Thursday, January 31, 2013

Meringue Cookies

I did it! I did it! Seven batches and dozens and dozens of cookies later, I finally got these to turn out exactly the way I wanted them to. The funny thing is I avoided making them forever because I was terrified of messing them up, but they are actually really easy. The hardest part is waiting for them to "cook" or dry out.

  If you've never had a meringue cookie, you're really missing out. They are light and crisp and airy and sweet and they dissolve in your mouth and you can't eat just one. We polished off the first batch in less than 12 hours. I swear, you'd think there was crack in there. After the first few batches, I started testing them out in one-egg mini batches just to limit our consumption. The truly funny thing is that I always scrape the meringue off lemon meringue pie because I can't stand the stuff. Hmmm, I may have to rethink this whole thing now.

I learned a few things along the way - most recipes I read called for 1/4 cup of sugar for each egg white. That turned out meringues that were way too sweet, and I have a huge sweet tooth. So I cut it down to 3 Tbsp. per egg white, then finally settled on 2 Tbsp. in the end, but you can use any amount in between. Also, the rules of successful meringue-making clearly state that you must use room temperature eggs. Because I love you, I parked a few eggs on my counter while I whipped up a batch with ones straight from my fridge, which is even colder than average. No difference at all. Do what you want.

This is a basic recipe - feel free to add nuts, chocolate chips, dried fruit, citrus zest - whatever your little heart desires.

Meringue Cookies
Makes about 48 cookies (4 dozen)

What I use:
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla
  • 6 Tbsp. sugar

How I do it:

1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. You want it to stay fully preheated for about 10 to 15 minutes before you put the meringues in.

2. In a medium bowl, place the egg whites, cream of tartar, and vanilla.

3. Using a mixer on low speed, beat the egg whites for a minute or two until they get foamy.

4. Switch the mixer to the second highest speed and beat the egg whites for another minute or two, until they are fluffy, white, and not liquid at all.

5. Slowly add the sugar, 1 Tbsp. at a time, while continuing to beat for another minute or two. The final mixture should look like marshmallow fluff.

6. Using a pastry bag with a wide or star tip, a small ice cream scoop, or two tea spoons, transfer the meringue to parchment-lined baking sheets, leaving an inch between each cookie.

I used a #50 ice cream scoop for these, which I use for most of my cookies.
7. Turn the oven off.

8. Put the cookie sheets in the oven and let them sit for 4 to 8 hours to dry out completely. (Depending on the weather, the season, the humidity in your house, and other crazy things, the time will vary. Do yourself a favor and don't open the oven door for the first 4 hours. You will increase your wait time exponentially - trust me, that's a bad thing.)

9. To check to see if they are done, pick one up and gently push on the center of the bottom. If it gives or your finger sinks in at all, check on them again in another hour. If it seems hard, bite into one. It should be totally dry all the way through. If the center is soft and you end up chewing on what feels like taffy, they need more time.

Because of their super-delicate texture and fantastic ability to fall apart if you stare at them too hard, I would suggest storing them in a single layer in a wide container with a lid. If they are able to absorb humidity from the air, they will get squishy and gross. But, if you're anything like us, they will be gone before you even find a suitable container. It's ok, your secret is safe with me.

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