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Saturday, August 13, 2011

Egg Whites, Anyone? No? How About Meringues? Yes, Please!

Making chocolate tapioca pudding was lovely.

Eating chocolate tapioca pudding was a treat.

What do you do with the 1,2,3,4,5,6,7,8,9  left over egg whites? 
Make meringue cookies, of course!

Meringue cookies are so very nummy, and ridiculously easy! I do have to warn you, though -- eating a bunch of meringue cookies and deviled eggs in the same week is dangerous.   You will be potentially surrounded by a cloud of sulphur -- 'nuff said.

Here's what you need:
  • egg whites
  • cream of tartar (1/4 tsp per 3 eggs)
  • powdered sugar (1/4 c per egg)
  • vanilla (1/4 tsp per 3 eggs)
  • peppermint extract (1/4 tsp per 3 eggs) -- optional
  • chopped dark chocolate chips -- optional
Here's what you do:
  • Get your egg whites separated from the yolks.  (Make sure no yolks make it in with the whites, otherwise they won't whip up right at all.)   There are a couple of ways you can separate eggs -- you can use an egg separator (not my favorite choice); you can use the shell and pour the yolk back and forth between shell halves as the egg white slides down into the bowl (my Grandma's chosen method); or, my favorite, just crack open your egg, keep the yolk in one of the eggshells as you discard the other shell (I usually keep the eggshell in my right hand.) then dump the egg yolk & white into your other hand.  Let the egg whites slip through your fingers as the yolk rests in your fingers.
  • For your egg whites to whip up best, they need to be at room temperature.  The Joy of Baking website suggested letting them sit in a covered bowl on the counter for 30 minutes to get them at least close to room temperature.
  • Heat your oven to 200 degrees and cover your cookie sheets with parchment paper.  (For 9 egg whites I used two cookie sheets and then I made one giant meringue cookie on a small pan.)  Before you put out your cookies, you can put just a bit of the egg white mixture on the underside of each corner of each piece of parchment paper to hold it down on the cookie sheet.
  • Make sure your bowl and whisk are clean, clean, clean!  Any grease in your bowl will keep the egg whites from whipping up.
  • Mix the egg whites on medium low until they're frothy, then add your cream of tartar (1/4 tsp for every 3 eggs).  This will stabilize the molecular structure and keep the egg whites from deflating once they're whipped up.  If you don't have cream of tartar, you supposedly can use salt, but I've not tried that yet.
  • Here's the part where you hope you have a stand mixer because the egg whites will be whipped for a while at medium high -- all the way to soft peaks (when you lift out the whisk, an egg white mountain will be formed; a soft peak will fold over on itself).  What boggles my mind is that my Grandma would do it by hand!  I am such a wuss.
  • Now you get to add the sugar about a tablespoon at a time with your mixer going at medium high speed.  You'll want to use confectioner's (powdered) sugar here because it will dissolve much more easily than granulated sugar.  If you don't have powdered sugar, but you have a food processor, you can make your own.  Just pulse the amount you need in the food processor with the blade in the bottom until the sugar is as fine as you would like. 
  • Beat & beat & beat & beat.  Whip & whip & whip & whip.  The goal, now, is stiff glossy peaks (tips that don't fold over on themselves).  Once you're there (give it several minutes...maybe even 5), rub a little of the egg whites between your fingers.  Does it feel grainy or smooth?  If it's grainy,  it needs to be whipped longer so that the sugar has time to dissolve.  If it's smooth, you're good to go forward -- whip in the vanilla extract (1/4 tsp for every 3 eggs).
  • You can bake them as is, or you can add other flavoring.  I whisked in peppermint extract (about 1/4 tsp for every 3 eggs) and folded in some chopped up dark chocolate chips.  Delish!
  • You can get fancy at this point and put the stiff egg whites into a pastry bag and pipe them onto your parchment paper covered cookie sheets, or you can do as I do and use two spoons to drop them out.  I'm not really picky how they look!
  • Bake for 45 minutes -1 hour then rotate your cookie sheets for even baking and bake for another 45 minutes - 1 hr.  DON'T OPEN YOUR OVEN DURING THAT FIRST 45 MINUTES.  (Sorry to yell, but opening your oven will cause your meringues to fall.)
  • After the baking time is complete, you should be able to easily pick the meringues up off of the cookie sheet.  If they don't hold up to light tapping with a finger or they don't come off the cookie sheet easily, then they need a bit more time in the oven.  The Joy of Baking lady seemed to think they shouldn't be browned.  I like mine a little on the tan side -- Carmelized Sugar, Baby!  So...as far as the color (or lack thereof) on your meringue, it's a personal choice.
  • Now comes the difficult part -- slightly open the oven door and walk away...for several hours or even overnight.  Waiting is so hard to do!   (Ok, so I didn't wait.  I went ahead and enjoyed one...or two...or four.  Yikes!  Don't tell!)
  • Whew!  You made it to the end!  The cookies don't take as long to make as it took me to write this post, so be encouraged.  :-)
Do understand that I made meringues on the best but worst possible day -- it rained.  We desperately need rain, so I was very thankful, but the egg whites had to be used that day.  All of that to say, the meringues didn't stay crisp for long, they got soft and sticky thanks to the humidity in the air.  Just be aware.  If you have a choice, a sun-shiny dry day is the best way to go.  Regardless, though, enjoy!

1 comment:

  1. Carrie
    Would you like a meringue cookie recipe for Easter time that teaches the children truths of the season? We make them every Easter and you even seal the tomb (tape the oven close) and Daddy always opens the stove before the children wake up and the cookies are gone! The one time of year we eat sweet cookies for breakfast is Easter. I'd love to share this tradition with you.
    Love to All, Aunt Val