This might be my favorite project so far. They're fun. They're fun to make, but even more fun to eat. They literally melt when you put them in your mouth.
Big plus, they're gluten free... and essentially fat free too. Sugar, though... there's plenty of that. LOL.
My mom and I 'discovered' meringue cookies at the grocery store a few years back. We LOVED them. I never thought they'd be something I'd be able to make, though. Who knew?
They're pretty simple, and have very few ingredients. I got the original meringue recipe from here, but I'll be honest. I didn't even watch the video... just read through the directions, and played around on my own.
I did tweak her original recipe for flavor though, and am so glad I did. These were awesome.
3 Egg Whites, at room temperature
3/4 Cup Caster or Superfine Sugar (If you don't know what this is, don't worry... I'll explain in a minute. It's not nearly as intimidating as it sounds)
1/4 teaspoon Cream of Tartar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon orange extract
Ok... so Caster Sugar. I got worried when I couldn't even FIND this at my local grocery store. Baking is just a *hobby* for me, and not something I'm looking to sink lots of money into, buying ridiculously obscure ingredients...
So I came home and did some research. It's also known as Superfine sugar, and is just exactly that... very, very fine sugar. If you can't find it in the store, you can take 3/4 cup of granulated white sugar and pulse it in a food processor (or I used my Magic Bullet) until it's very fine. It was a piece of cake.
The first thing you want to do is separate your eggs, and put the yolks aside for some other recipe. (Mine went into homemade ice cream.)
A few things about separating eggs:
- They separate easiest when they're cold.
- I use my hands to separate them, because I don't want the shell to pierce the yolk
- It's no big deal to get white in with your yolk, but you can *not* have any yolk in with your whites. The fat in your yolk will keep your whites from whipping up right.
Give your eggs about half an hour to come up to room temperature. They'll whip better this way.
Once your eggs have come up to temperature, put them in the bowl of your mixer and mix until they're foamy. Also, now's probably a good time to preheat your oven. 200 degrees, folks. These bake LONG and low. That helps the moisture in the cookies to evaporate out slowly, and leave you with the crispy goodness you have at the end.
Is that foamy enough? I don't know, I got impatient. It's possible my eggs weren't quite warm enough. But in the end, they were fine, so I must have done something right, right?
At this point, add your Cream of Tartar. Whip until the eggs hold 'soft peaks'.
Now you can add your sugar, a bit at a time. That gives it time to incorporate completely into your eggs and dissolve so that your cookies aren't grainy.
At this point, your meringue should hold 'stiff peaks'...
If that isn't a 'stiff peak', I don't know what is, lol.
After the sugar is completely incorporated, add in your vanilla and orange extract. This is where I strayed from the original recipe. I had some orange extract laying around and thought that'd be fun to use. The original recipe called for 1/2 teaspoon vanilla... so I just halved that and used 1/4 t (I was afraid to cut it out completely, although I'm now sure it'd be fine.) I didn't want to over-do the orange, either, so I just replaced the other 1/4 t with my orange extract.
Later on this week, I plan on doing several batches, in varying flavors, and sending them out to family, just because I was so pleased with how they turned out.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper... it's way easier to get your cookies off of than the actual cookie sheet would be. A great tip from "Joy of Baking" was to put a little meringue on the underside corners of your paper to help it stick to the cookie sheet, so it doesn't keep rolling up on you. I also cut my parchment paper to fit the cookie sheet, because the stuff hanging off the edges was causing all sorts of trouble. ;)
At this point, it's time to scoop your meringue into a pastry bag (or even use a large ziplock bag, it's no big deal). A good way to do that is to stand your bag up in a drinking glass and fold the edges over the cup... then you can put your stuff into the bag without making as big a mess as if you tried to just hold it in your hands.
Cut a small hole in the corner of the bag.
And now you just squeeze them out into these cute little puff shapes. (Or whatever shape you want, for that matter). I had enough 'batter' (can you even call it that? I don't know... what would you call it?) for 2 trays worth of cookies.
Bake at 200 for 1 1/2-1 3/4 hours. I did 1 1/2, but some were still a little soft on the very inside... I'd err on the long side, if I were you.
Roughly halfway through your baking time, rotate your baking sheets so that everyone gets fair and even heat and all that jazz.
Here's time for a little admission: I must not have read the original tips very well, because most of mine cracked. When I went to do a Google search to find out how to keep meringues from cracking, it took me BACK to the page I got the recipe from... She had the tip. WHOOPS. Supposedly, they won't crack, or at least as badly, if you refrain from opening the oven door during the first half (or so) of your baking time.
Also, she says to then crack the oven door after you're done baking and have turned off the oven... and let them sit in there for a few hours, up to overnight. HA. That didn't fly in my house. 1, I needed the oven for other stuff. 2, no cookies last that long without the line forming in my kitchen. So I took them right out of the oven... Again, no harm, no foul, because they tasted great. I'm sure she has a reason for doing it that way, but it wasn't a big deal.
GOOD LUCK... these are awesome.