Today I want to talk about meringues. Or rather, I want to talk about these meringues, which I have lovingly named "Dr. Seuss cookies". They come from the lovely Tartine cookbook, which I have on loan from the local library. That's a great tip that I got from BFF Jill! Test drive a cookbook before you buy it, it'll save bookshelf space and money if you don't like the book, or don't find yourself cooking from it in the four weeks that you have it. Yesterday I catered a meeting for John's research group, and I couldn't help but feel a bit listless at the thought of baking another chocolate cake, oatmeal cookie, or heaven forbid, a cupcake. Don't worry, we're not abandoning the baking staples here at B+C, but I think that with baking, as in most things, you have to shake it up every once in a while to keep yourself interested.
Enter these morsels. With a beautifully short ingredient list and an appearance that look straight out of Whoville, these cookies charmed me into making them. The technique is surprisingly simple, and the result is a cookie that's lighter than air, melts in your mouth, and is packed with flavor reminiscent of a toasted marshmallow. Are you convinced yet? Wait until you see how easy it is...
Egg whites, powdered sugar, salt, vanilla extract...
And almonds. That's it!
Here's a tip! When the almonds are toasted, they're fragile, so you can give your knife a break. Just smash them in a bowl with a small measuring cup. Sorry the photo's so blurry. My camera and I are fighting.
1 cup + 2 Tb sliced almonds
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat the oven to 350. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a Silpat.
Spread the almonds on an unlined baking sheet, and toast 7-10 minutes. Let cool completely. Break up the almonds with a measuring cup into small pieces (small enough to fit through the tip of a pastry bag.
Heat about 2 inches of water in a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Combine egg whites, confectioners' sugar, and salt in the stainless steel bowl of a stand mixer (the mixture should rest over the water without touching it). Whisk the egg mixture together, then place it over the saucepan and whisk until the whites are hot to the touch (120 F), about 5 minutes or so. Remove the bowl from over the water and place it on the mixer stand. Fit the mixer with the whisk attachment and mix on high speed until the mixture is very thick and holds glossy stiff peaks when you lift the beater. Fold in the almonds and vanilla with a rubber spatula.
Immediately scoop the meringue into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2 inch plain tip and pipe onto the prepared baking sheet, forming "kisses" about 1 inch in diameter and spacing them about 1 1/2 inches apart. Or, you can drop the meringue by tablespoonfulls onto the baking sheet.
Place the baking sheet in the oven and keep the oven door ajar with the handle of a wooden spoon to allow moisture to escape.Bake the cookies until they puff slightly, crack along the sides, and feel dry on the outside but soft to the touch, 15-20 minutes (mine were done right at 15 minutes). They will harden as they cool. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack and let cool. You may need to use a butter knife to release the cookies from the baking sheet. They will keep in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks.