Originally published in Julie Dannenbaum’s Fast & Fresh by Harper & Row
I realized earlier this week that I needed to check the date on my eggs. They were a month past the expiry date and I still had half a dozen left. I quickly tested them and found that only four were still fresh enough to eat. I had been watching one of my many cooking shows and one of the bakers was making a meringue for a pie. I knew that I could at least use the egg whites of my remaining supply and remembered seeing a meringue cookie somewhere in my mother’s binder.
This Cookie Book is a collection of Christmas cookie recipes published in the Ladies’ Home Journal in 1981. My mother would always write the month and year that she made a recipe in all her cookbooks as well as any notes as to what she did to “fix” them. I have taken to doing this myself, even on those that my mother had perfected and typed up in her binder. Whenever I see her notes, it brings back memories from my childhood and reminds me of all the fun and work we put into our baking. It surprises me sometimes how many people I come across that don’t cook let alone bake!
Most of the cookies I bake are so quick and easy, so I rarely pull out the stand mixer. With meringues or any recipe where you need to add ingredients gradually, or they may take some time to whip or mix before they are ready, the stand mixer is very helpful. I was envious when I was watching an episode of Hidden Potential with Jasmine Roth on HGTV, when she designed a kitchen island that had hidden pop-up storage for the owner’s stand mixer. She even created a slim kick-plate drawer at the base of the island, usually never used for any storage of any kind, which could accommodate all her cookie sheets, muffin tins and sheet pans! But I digress, back to the recipe!
For meringues, you need to make sure that you whip the egg whites into a very stiff peak, regardless if you use a stand or hand mixer. Basically, if you would feel safe holding the bowl over your head and nothing would fall out, they are still enough to make a meringue cookie, but if you over whip they can deflate. The correct amount of Cream of Tartar can make the difference between a stiff or soft meringue. The recipe calls for a pinch, but one person’s pinch may be different from another. If you are like me and prefer an actual amount to a vague instruction, a pinch can be anywhere from a sixteenth to an eighth of a teaspoon. I doubled the recipe and used four egg whites, so I used an eighth of a teaspoon and it worked out fine. If you don’t have Cream of Tartar, there are substitutes you can try, but it can alter the flavor.
The original recipe called for almonds, but the last nuts I had on hand were pecans. Since they do have a little more fat content in them than the almonds, so I decreased the total amount by a quarter of a cup. The ground nuts need to be gently folded into the meringue, so you don’t deflate the meringue at this point either.
Scoop or pipe? You could do either as you prepare your cookie sheets for the oven, but personally I like the “kiss” shape of piping. On this occasion I went without a decorative tip, because when piping a mixture containing nuts, they can sometimes clog the tip. If you want the perfect kiss shape, hold the piping bag over and gently squeeze until you achieve the diameter needed and pull up so you get the swish on top. You can also the meringue as if you are frosting a cupcake. If you do decide to use a decorative tip, make sure the opening is wide enough to accommodate the nuts.
When baking a meringue, you need to be very careful of over and under baking. Martha Stewart has some great advise on working with meringues. These cookies will bake a little bit differently than a plain meringue cookie. They will spread slightly, so you need to allow for this as you pipe. On a 15 x 10 cookie sheet, I was able to fit fifteen cookies. Start with a baking time of 10 minutes, then check for to see if the cookie will easily lift from the parchment paper. Mine took an extra 5 minutes, for a total baking time of 15 minutes. Because of the cinnamon and nuts, the meringue will not be a stark white, so be careful that you don’t over bake them.
The one thing I love about this meringue, is that it isn’t overly sweet, as they can sometime be. Store them in an airtight container, so the moisture in the air will not soften this crispy and chewy treat. Enjoy!
Julie Dannenbaum's Spicy Nut Meringues
Credit: Ladies’ Home Journal – The Cookie Book ’81, and Julie Dannenbaum’s Fast & Fresh published by Harper & Row
- 4 egg whites
- 1/8 – 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 4 tsp ground cinnamon
- 2 3/4 cups finely ground pecans
- Preheat oven to 350.
- Line cookie sheets with parchment paper or silpat.
- Beat egg whites and cream of tartar until foamy.
- In a separate bowl, combine sugar and cinnamon until well mixed.
- Gradually add sugar mixture to egg whites and continue to beat until stiff peaks form.
- Gently fold in ground pecans.
- Pipe meringue mixture onto parchment paper, leaving about an inch between cookies. If you are scooping, you can use a melon baller or a round tablespoon measure.
- Bake 10 minutes and then begin to check the cookie to see if it will lift easily from the parchment. They should only be slightly brown.
- Cool completely before storing in an airtight container.
- Replace cinnamon with nutmeg or pumpkin spice.
- Replace pecans with almonds, walnuts or hazelnuts.
- Replace spices with vanilla or citrus flavor. The addition of a liquid may require you to add a little bit more cream of tartar in the meringue to form a firm peak.