I usually whip up these meringue cookies after making recipes that call for several egg yolks. (It's a wonderfully easy way to use up the leftover whites.) And since my family was invited to share in a Passover Seder last weekend I decided to experiment a bit with this traditional, flourless Passover treat.
A quick search of traditional Jewish recipe Web sites confirmed what I had thought: The best meringue cookies are simple — crisp outside and slightly chewy inside, incredibly light and definitely addictive. You'd have to use a formidable willpower to stop at just one.
Most meringue recipes floating around are surprisingly similar, wit a few variations in baking times, temperatures and the amount of sugar. But they're all quick to stir together. Don't be intimidated by beating egg whites. So long as your bowl is clean and your whites are at room temperature, they'll puff to perfect clouds almost instantly.
Alicia and I originally published today's recipe for Chocolate Meringue Cookies in our "Cheap. Fast. Good!" cookbook. My research inspired me to add a few nuts, which aren't essential but are indeed divine.
CHOCOLATE MERINGUE COOKIES
Start to finish: 10 minutes preparation, plus 1 hour unattended baking time
Parchment paper (see Cook's note)
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar, optional
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 cup finely chopped, toasted nuts, such as walnuts, pecans or almonds, optional
Cook's note: These cookies are too fragile to remove from a cookie sheet without parchment paper. Parchment paper is available at larger supermarkets and kitchen-equipment stores. Parchment makes a good baking-sheet liner for most all cookies. Use it and you don't have to wash the cookie sheet before baking a second batch!
Preheat the oven to 250 F. Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
Place the chocolate chips in a microwave-safe container, and microwave, uncovered on high, for 1 minute. Remove the chips from the oven, and stir until they are completely melted. Set aside.
Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar, if using, on medium speed until soft peaks form, about 1 minute. With the mixer running on low speed, add the sugar slowly and mix it in. Raise the mixer speed to high. Continue to beat until the egg whites are stiff but not dry, about 1 minute more. Using a spoon or spatula, gently stir (fold) the melted chocolate and vanilla into the egg whites. Gently stir in the nuts, if using.
Spoon the mixture into a gallon-size, zipper-top plastic bag. Use scissors to cut a small opening in one corner of the bag. Squirt the meringue onto the parchment paper in bite-size dollops about the size of a quarter. The cookies do not expand as they bake, so they can be placed close together. Place both baking sheets into the oven at the same time. Bake for 1 hour. (It is not necessary to rotate the sheets during baking.) Remove the cookies from the oven, and allow them to cool completely, about 30 minutes. Peel them off the parchment. Store the cookies in an airtight container at room temperature. Makes about 60 cookies.
Approximate values per serving (2 cookies): 37 calories (48 percent from fat), 2 g fat (1 g saturated), 0 mg cholesterol, 1 g protein, 4 g carbohydrates, trace amount dietary fiber, 6 mg sodium.
Beverly Mills and Alicia Ross are co-authors of "Desperation Dinners!" (Workman, 1997), "Desperation Entertaining!" (Workman, 2002) and "Cheap.Fast.Good!" (Workman, 2006). Contact them at Desperation Dinners, c/o United Media, 200 Madison Ave., New York, NY 10016. Or visit the Desperation Dinners Web site at www.desperationdinners.com. © United Feature Syndicate, Inc.