January 1, 2012

Meringue Cookies

Ever since I made this monstrous cake, I've had a freezer bag full of egg white ice cubes in want of cooking. Today was their day to shine.

As I've been learning from this book, there are all sorts of amazing things you can do with sugar and egg whites. I haven't had much success in this area in the past, but Gesine Bullock-Prado is sorting me out. I decided to start simple, with a basic meringue cookie.

Rather than offering a stand alone recipe, Gesine merely suggests, mid-Swiss Buttercream, that if you stop before adding any butter, you have a delicious and versatile meringue, perfect for lemon meringue pie or for cookies. The cookies seemed an appropriate New Year's Eve party item: finger-food, easily transportable.

I took the egg whites out of the freezer and set them in a bowl on the counter to defrost. When, after over an hour, they were still frozen solid, I decided that I should just get the meringue started. As step one involves putting the egg whites and sugar in a mixing bowl over a pot of steaming water, I figured they would get into line quickly. And they did. Within a minute, the cubes were completely melted. And within three the sugar was totally dissolved. I did make the mistake of neglecting to stir for a while, as I was laying parchment paper out on baking sheets, and the mixture started to smell quite custardy and was starting to get a tiny bit clumpy. But some vigorous whisking got it back into shape (the smell of custard didn't dissipate until after I had transfered the bowl to the stand mixer and let it go for a bit).

On the stove, the mixture turned a pale brown after I added the vanilla extract. Once I got it going in the stand mixer, it turned a fluffy pure white. After baking, the color was somewhere in between the pure white and the pale brown. The delicious color of slightly toasted sugar!

When I've made meringues in the past, I haven't bothered with a pastry bag, I've just spooned the meringue onto the baking sheet. Either method is fine, but the pastry bag simply gets you prettier cookies. Hardly likely to make a difference to tipsy New Year's Eve party goers!

Three notes:
1. Be careful. When the meringue is ready, it is marshmallowy and delicious. Don't accidentally eat it all before making any cookies!
2. This is a pretty versatile recipe. You can add other flavors, such as maple, chocolate, or ginger. For maple, replace sugar with maple sugar. For chocolate, add shaved chocolate or chocolate chips at the end. For ginger, add grated fresh ginger or chopped up crystallized ginger at the end or ginger syrup or extract earlier. Or add any other type of extract of your choosing.
3. The purpose of baking these meringues is not to cook them, it is to dry them out. You can therefore vary the baking time to suit your preference. Cut the time for chewier cookies. Increase it for crispier cookies.

- Franklin

Meringue Cookies
Adapted from sugar baby
Total Time: 2.5 hours (1/2 hour active)
Sweetness Factor: 10; Indulgence Factor: 4; Difficulty Factor 6; Chance I'll Make Them Again: 9.

8 egg whites
1 2/3 cups granulated sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
seeds of one vanilla been (optional)
2 tablespoons chopped crystallized ginger (optional)

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees. Put the egg whites, sugar, and vanilla in the bowl from your stand mixer. Set it over a pot of simmering water. Whisk until the sugar is completely dissolved. Continue whisking until the mixture reaches 150 degrees fahrenheit.

Transfer the bowl to your stand mixer (fitted with the whisk attachment). Whisk on high speed until the mixture is white, fluffy, and soft peaks form when you lift the whisk. This will take a few minutes and will give the bowl enough time to nearly cool. Add the crystalized ginger and mixture or another few seconds.

Onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper, either spoon the meringue or pipe it. Bake for about two hours. If you like your meringues chewy bake for less time, if you like them really crispy you could leave them in longer.

1 comment:

  1. Also--check out my recipe for financiers for a great way to use up egg whites, no need to get out the mixer. I'm looking forward to making the cakes from Tartine (which I got from my sister in law for Xmas) which will use up a lot of eggwhites too!