Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Chocolate Chip Meringues

After making many delicious (and one disastrous) batches of ice cream lately, there is an excess of egg whites in my life. I'm not exactly a health nut, so an egg white omelet is out of the question. The next thing that always comes to mind is baking a batch of meringues. Everyone in my family seems to have a favorite meringue recipe. My mom makes a Swiss meringue cookie which is really good (but I didn't have the right nuts at home) and my sister uses a recipe from Smitten Kitchen.  My sister has been baking these meringues for a few years and each time she serves them, they are a huge hit. There could be a dessert table with all sorts of treats imaginable, and these will get grabbed first. They're a great gluten free dessert option as well.

The original recipe describes 2 baking methods that you can choose from. One is to bake them on low heat for a long time and the other uses higher heat for a shorter amount of time. I prefer the low and slow method and think the overall cookie is better. But either will taste good, so if you're in a rush, you'll still have a great final result. I also think I may be crazy,  but when I bake these I find them very chocolaty, but when my sister makes them they are perfect (she swears she uses the original amount from the recipe). So you can be the judge yourself on this topic one since I have no logical explanation.

After already measuring out all the ingredients for the recipe, I realized that there was no cream of tartar to be found anywhere, so I omitted it and, shockingly, these still were great. This is the most resilient meringue I have ever encountered. Compared to some meringues, where whisking in the wrong type of bowl will ruin your cookie, these can withstand anything. And to top it off, I made a semi-confused phone call to my sister mid-whisking wondering what I had done wrong. My egg white mixture never formed into stiff peaks and I thought I had ruined the cookie. Turns out hers don't stiffen either and they bake perfectly every time.

Recipe from Smitten Kitchen
Makes about 24 cookies

2 egg whites at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar (apparently optional)
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup regular or superfine sugar
6 ounces miniature chips or some other kind of finely chopped chocolate
1/4 chopped pecans or walnuts, toasted if you have time/patience

Preheat oven to 200°F.* Beat the egg whites until they get foamy. Add the salt, cream of tartar and vanilla until soft peaks form. Gradually add the sugar until stiff peaks form. If you cannot get this step to work, just whisk very well. Gently fold in the chocolate chips and nuts. Spoon the batter onto a baking sheet lined in parchment paper or a Silpat (silicone mat). These don't spread too much in the oven. Bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until the meringues are slightly golden and firm. Allow to cool completely before removing from baking sheet.

* For the quicker baking version, bake at 300°F for 25 minutes until the underside of the cookies are golden. These cookies will be crunchier with a slightly hollow center.

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