As kids, astronaut ice cream was the prized find at the local science center or air and space museum gift shop. Pink-, white-, and brown-striped like a gallon of neapolitan ice cream, it was a flaky, flavorless, freeze-dried block. But it was ice cream. That astronauts eat. What could be cooler?
Alas, we now know everything we once believed about astronaut ice cream was a lie. The crumbly stuff never actually made it into space. But the idea remains a novel one. Inspired by a little astronaut who recently stopped by our office, we came up with our own riff on astronaut ice cream. The kind of ice cream an astronaut—or 5 year old—might actually want to eat. Add your own flavoring or gel food coloring to create all kinds of fun flavors.
Makes 15 servings
- 4 large egg whites, at room temperature
- ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon flavoring extract (not oil), like vanilla (reduce amount for more concentrated extracts, like peppermint)
- Gel food coloring (optional)
- 1 ¾ ounce cookie scoop
Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 200°F. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites in a large bowl at medium-low speed until just frothy, about 45 seconds. Add the cream of tartar. Increase the speed to medium-high, and beat the egg whites until they are white and thick (the consistency of shaving cream), about 2 minutes. Slowly sprinkle in the sugar and flavoring extract, beating until incorporated. Then beat the whites until they form stiff peaks. (Turn the beater upside down: if the peaks do not droop, they are ready.)
Drop individual meringues onto the parchment-lined baking sheet using a cookie scoop. To keep meringue from sticking, dip the scoop in room temperature water and shake off excess. Scoop a healthy heaping of meringue mixture (roughly 1 tablespoon over the top), and invert it onto the baking sheet. The meringue should balloon out over the side, resembling an old-fashioned scoop of ice cream. Smooth any peaks using a spoon dipped in water.
Bake for 2 hours, let cool, and serve.