Nut Meringue Cookies or A Baking Disaster Averted

This is a story of of an incredibly forgiving and flexible recipe that helped avert a baking disaster.  It’s a story about using less than ideal ingredients, cutting corners, ignoring instructions, being in denial, pushing forward even with barely a glimmer of hope, and emerging victorious with a fantastically delicious cookie.

These are all the ways that I deviated from the recipe and nearly ended up with a baking disaster.

  • I didn’t have enough almonds so I used almond flour (from Trader Joes) and pecan pieces, about half of each.
  • My cream of tartar was old (and apparently ineffective).
  • I used egg whites from 4 large eggs, but I did not measure to see if they actually equaled 1/2 cup, and I didn’t bother waiting for them to reach room temperature.
  • I barely achieved soft peaks when whipping my egg whites, and I didn’t get anywhere near stiff peaks, thus ending up with a severely runny meringue.

However, I did make a few good decisions that likely made a big difference in the outcome.

  • I used Nielsen Massey almond extract.
  • I lined my cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  • I allowed for ample space between the cookies because they spread a lot during baking.
  • I let the dough sit on the cookie sheets for 40 minutes before baking.
  • And ultimately I did not throw away the batter before doing a test bake (even though I was really tempted to do so).

The results were more fantastic than I could have ever imagined.  While my nut meringue cookies didn’t look anything like the high piled cookies in the cookbook, they did look a lot like big thin macarons.  They turned out to have the most divine texture with a light, crispy top and chewy center.  The almond extract really shone through packing a lot of flavor in a deceivingly light cookie.

Nut meringue cookies - A Medrich1

Nut Meringue Cookies

(From Sinfully Easy Delicious Desserts: Quicker Smarter Recipes by Alice Medrich)
Makes about 90 1 1/2-inch cookies

Ingredients

1 2/3 cups (8 ounces) blanched whole almonds
2 cups (8 ounces) powdered sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup egg whites (from about 4 large eggs), at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
2 teaspoons pure almond extract
1/2 cup (3.5 ounces) granulated sugar

Directions

  1. Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 300°F.  Line the cookie sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Combine the almonds, powdered sugar, and salt in the food processor and pulse until the nuts are finely ground, scraping the sides as necessary.
  3. Using the electric mixer, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar in a large clean, dry bowl at medium speed until the egg whites are creamy and white and soft peaks are formed when the beaters are lifted.
  4. Add the almond extract.
  5. Gradually add the granulated sugar, beating until the whites are fluffy and very stiff.
  6. Pour the almond mixture over the meringue and fold in with a large rubber spatula just until fully incorporated.
  7. Scoop tablespoons of batter 1 inch apart onto the lined cookie sheets. (While the first two sheets are baking, scoop the remaining batter onto a third lined sheet or onto a parchment liner to be baked when the first batch is done.)
  8. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the cookies are golden; rotate the sheets from top to bottom and from front to back halfway through the baking time to ensure even baking.
  9. Set the pans on racks to cool completely, or slide the parchment liners from the pans onto racks.

The cookies keep in an airtight container for weeks.

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