Meringue cookies are really something worth treasuring. They’re so light, it’s like biting into a cloud! A sugary, crispy, melt-in-your-mouth, can’t-eat-just-one cloud. Best of all, these delightful and unique cookies require only 4 ingredients and just a few minutes prep time. In fact, everything you need is probably already in your pantry! And you can make them into any shape you like. I made some heart shaped cookies for Valentine’s day, but I also made a bunch of plain ones that are simple to create and perfect for any occasion. These cookies are part one of a two-part Valentine’s Day dessert, so stay tuned for the big finale! Meringues require a long baking time at a low temperature because they need time to dry out without burning. If your oven is too hot, the cookies may crack due to the expansion of steam inside. They also may brown or turn yellowish if the temperature is too high. Use an oven thermometer to ensure your oven is not running hot. For the white, crispy, pristine lightness that meringues are known for, bake them low and slow!
3 large egg whites
3/8 tsp cream of tartar
3/4 cup white superfine (caster) sugar or granulated sugar (granulated may take longer to dissolve)
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
Directions: Before you begin, take a quick peek at my Top Ten Rules About Egg Foams to determine what types of egg whites are best for whipping and some pitfalls to avoid. If possible, choose eggs that are a week or two old (expiration date is two weeks away or less), separate them, and allow them to come to room temperature.
1. Preheat oven to 200F and line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine the egg whites and cream of tartar and begin to whip, using a hand mixer, at medium-low speed until your foam begins to hold very soft peaks, about 1 minute. (Your peaks should be floppy and poorly defined. The foam will still appear course.) 2. Begin adding sugar, one tablespoon at a time, while whipping constantly at medium-high speed. Once all the sugar is added, be sure to pause and scrape down the sides of the bowl so that any stray sugar gets a chance to dissolve. Keep beating until the foam folds stiff, shiny peaks. It should be sticky and firm. If your peaks have sturdy, upright, angular bases but the tip still droops a bit, that’s okay. The tips of a meringue often droop because of the extra weight of the sugar. 3. Rub a bit of meringue between two fingers to feel for grittiness from undissolved sugar. For the best quality cookie, you want your sugar granules to be completely dissolved. Continue beating until you feel no grit. Don’t worry about overbeating your foam at this point. The sugar has stabilized it well enough that it should be almost impossible to ruin, even at max speeds. 4. Once your foam feels smooth, incorporate the vanilla extract. (Or, if you like, you can substitute almond, peppermint, a splash of your favorite liqueur or other flavoring.) Now, use two spoons to dollop the meringue onto your prepared cookie sheets. Use your spoon to shape the meringue into hearts, circles, squares, snowmen, or any other shape you desire! Alternately, you can use a piping bag to make these cookies into whatever shape inspires you. Leave at least a half inch of space between the cookies so they have room to dry effectively. They won’t spread or change shape much in the oven. For a classic look, simply drop a dollop onto the parchment paper and smooth its top with the back of your spoon.
5. Bake the meringues 200F for two hours, or until the tops are stiff and hard when gently tapped and the cookies lift easily from their paper without leaving sticky residue. Turn off the oven, but leave the cookies in for at least 2 more hours, or overnight if it’s convenient. They will continue to try as they cool. If you have an electric oven, crack the door a bit to allow steam to escape. If you have gas, your oven is already vented. This will give you cookies that are crisp and fluffy the whole way through. For cookies that are chewy in the middle, shorten the bake time to 1 hour, but keep the resting time the same. NOTE: If it’s a particularly humid day, the meringues may take longer to fully dry. ♥ Serve alongside fresh strawberries or raspberries or pair them with my final Valentine’s treat–a Dark Chocolate Mousse! Here’s what they’ll look like on the inside once they’re done. Pretty neat, huh?