Did you know that you can make cookies while you sleep? I’m not talking about mixing in a trance-like state; literally, you can put the cookies in, turn the oven off and go to bed, waking up in the morning to beautifully (and safely) baked cookies. If that sounds appealing, then these meringue cookies are just what you need.
These sweet treats have several other attributes that endear them to me: they don’t contain any butter, oil or other fat, you can flavor them with an almost unlimited number of add-in options, and you can make them as small as a silver dollar or several times that size.
First, the ABCs of meringues
A – Use room temperature egg whites for meringues. If your egg whites are right out of the refrigerator, either leave them on the counter for 3-60 minutes until they are room temperature or warm them up more quickly in a small glass or cup inside a bowl that contains 1-2 inches of hot water. For a fun way to separate the whites from egg yolks, check out this video tip.
B – Bake them on a low humidity day. Meringues don’t bake properly on a rainy or humid day. Egg whites freeze well, so if the weather isn’t cooperating, freeze the whites and wait for a better meringue-baking day.
C – Be calm when you make them. The process (until baking) doesn’t take long and it’s not complicated, but it does require patience or you’ll deflate the egg whites and end up with pancakes instead of cookies. If you’re not in the right mood, save the recipe for later or adjust your attitude before starting.
Servings – 2-3 doz small cookies (fewer if larger) Cost – $1-3 depending on add-ins
- 2 egg whites
- ½ cup sugar
- ½ cup add-ins (e.g. chocolate chips, chopped nuts, sweetened coconut)
- Pinch of salt
- 2 large pinches (less than ¼ teaspoon) cream of tartar (optional)
- ½ teaspoon vanilla or ¾ teaspoon or so of other flavoring such as a liqueur (optional)
- 2 cookie sheets
- Parchment or liner
- 2 spoons (size dependent on size of cookies you want to make)
- Measuring cup for sugar
- Measuring spoons (optional)
- Food processor or cutting board if you add-ins need to be chopped (optional & not pictured)
- Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.
- Beat the egg whites on medium-low speed for 1-2 minutes until foamy.
- Add the pinch of salt and the 2 pinches of cream of tartar if you’re using it. Cream of tartar helps the egg whites whip up well, but it’s not essential. You don’t need to use a measuring spoon for the cream of tartar, but if you do, somewhere between 1/8 and 1/4 teaspoon should work well with 2 egg whites.
- Slowly add the sugar while beating the egg whites on medium-high speed. If you are using a hand mixture and need to stop using it to add sugar, that’s fine – just don’t dump it all in at once. Add any liquid flavorings now. (I didn’t use any in the batch shown in this post.) Whip the egg whites for a few more minutes until they become firm and glossy. First the egg whites will get glossy but won’t hold a point if you pull the beaters out. When they are ready, the mixture will hold a point on the beaters or a spatula lifted out of the mixture.
- Add the chips, nuts etc. by gently folding them into the now glossy and thick mixture. I chopped my semi-sweet chocolate chips and pistachio nut meats with a small food processor – not essential, but an effective way to spread them more evenly throughout the mixture.
- Put the cookies on the parchment or silpat-lined cookie sheets using 2 teaspoons, 1 to dip into the mixture and the second to push the mixture off the first and onto the cookie sheet. As mentioned above, you can vary the size of the cookie – just scoop or more – or less of the mixture for each cookie. Leave at least a few inches between the cookies on the sheet – I prefer to use a pattern alternating 3 cookie and 2 cookie rows.
- Place the cookie sheets in the oven and immediately turn the oven off. Go to bed, read a book, go to work or do whatever needs doing for anywhere from 3 to 8 hours. The cookies are done after a few hours, but you can leave them as long as overnight. Even longer than 8 hours is fine – just remember to take them out when you wake up.
They will last several days in a tightly closed container, but are best within a day or two of baking. If the weather turns rainy, they will get a bit chewy, but if you’re like me, they won’t last long enough to get chewy or stale.