Meringues are a go to snack and dessert because of their simplicity and versatility. The batter (of sorts) can be piped into cookies, made into small bowls to hold fruit, spread thin to make napoleons — really whatever you can dream up. Today we're making cookies and the process is as easy as mix, whip, pipe!
What You Need
4 egg whites (room temperature)
1/4 scant teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 Sauce pot
1 metal bowl (stand mixing bowl is ok)
Piping Bag + Tip (optional)
1. Pan & Oven Prep: Fill a sauce pan half way with water and turn on high heat to boil. Reduce to medium and allow to boil while completing next step. At the same time, cover a sheet pan with parchment paper and set your oven to 200 degrees.
2. Separate Eggs: Separate eggs (discarding or freezing yolks) and add cream of tartar to egg whites. Stir to combine and place mixture in mixing bowl over prepared double boiler.
3. Add Sugar & Whisk: Add the sugar to the bowl and whisk constantly until you can no longer feel the sugar grains when rubbing a big of the egg white/sugar mixture between your fingers (which will get sticky, having a damp towel on stand by is a good idea). It shouldn't take more than 5 minutes, sometimes less than 3, it just depends on the thickness of your bowl and the temperature of the water below.
4. Whip It, Whip It Good: Remove bowl from double boiler and place on stand mixer, beat on low speed for 1 minute then increase speed to medium. Beat for an additional minute and then increase speed to full. Beat until firm peaks are achieved. If they are still slightly soft peaks, the end result will look fallen and not as crisp, so whip it and then whip it some more. Add vanilla and whip for 30 more seconds.
5. Pipe 'em: Fit a pastry bag with a large tip (if you have smaller tips that's fine too) and fill with meringue. Pipe small stars, hearts, circles, squiggly snakes... what ever shape you so desire onto the parchment paper/baking sheet. If your parchment paper pulls away from the pan you can use a small bit of meringue like glue to hold it down. Depending on the size of your shapes, you can get anywhere from 30-100 cookies!
6. Bake: Bake in oven for 1-2 hours (depending on humidity, see note below), checking every 5 minutes after the 1 hour mark. The cookies are done when they release from the parchment paper without leaving anything behind. They should twist off easily and not be browned in any way. When done, turn off oven and prop door open at least 6 inches. Leave in oven for 30 minutes to cool and crisp up just a little more
7. Storage: These can store in an airtight container for up to a month (though we promise they'll get eaten before then), though higher humidity locations might only see 2-3 weeks of storage.
Variations: You can switch out the vanilla extract for almost anything you so desire. Try espresso powder, liquors and assorted extracts... just not juices, they have an ill effect on the end result. You can also run a stripe of food coloring down the side of your pastry bag before filling, giving your cookies a sassy stripe once piped. To make chocolate meringues, sift 3 tablespoons cocoa powder finely and then whisk together with sugar before adding to the double boiler.
Additional Notes: Meringues are best made on a day with little humidity. Obviously some parts of the country don't have that luxury and in fact it rained when we made this batch. To combat humidity try baking them longer in the oven (up to an hour, checking every 5-10 minutes), or until they release from the parchment paper. Humidity can also cause your stiff peaks to fall slightly and instead of having sharp crisp edges on your cookie, things might look a little more muted or soft. Because of this, if you're making a large amount, try to make them all on the same day. That way your results will look consistent, even if it wasn't quite what you wanted.
(Images: Sarah Rae Trover)