Light, crisp, cloudlike meringue cookies have long been associated with French royalty, a decadent treat that required skill and dedication to pull off. Perhaps once, but then the whisk attachment was invented.
For those with a stand mixer, they’re surprisingly easy — and adaptable to whatever extra bits of chocolate, nuts or other flavorings may be left over after a holiday baking marathon.
In this recipe from our book “Cook What You Have,” which draws on pantry staples to assemble easy, weeknight meals, we offer three variations on the cookie (which incidentally was not French, but is credited to a Swiss chef named Gasparini in 1720, from a town called Meiringen.)
For a chocolate and salted peanut variation, you’ll need about 2 ounces of chopped chocolate, some orange zest and a handful of roasted nuts. Or try them with roasted cashews, unsweetened coconut flakes and lime zest. Or with pistachios, candied ginger and turmeric. Or experiment with different flavors using these ratios.
The meringues can be made into a dozen 3-inch cookies or six oversize 6-inch puffs. Serve them alone or split them open and fill them with whipped cream and scattered fresh berries. The cookies will keep in an airtight container for up to five days.
Meringue Cookies with Cashews, Coconut and Lime: Follow the recipe, using salted roasted cashews, replacing the chocolate chips with ¼ cup dried, unsweetened, wide-flake coconut and substituting an equal amount of lime zest for the orange zest.
Golden Meringue Cookies with Pistachios and Candied Ginger: Follow the recipe, using salted roasted pistachios, replacing the chocolate chips with ¼ cup chopped candied ginger and adding 1 teaspoon ground turmeric and ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon to the egg whites along with the cream of tartar and salt.
Start to finish: 2½ hours (35 minutes active), plus cooling. Makes 12 small or 6 large meringues
¼ cup salted roasted peanuts OR almonds OR cashews OR pistachios, chopped
1/3 cup dark chocolate OR semi-sweet OR milk chocolate chips, chopped
6 large egg whites
½ teaspoon cream of tartar
¼ teaspoon table salt
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grated orange zest
Heat the oven to 250 degrees with a rack in the middle position. Line a rimmed baking sheet with kitchen parchment. In a small bowl, toss together the nuts and chocolate.
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, whip egg whites, cream of tartar and salt on medium until frothy and opaque, 1 to 2 minutes. With the mixer running, gradually add sugar. Add the vanilla, then increase to high and beat for 5 minutes; the whites will be thick, shiny and hold stiff peaks. Using a silicone spatula, fold in the orange zest and half of the nut-chocolate mixture.
Scoop the meringue into mounds onto the prepared baking sheet, dividing it into 12 portions of about ½ cup each or 6 portions of about 1 cup each; space the mounds evenly apart. Slightly smooth the tops and sprinkle with the remaining nut-chocolate mixture.
Bake for 1¼ hours for small meringues or 1½ hours for large meringues; they will be very pale golden brown and have expanded slightly. Turn off the oven, prop open the door with the handle of a wooden spoon and allow the meringues to fully dry and crisp, about 45 minutes.
Remove from the oven and transfer the meringues from the baking sheet to a wire rack. Cool to room temperature.