Tuesday, June 5, 2007

Meringue Cookies

A number of people have mentioned that my recipes have too many ingredients and too many steps. So, I present you with a recipe that has only two key ingredients (and a few optional ones – I couldn’t resist) – egg whites and sugar.

They are a favorite during Passover (when many grains are off limits) and are often studded with chocolate chips or anything else that appeals. Meringues are also popular around Easter as they are egg-based and can be made in pastel shades with the addition of a few drops of food coloring.

Meringues are simply sweetened, frothy, baked egg whites. They are believed to have been created in 1720 by an Italian chef named Gaspraini in the Swiss municipality of Meiringen, hence the name. Meringues can be eaten on their own or used in various desserts including Eton Mess, pavlova and baked Alaska (all of which will appear on this blog some day).

Makes 20 cookies

3 egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar (optional)
1/2 to 1 teaspoon vanilla, almond, peppermint or other extract (optional)
few drops food coloring (optional)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
chocolate chips, chopped nuts, candies, desiccated coconut (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 225 F. Line baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Separate eggs whites from yolks. Best to do this by cracking open the egg and allowing the whites to escape as you gently toss the yolk between egg shell halves. Save the yolks for crème brulee, tiramisu, hollandaise sauce or they can be frozen.
3. Using a high speed mixer, whip the egg whites until foamy. Add the cream of tartar which stiffens the eggs whites, as well as the extract and food coloring (if using). Beat until soft peaks forms.
4. Add the sugar a little at the time, and beat until very stiff peaks form.
5. If using, carefully fold in any other ingredients such as chocolate, fruit and nuts.
6. Using two tablespoons transfer dollops of meringue to baking sheets. For more uniform cookies put meringue into a pastry bag and pipe two-inch rounds.
7. Bake for 60 to 90 minutes until the meringues are hard but not brown. For even baking, rotate and switch baking sheets halfway through. Turn the oven off and leave the meringues inside for several hours or overnight. This will continue to dry them.

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