Peppermint Meringue Cookies: Nostalgia

Peppermint Meringue CookiesIt has been a long week here with surprise visits and several trips to the doctor due to a relapse in illness.  In addition, my plans for this weekend have suddenly changed and I now need to clean out the fridge.  Amongst several unsalvageable items-i.e. leftover pork chops I don’t even remember making-were four lonely egg whites.  Eureka!

I get excited about leftover egg whites, or yolks for that matter, for lots of reasons.  Mainly because I don’t like to waste anything.  So, if I am making ice cream for example, I immediately start thinking about the leftover whites I will have when all the yolks end up in the custard.  Is it enough to make an angel food cake?  A white layer cake?  A meringue pie?  Or something just as scrumptious but much less exciting, like an omelet?  The beauty of egg whites is that they keep much better than yolks do.  If you have a lot of egg yolks leftover, you are better off pitching them (There is a rumor going around that too many egg yolks aren’t good for you…) or making something with them immediately.  Whites on the other hand-those beautiful, protein packed, cholesterol free whites, can actually be frozen and used later.  With a label that says how many and a nicely sealed container, they will keep a month or two.  Just leave them in the fridge to thaw overnight.  Of course it is always nice when you have a recipe that calls for both, like a lemon meringue pie.  You use the yolks to make the lemon curd for the filling and the whites for the topping.  But just this past weekend I made creme brulee, a very unhealthy, egg yolk and heavy cream laden dessert with a burnt sugar topping.  And it was soooooo good.  Hence, the presence of four egg whites in my fridge.  Unlike other times when I sort of ponder what I am to do with them, these egg whites had a purpose.  A destiny, if you will.  Peppermint Chocolate Chip Meringue Cookies.  The moment I added creme brulee to the New Years Day menu, I instantly jumped to these cookies as a secondary treat.  My mom used to make these all the time when I was a kid and I think it was because she always had intentions of making a lemon meringue pie, but usually only got as far as making the custard filling.  It is kind of hard to beat warm lemon custard in a bowl and I can’t even tell you how many times the full pie was never made.  I am guessing that is why we always had egg whites in the fridge.  Whatever the reason, peppermint flavoring and mini chocolate chips always seemed to be the way she made them and I for one never complained.

The beauty of these cookies is that they seem really special, but only have a few ingredients.  I have always considered them an easy, make anytime kind of cookie so please don’t save this recipe for a special occasion.  The fact that they are a bit better for you than most cookies makes them a good treat for adults and kids alike, even if shrinking the size of your jeans was not a resolution this year.  Personally, I am not a fan of using these in little treat bags for the holidays or a bake sale given the fragile nature of the cookie, but they are definitely a crowd pleaser.  So placing them alongside a heavy dessert, say at Easter or even a barbecue, makes them a fun addition to a menu.  I happen to enjoy them Monday through Friday, 365 days out of the year and my family has not complained once so I think they are safe to serve anytime.  Whether it is ‘fridge clean out day’ or not.
Peppermint Meringue CookiesOne Year Ago: Hot WingsHoney Waffles, Filet Au Poivre, Fettuccine Alfredo, Shrimp Quesadillas

Peppermint Meringue Cookies W/Mini Chocolate Chips
Please note the time frame you need to make these cookies.  It isn’t complicated, just a lot of waiting around.  For that reason, they are also called Forgotten Kisses.  They need time to dry out slowly and can’t be hurried.  No shortcuts here people!

4 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
3/4 c sugar
2 tsp cornstarch
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 tsp peppermint extract
1/2 c mini chocolate chips

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, beat the egg whites and cream of tartar on medium high until increased in volume and pillowy and foamy.  In the meantime, mix together the sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl.  When egg whites are ready, slowly pour in the sugar mixture while mixer is running, continuing to beat on medium high until glossy and at stiff peaks.  The meringue should hold a peak when a spoon or the whisk is drawn through it and pulled away.  This whole process will take less than five minutes.  Add the extract and whisk a few seconds more.  Fold the chocolate chips in by hand.  On two sheet pans lined with parchment paper, drop the meringue by spoonfuls at least an inch apart, poking down any spiky peaks.  Bake in a 225 degree oven for one hour and then turn the oven off, leaving the cookies in the oven for an additional hour.  Remove the sheet pans and let the cookies cool completely on the counter top, on the sheet pans, for another hour.  Store in a tightly sealed container at room temperature for up to 3 days.