Monday, December 28, 2009

How to make chocolate chip meringues

This time of year, after the presents have been opened, is all about topping up the supply of chocolate chip meringues my mum started making after she found the recipe in a magazine back in the 50s.

They aren't difficult - mum insists there's a knack, but I don't think I have any special gift and they always come out fine for me. Of course, unlike mum I don't care whether they come out properly crisp, as in winter, or chewy, as on a humid summer day. They're all delicious as far as I'm concerned. Chewy meringues taste kind of like toffee and don't crumble onto the floor either, even if they do make conversation a bit slower.

The first thing you do is whip egg whites into a froth.

The eggs really need to be room temperature before you separate them, but if you forget to take them out of the refrigerator ahead of time you can always sit them in a bowl of warm water for a bit. I guess that's really the first thing, isn't it - getting the eggs out of the 'frig.

Then you add sugar - I am lazy and just pour in a steady stream of it - and it magically turns into this very white creamy-looking stuff:

You have to fold in the vanilla with a spatula.

Ditto the chocolate chips - gently! The recipe calls for two cups but you can add more, and I usually do.

The better you mix them in, the more exciting they are to eat later.

Then you drop them onto paper on a cookie sheet.

I use parchment, but back when grocery stores sent you home with brown paper bags to hold your purchases my mother saved those for the purpose. You want the bottoms of the meringues to stay dry, is the point. No greasing the pan!

And now: the tricky part. Time constraints usually force me to bake all three pans at once, so I rotate them in the oven after the first and second eight minutes and then again after the next four, and the four after that. Otherwise the tops of the peaks burn. I often drop the meringue into low drifts to minimize this risk, whereas mum can get away with making a loftier cookie.

See? If they're low, they don't get too brown.

But you can see why a loftier cookie is an improvement:

More caverns in which the chips can hide! And finding the chocolate is really the point of a meringue. That and the heavenly scent in the house for hours after you make them.

Chocolate Chip Meringues

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F.

Beat together
4 egg whites at room temperature
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/8 tsp salt
until foamy.

1 cup white sugar
2 tbsp at a time, beating after every addition. Continue beating until mixture stands in firm peaks.

Using a spatula, fold in
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups chocolate chips.

Drop from teaspoon onto parchment paper on ungreased cookie sheet.

Bake at 300 degrees for 25 minutes or until cookies are light brown. Turn off the oven but leave the pans inside, preferably overnight. They need to dry out.

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