Tim’s Favorite Cookies – Orange Chocolate Meringues

These are Tim’s favorite cookies. Ever. In case you missed it, we eat a lot of cookies in this house, something like 4 each night for Tim and 2 for me. So, this man knows his cookies. Even though he surely wouldn’t turn away his old stand-by chocolate chip pecan cookies, these have claimed his heart, as in Tim-heart-orange-chocolate-meringue-cookies. Being meringues, there’s no flour or butter in sight, making them practically healthy, right? Well, maybe not healthy, but definitely light and airy. Delicate and fragile. Crackled and crispy outside. Almost-hollow inside. And oh, so good! Try them and you’ll see why these lasted less than 24 hours in the Martin house. Maybe next time he’ll even share!

Orange Chocolate Meringue Cookies
adapted from recipes from my sisters-in-law Jenni and Karen; Smittenkitchen.com, and Simplyrecipes.com
Makes about 20 cookies
Hints:
(1) Don’t make these on a rainy or humid day. Why? The old science teacher in me (my job before I became a mom) says it’s because sugar is hygroscopic, meaning it will attract water from the air on a rainy or humid day, leaving you with chewy, not crispy, cookies. (2) Separate your eggs while still cold. Let the whites sit out at room temperature for at least 30 minutes so that when whipped, they’ll really fluff up and reach their maximum volume. (3) Use a very clean stainless steel or copper bowl to beat the egg whites.
  • 2 egg whites, room temperature (very important!)
  • pinch of table salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/2 to 3/4 cup superfine or regular sugar (I used Dixie Crystals extra fine granulated)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 6 ounces finely diced semi and/or bittersweet chocolate
  • 1/4 chopped pecans, toasted and finely chopped
  • zest of 2 oranges

Preheat oven to 300 degrees.

Beat egg whites until foamy. Add salt and cream of tartar, and beat mixture again on medium speed until it holds soft peaks, about 2-3 minutes. Increase speed to high and add the sugar, gradually – 1 t. at a time, beating the batter until it is stiff and glossy, about 4-5 minutes.

Using a rubber spatula, carefully fold in the vanilla, chocolate, pecans, and orange zest – you don’t want to deflate the egg whites. Spoon or portion batter onto Silpat or parchment paper-lined baking sheets. I use my favorite disher/ice cream scoop for this but you can use a spoon or pastry piping bag. These don’t spread, so you can place them fairly close. All 20 of mine fit on one half-sheet pan.

For cookies with crackly outsides and hollow insides, bake for 25 minutes or until undersides of cookies are golden or lightly tanned.

For soft and billowy cookies, bake for 1 minute only. Then turn oven off and don’t open the oven door for at least 3 hours or overnight. When done baking in the residual heat of the oven, they’ll be lightly crisp and golden on the outside. If still chewy in the morning, let them dry out longer.

Store in an airtight container, far far away from Tim!

What to do with the leftover yolks? Make homemade ice cream or the French toast in this month’s Cook’s Illustrated.

Variations:

  • For Easter Story Cookies - http://www.cherbearsden.com/cookies.html; make with your kids the night before Easter and read the accompanying Bible verses for each step – CUTE!
  • For a Christmas twist, omit the orange zest and add 2-3 T. very finely crushed peppermint
  • Omit the chocolate and dip bottom 1/3 of baked meringue in melted chocolate

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