In the week that followed my idea for the Meringue Project, I made ten batches of meringue cookies. TEN BATCHES! I am so glad that I did it, because now I have the recipe down pat, and my cookies are coming out the same every time.
From what I can tell, the key to a successful meringue cookie is to make sure the egg whites aren’t cold when you whip them. Every recipe I’ve read says “room temperature,” but what I’ve started doing is I put the egg whites in a metal bowl, then I put the bowl on the stove top for at least 20 minutes while the oven is preheating. I let the bowl and the egg whites get warm. Since I started doing that the egg whites get *really* stiff, and when I’m finished beating them I’m able to turn the bowl upside down and the mixture doesn’t move at all. That wasn’t happening before.
I cooked my first batch for an hour, and made little reductions here and there until I found what I considered to be the perfect meringue. I cooked every batch at 215 degrees.
Batch 1 – 12 cookies – 1 hour
I baked them for 30 minutes, rotated the cookie sheet, and then baked them for another 30 minutes. When the time was up, I turned the oven off, cracked the door open, and left the cookies in there overnight. The result? The cookies were way too dry and flaky – although they weren’t dry to the point were I was choking on the “cookie dust,” which is a problem I encounter often when I overcook them.
Batch 2 – 12 cookies – 1 hour
I did everything the same as the first batch, but instead of leaving them in the oven overnight I took them out right away and then left them on the stove top overnight. The result? It’s hard to explain. They were lighter and airier on the inside, but they were just as dry and flaky, and not in a good way. Between Batch 1 and Batch 2 I preferred Batch 1, because the cookies were more substantial. (Some of those are sprinkled with cinnamon, in case you’re wondering.)
Batch 3 – 12 cookies – 55 minutes
Since my goal was “spongier” cookies, I decided to reduce the cooking time by 5 minutes. I baked them for 25 minutes, then rotated the cookie sheet and baked them for another 30 minutes. When they were done I turned the oven off but cracked the door and left them in there overnight.
Also, in this batch I decided to skip the vanilla. Sometimes if the egg whites aren’t stiff enough they leak out during cooking (it’s the brown stuff in the photo above). For some reason the thought occurred to me that maybe it was brown because the vanilla was leaking out as well. I didn’t like the thought of the vanilla being wasted like that, so I wanted to see how the cookies would taste without it.
The result? OMG these cookies were amazing!! I definitely like the cookies better without the vanilla. And the texture? Crispy but not too dry or flaky, and the inside wasn’t undercooked but it definitely wasn’t too dry.
So far, Batch 3 is the way to go!
Batch 4 – 12 cookies – 55 minutes
No picture! Whoops!
I did everything the same as Batch 3, except that when the time was up I took the cookies out right away and left them on top of the oven overnight. The result? I didn’t like these as much as Batch 3. The inside didn’t taste cooked enough and was actually kind of cold. I’ve since learned that the erythritol in the Truvia makes it taste cool after it’s cooked.
Batch 3 is still winning. At this point I realized that, all other things being equal, the cookies are better when they’re left in the oven for awhile after it’s turned off. I guess the extra drying out time helps. So that’s what I did with every batch after this.
Batch 5 – 28 cookies – 55 minutes
I decided that I wanted to start making smaller, bite-sized cookies, so that the crumbling that occurs when you bite into the cookie wouldn’t be as much of an issue, since the whole thing would be in your mouth. Normally I divide one batch into 12 cookies, but I split this batch into 28 cookies. Even though I knew they would need less cooking time than the bigger cookies, I wasn’t sure how much time to cut off, so I decided to stick with the “normal” cooking time (30 minutes, rotate, 25 minutes) for this batch and see what happened.
The result? They were definitely way too dry, but not as bad as I thought they’d be. I was expecting them to crumble into dust! And I’m really glad I made them smaller – they were a lot more fun to eat.
This was the first batch I made on Saturday, and since I planned to make many more I only left them in the turned-off oven for 2 hours.
Batch 6 – 36 cookies – 45 minutes
I managed to split this batch into 36 cookies! I reduced the cooking time by 10 minutes – cooked for 25, rotated the tray, cooked for 20. The result? I was pleased with the texture, the size, the taste, everything, but they were “this close” to being undercooked, so I still wanted to experiment with the cooking time.
Batch 7 – 36 cookies – 52 minutes
I cooked this batch for 25 minutes, then rotated the cookie sheet and cooked for another 28 minutes (it was supposed to be 25, but I was in the bathroom when the timer went off!). The result? The cookies were a little too dry.
Batch 8 – 36 cookies – 47 minutes
This time I did 25 minutes, rotated, then 22. The result? Delicious! But I liked the slight gooey-ness of Batch 6 better.
Ladies and Gentlemen, we have a winner!
(Not the best example from the batch, but I had eaten most of them by the time I decided to take pictures!!)
Batch 6 is now *officially* my standard meringue cookie recipe! However, it really is a matter of personal preference. While my favorite batch was #6, my friend Tiffany, who was my officially “taster,” liked Batch 8 best. According to her, Batch 6 is more of a dessert, while Batch 8 is more of a biscuit. So take that for what it’s worth.
I decided to stop experimenting at this point…but I still kept on making meringue cookies.
Batch 9 – Real egg whites, cinnamon
In additional to all the cookies I made that weekend, I also made chocolate ice cream, which required egg yolks. Obviously I decided to use the leftover egg whites for another batch of meringues. I put 18 plain cookies onto the cookie sheet, then beat in 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon into the remaining half of the egg whites. The result? AMAZING.
There is SUCH a difference in texture when you use real egg whites! Not just the appearance, but also the way it dissolves in your mouth. Nonetheless, the liquid egg whites are more than adequate as a substitution.
Real egg whites:
Liquid egg whites vs. real egg whites:
Batch 10 – Lemon Jello
This was going to be my last batch of the weekend, so for the heck of it I decided to add some lemon Jello to the recipe. I had seen jello in one of the recipes I read. Instead of 2 Tbs. of Truvia I used 1 Tbs., and I added a whole packet of sugar-free lemon jello.
The results? Not so good! After the cooking time was up they still seemed wayyy too soft, so I let them cook for another 15 minutes, then dried them out in the oven overnight. That extra time was not a good idea, because they were like styrofoam. As for taste, they were soooo sour! I should not have used the whole packet of Jello.
I will definitely try Jello again though, because I think if I hadn’t overcooked them and had used less Jello they would have turned out like flavored marshmallows. And even though they didn’t turn out good, I still ate all of them! So they weren’t *that* bad. 🙂
And there you have it folks!
Since I finished “The Meringue Project” I have made at least a dozen more batches. I’ve started making different kinds – coconut, almond, and mint chocolate chip. So stay tuned for more meringue recipes.