2 hours (2 1/2 hours for thicker meringue); the appearance of the hearts won't change much as they bake. After 2 hours, turn off the oven and allow the meringues to cool inside the oven for 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and cool completely. Once the pans are cool to the touch, carefully lift the meringue pops off the pan by lifting the meringue gently (don't lift by the stick). Serve immediately or store up to 2 weeks in an airtight container.
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