Pillowy Swiss meringue is perfect for making an army of snowmen. It is very stable, the texture is smooth and the snowmen bake up crisp, light and pale white. Eat them alone or use them to decorate cupcakes.
a large pastry bag fitted with a plain 1/3-inch diameter round tip; a small pastry bag fitted with the #1 or #2 plain tip
Position the oven racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 225 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Fit a large pastry bag with a plain 1/3-inch diameter round pastry tip.
Combine the egg whites, sugar and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer set over a pan of simmering water over medium heat. Whisk constantly until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is too warm to comfortably hold your finger in it for more than a couple of seconds, about 1 1/2 minutes. (The mixture should feel completely smooth when rubbed between your fingertips and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the whites should read 140 degrees F.) Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Starting on low and gradually increasing to medium-high speed, whisk until stiff peaks form. Continue mixing until the mixture is fluffy, glossy and only slightly warm to the touch, about 4 minutes.
Fill the prepared pastry bag with the meringue. On the lined baking sheet, pipe a 1 1/3-inch dollop for the snowman's base, then pipe a smaller mound on top and then another smaller mound on top of that to form the base, torso and head of the snowman, lifting the tip at the end to leave a peak of meringue on the head (this will be the snowman's hat). Pipe about forty snowmen in this manner, leaving at least 1 inch between them. Bake until the snowmen are dry enough to easily release from the parchment, 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Turn off the oven and let the snowmen sit inside it for another 3 hours or overnight to dry completely.
Fit a small pastry bag with a #1 or #2 plain pastry tip. Place the chocolate chips and shortening in a microwave-safe bowl; microwave, stirring every 20 seconds, until just melted. Dip the tips of the snowmen's heads in the chocolate to form chocolate "hats". Transfer the remaining chocolate to the pastry bag, and pipe faces and buttons on the snowmen.
These can be made several days ahead and stored in a single layer in an airtight container along with a few silica gel desiccant packets to absorb any moisture.
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