Winter Jeweled Meringues / by Anne Livingston


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These crisp and bright cookies are simple to make.  My friend’s grandma calls these “forgotten cookies,” because in dry climates, you can throw them into a pre-warmed oven, turn the oven off, and forget about them overnight.  This is Seattle, however, so a wee bit of remembering is necessary after a couple of hours in a low oven in order to dry them to a perfect crunch.   Decorating the cookies with toasted nuts and zesty dried fruits makes a wintertime treat that tastes fantastic with tea.  They taste best on the day they are made, but they keep fairly well for about a week.


Ingredients:

  • 3 eggs
  • ¾ cup superfine sugar (you can make this by whizzing sugar in a food processor for 1 minute)
  • ½ tsp cream of tartar
  • Dash of salt
  • ½ tsp vanilla
  • 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
  •  2 T each of assorted nuts and dried fruits, (such as hazelnuts, pumpkin seeds, dried sour cherries, dried cranberries, candied ginger, and candied citrus peel)

Instructions:

  1. Separate refrigerator-cold eggs, setting aside the egg yolks in the fridge for another use, and letting the egg whites sit at room temperature while working on the rest of the preparations. 
  2. Line two cookie sheets with parchment. Preheat oven to 200°.
  3. Chop the dried fruits into about 1/4 inch pieces, keeping them separate if you want to arrange the "jewels," or mixing them together in a bowl if you plan on sprinkling them randomly. 
  4. If using hazelnuts, toast them in a skillet over medium heat for 3-5 minutes, moving the nuts constantly in the pan, until the toasted aroma wafts from the pan.  Watch carefully to avoid burning the hazelnuts.  Pour the nuts onto an unfolded dishtowel, then gather them together in the towel into a bundle, twisting at the top.  Then squeeze and twist the towel's contents  to rub and coax the hazelnut skins off.   Open the towel, and dust off the nuts.  Chop them until they are about the same size as the fruits. 
  5. If using pumpkin seeds, leave them whole.
  6. To make meringue:
  7. Using a hand mixer or a stand mixer, whip egg whites with cream of tartar and salt on medium-high speed, until they reach the soft peak stage, about 3 minutes. 
  8. Still whipping at medium-high, begin adding the sugar, a slow spoonful at a time, until all the sugar is incorporated into the whites. 
  9. Continue to whip egg whites until they reach the stiff peak stage.  You can determine this if you lift the beater whisk out of the bowl and turn it upside-down, and the egg whites stand straight up. 
  10. Add the cardamom and briefly whip it into the egg whites.
  11. Drop the meringue by the teaspoonful onto the cookie sheets, briefly swirling them smooth and into round cookie shapes.  Placement can be close together, because the cookies will not spread.  
  12. Either carefully arrange or randomly scatter the fruits and nuts all over the cookies to your liking.
  13. Put the cookie sheets into the oven, and bake for 2 hours, moving the cookie sheets to trade positions on the oven shelves after an hour.  At this point, after cooling a cookie and testing for crispness, you can turn the oven off and leave them on their cookie sheets for hours (or days!).  They can also be stored in an airtight container. If they become less crisp, they can be re-dried a bit in a 200° oven for 10 minutes, or until crispness is restored.