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French Style Meringue Cookies

Yesterday I presented you with a decadently rich vanilla ice cream that uses 7 egg yolks. That left me with 7 egg whites, and today I’ll suggest a lovely way to use 4 of those whites.

It’s a meringue cookie. Yes, I’ve posted a few meringue cookie recipes here. It’s a lifetime obsession of mine. I know, “obsession” is a loaded word. It’s supposedly bad to have obsessions. But we all have them. If you did not have one, you’d lie awake at night wondering why you did not care about anything. And that would be an obsession. So, you can’t escape them.

And, if you are going to obsess, why not do it for something good. Chocolate, wine, the aliens who did land in Roswell, or, meringue cookies.

There are a multitude of meringue recipes offering a spectrum of techniques and proportions. The culinary hurdle is to get them cooked just to crispness, avoiding a soggy center and also evading having them burn. You want them sweet, but you have to accept that too much sugar will create that unwanted soggy center.

Some techniques call for a hot oven, say 400° F, with a short cooking time. At the other extreme, a low oven, say 200° F, and a long cooking time. An overnight cooking time. That French technique is what this recipe suggests.

As for ingredients, I’ve learned in other recipes that a slight amount of corn starch makes for a very smooth meringue. Smooth is the key word here: you do not want a grainy feel to the meringue which means the sugar is not fully incorporated. In this recipe, there is no corn starch but there is superfine sugar.

You can purchase superfine sugar, at a bit of a premium price. Or, you can just quickly make your own. Put two cups of sugar in your food processor, let it run for 3 minutes, and you have superfine.

This recipe began as an experiment, one that turned out to be quite successful, using superfine instead of regular sugar. I wanted a sweet meringue and I wanted easy incorporation of the sugar into the egg whites. A cup of superfine sugar literally has a slight but significant weight advantage over regular sugar. The smaller superfine sugar particles pack closer together. And being smaller, they are more easily incorporated into the whites during the mixing process. That avoids sogginess.

Break some eggs and enjoy this very white, crispy treasure.

French Style Meringue Cookies

Yield: about 20 cookies

Ingredients:

4 large eggs whites
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup superfine sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preparation:

Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 200°F.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place the egg whites in the bowl of your electric mixer. Using the whisk attachment, beat on medium speed until foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue beating until soft peaks are formed. A “soft peak” is one that you can pull up with a spatula and that gracefully, slowly slumps back into the egg whites.

Increase the speed to high, and add the sugar one tablespoon at a time. Take 2-3 minutes to complete this step. Continue beating until stiff peaks are formed and the sugar is fully incorporated. A “stiff peak” is one that you pull up with a spatula and stays firmly upright.

To tell if the sugar is incorporated, taste the meringue. If it tastes gritty — or if it feels gritty between your thumb and index finger — then you need to continue beating.

Finally, beat in the vanilla extract.

Drop by spoonfuls onto the baking sheet. Bake for 90 minutes, with an option for another 15 minutes. Halfway through the baking process, rotate the cookie sheet to insure even baking. The meringues are done when crisp. They will be pale white in color. You want to avoid overcooking, so a if the tips are starting to brown, turn off the oven.

Open the oven door slightly. The oven door is open. Leave the cookies there overnight. This is an old tradition, one intended to get every last precious bit of heat from a wood or coal fired oven. It still works in a modern age.

Literally, the only way to make sure they are done in the center is to taste one that has cooled for just a moment. If the center is still soggy, then you need some or all of that additional 15 minutes.

If you desire, you can top the meringues with a little ganache. For the ganache, in a saucepan heat a half cup of heavy cream to boiling. Remove the saucepan from the heat, add 2 ounces of semisweet chocolate, and whisk until blended. Pour the ganache into a wide bowl and dip the meringues into the ganache, twisting to achieve an even coating.

Source: Brian O’Rourke

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Perfect Meringue Kiss Cookies

r_meringue-kissesI was actually going to call this blog Casablanca and Corn Starch.

You see, Casablanca and corn starch are intimately connected.

In the movie Casablanca, there is the classic song, “As Time Goes By.”  With the line that lives in your brain forever, “A kiss is just a kiss.”

Preposterous.  Kisses differ.  And the best are small, not too hot, and not too sweet.

Unromantic?  Well, no, now I’m not talking about people kisses.  I’m talking real kisses, the cookies, those meringue cookies that you may have tried, must love if you have, and may be stymied in making for yourself.

I have been making these cookies for decades, and often failed.  It’s ostensibly a simple beast: beat egg whites, add sugar, some food coloring, vanilla, and if you want chocolate chips.  I always want the chips.

The cookies have multiple names although I grew up calling them surprise cookies because of the chocolate chips.  Over the years, I’ve see many recipes calling for bewildering different proportions of egg whites, sugar, types of sugar, and — most confusing of all — very different oven temperatures and cooking times.  [Some recipes call for heating the oven, then turning it off and leaving the cookies in the cooling oven overnight.]

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