Suzi's Blog

Pecan Meringue Cookies

I am a fan of meringue cookies, with fond remembrance of “Surprise Cookies” from my childhood. Mounds of meringue, colored yellow or green or red, and filled with chocolate chips. Fresh from the oven, the meringue was sugar heaven encasing those warm, gooey chips.

Thing is, I have difficulty baking meringue cookies. One solution, posted here earlier, involves using corn starch to achieve a rich meringue that bakes well. But I have always had the problem of achieving a perfect white meringue: mine always tended to be a bit brown on the tips, if not brown all over. And, of course, I used regular vanilla which converted the original white meringue into an off-off-white color at best.

I had remembered something about using vinegar, too. But I did not have a recipe and I was not sure what to do.

Thanks to the web, my solution has arrived. From simplyrecipes.com, comes this very strong meringue recipe. No vanilla, but there is that vinegar added at the end. The oven is low, at 300°F, and then is turned off as soon as the cookies are put in. You let them “rest and dry” for hours, and the result is a meringue that is soft, but not chewy and not hard. I made these on a very humid day, but had no problem.

The flavoring here is nuts, pecans specifically, and prepared the way suggested — literally smashed into tiny pieces — the entire cookie is aromatic with flavor. Out of the oven, you just start to eat, bouncing the hot cookie from one side of your mouth to the other as you inhale that gentle pecan scent.

The recipe and the photo come from simplyrecipes.com, a site with an abundance of recipes for you to enjoy.

Two notes. First, for those of you with celiac disease, here’s a great cookie with no wheat. Second, that vinegar at the end? Its addition lets you beat longer and create a very dense meringue, one that I could not achieve with just a pinch of salt alone or with cream of tartar. The meringue here is thicker than the ones I achieved with corn starch. This is my “meringue of preference” going forward.

Pecan Meringue Cookies

Yield: 30 cookies

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup whole pecans (preferably lightly roasted for 8-10 minutes at 250°F)
  • 3 egg whites
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vinegar

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 300°F.

Place the pecans in a zippy bag and beat them with a wooden spoon to break into small pieces. [I banged the bag on a marble surface to achieve more of a pecan dust]. Set aside.

Put the egg white into a standup mixer bowl. Add the salt. Start the mixer on low speed, gradually increasing the speed until soft peaks start to become visible and the egg white bubbles are very small and uniform, about 2 to 3 minutes.

Increase the speed to medium-high, and slowly add the sugar to the egg whites. Continue to whip the eggs and sugar for a few minutes. Then add the vinegar to the bowl. Increase the speed to high and whip the egg whites until they fluff up and become glossy, and stiff peak form when the whisk is lifted, 4 to 5 minutes.

Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the pecan pieces. Drop by rounded tablespoons on to a cooked sheet that has been lined with parchment paper or Silpat. [You will fill a full sheet pan here or two half sheet pans.]

Put the cookies in the 300°F oven, close the door and turn the oven OFF. Leave them in the oven overnight. In the morning they should be ready —crisp on the outside, light and airy on the inside. If they are a little marshmallow or chewing on the inside in the morning, just them dry our for a few more hours.

Source: simpyrecipes.com

Fruit Crisp with Spiced Pecan Topping

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I went to graduate school studying applied mathematics, in particular optimization theory. At the time, some of the biggest users of the optimization techniques were the airlines. They were struggling with how to do scheduling, sizing of aircraft, and optimizing their selection of cities.

Been on a flight recently? That airline thingy did not work out too well. No, I did not work for the airlines. I worked for the Pentagon. That did not go too well either.

But, as a saving grace, working for Pentagon I learned about real world problems and real world data and real world statistics. The textbook stuff I used in graduate school was effectively worthless when confronted with data that had issues or “attitude.”

I had to retrain and to learn something called Robust Statistics, techniques for analyzing data where there is a lot of “noise” and error or just mess. If you think about the current data for the economy, it’s that sort of stuff. The robust techniques I learned allowed me to gain some insights when the input data was contaminated by screwy values, had missing values, or consisted of values that represented the best guess of some expert on the verge of a nervous breakdown. I met of few of those guys at the Pentagon.

That’s why I am in food.

Which brings me to this recipe. Did you have fruit crisp in grade school? I did. Every third Friday. As each school year began, I would like that crisp for a few times, but by springtime I was sick of it. Always the same flavor. Couldn’t that cook just once switch from blueberries? What she needed was a robust recipe, one where you could improvise with the fruit at hand. Glean flavors when the blueberries were out of season.

I present you with this delightfully robust recipe for fruit crisp. It even says to use whatever is in season. So, go ahead. Drift down the produce aisle or, better yet, hit your local farmers’ market. Pick the fruit up, test for ripeness, smell for sugar content and enjoy.

Back on August 9th, I posted a recipe for Lemon Ice Cream. You might consider pairing that ice cream with is crisp. It’s not a Top Secret combination. Just exceptional.

Fruit Crisp with Spiced-Pecan Topping

Servings: 6

Ingredients:

  • 2 ounces (4 tablespoons) unsalted butter, softened; more for the pan
  • 3 ounces (⅔ cup) all-purpose flour
  • ½ cup packed light brown sugar
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon table salt
  • ⅔ cup coarsely chopped pecans
  • 3 cups (about 1 lb.) blueberries, blackberries, strawberries or raspberries
  • 1 lb peaches, nectarines, plums or rhubarb (whatever is in season)
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoon cornstarch
  • ¼ teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

 
Preparation:

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375°F. Lightly butter a 9-inch square metal or ceramic baking pan. Alternately small individual ramekins may be used.

In a small bowl, combine the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, and ⅛ teaspoon of the salt. With your fingers, work the butter into the flour mixture until the mixture readily clumps together when pressed. Mix in the pecans.

In a large bowl, toss the fruit. In a small bowl, combine the granulated sugar with the cornstarch, nutmeg, and the remaining ⅛ teaspoon salt and toss this mixture with the fruit.

Spread the fruit into the prepared baking pan. Pressing the streusel into small lumps, sprinkle it over the fruit. Bake until the fruit is bubbling in the center and the topping is crisp and well browned, about 45 to 50 minutes. Cool slightly and serve warm.

Source: Fine Cooking Magazine