Every kitchen needs that one go-to sweets recipe that will rescue the most well-meaning cook or chef who completely forgot
that she/he promised to bring a little something to the potluck the next day, or for a bake sale, cookie swap etc.
This cookie is that recipe. I don’t know how many times I have relied on these adorable little clouds to come through in a pinch. Just the other eve I had been watching tv with my hubby and the cats, and decided to call it a night. Suddenly I remembered that we were going out the next day, and I had promised to contribute something for the dessert table.
I had wanted to get ready for bed but now I found myself in the kitchen chopping chocolate and nuts. Jim thought I was nuts opening up the kitchen so late. I was nuts, chopping walnuts that is 🙂 The oven was pre-heating, and the egg whites were whipping away. The glossy meringue achieved, I folded in my chocolate and nuts. And a few dashes of walnut bitters for good measure. Then I plopped little pillows of yumminess onto parchment lined cookie sheets, and put them into the hot oven. I turned off the oven. turned off the light, and got into bed, before Jim!! That’s the brilliance of this recipe. The fussiest part is the chopping. The easiest part is the ‘baking’! In the morning I knew I would be able to open the oven door, and be greeted by all those lovely little nuggets. They are the definition of the ‘total being greater that the sum of the parts’. Meringues just seem so elegant. Chocolate is always a good thing. Nuts of any sort add crunch and warmth. But all together they are a deceivingly elegant cookie, worthy of a fancy dessert table, as well as a school lunch bag.
It’s Monday afternoon as I’m writing this all down. Anyone who knows us, knows that Monday is Laundry Day at our place. Phineas and Zelda, our two wacky Cornish Rexes, are literally scolding me because they are ready for warm, fresh-out-the-dryer towels, but the dryer isn’t complying. Sorry guys, taking a little longer for this load. But that apology falls on deaf ears as Zelda’s protestations are getting louder, and a tad more annoying…
…There, the towels are out of the dryer, and are getting a whack of fresh wrinkles thanks to my two sous chefs. But now they are happy, and there is nothing quite like seeing the face of sheer contentment and bliss on their faces. All is right with my world, for now! (Sometimes I will mess with them, go to the dryer, and take out the load of warm clothing, and just stand there. They go nuts, crying at jumping up at me, insisting I carry it over to the bed- its so funny to see them so desperate!) My babies!
Back to these meringues. Often they are referred to as ‘Forgotten Cookies”. Because you can forget about them and go to bed. But for some reason, I think the name ‘Forget Me Not’ just sounds more charming. The cookie named after a flower.
How to make meringue takes a little finesse. But don’t overthink this. If you have a stand mixer with a stainless bowl, you’re good. For some reason, plastic or even glass and ceramic will affect how the egg whites come together. Stainless or copper is your best bet. If you are doing this in the summer, beware. The humidity of the summer air (even if not perceived by us) will affect how much air we can whip into our meringue. Even after beating for what seems an eternity, they will remain a liquidy mess. The moisture in the air will settle into the egg whites, and nothing you can do will alter this. So pick a dry, cool day to make these. I always seem to make these in the winter, so I have no issues- the heat is on, which obviously dries out the air somewhat.
Beat the egg whites till they are drying out and becoming fluffy and full of air bubbles- they will look like foam. At this point you can slowly add your sugar. Don’t rush this process. Stream it in slowly. And then let the mixer do its thing. Eventually they will come together into a glossy pillow of sweetness. When you can remove the whisk portion of the mixer and the remaining meringue doesn’t drip or fold over, you have reached the goal. You can also tell it by moving the bowl and seeing if the meringue moves around. The classic way is to turn the bowl upside down- if properly beaten, the meringue will stay put and not seep out.
Now it is time to gently fold in your flavour additions. Classic ones often feature nuts and dried fruit of some sort. Pecans and dried cranberries. Chocolate and walnuts. Whatever you want will pretty well work. I’m updating this post to include my latest version: Orange Pistachio and Chocolate. But there is also a hint of cardamom. Because orange zest and cardamom work so well together: both have the citrus notes going on. When you throw in some pistachios, you’ve achieved that exotic Middle Eastern vibe. And chocolate, well chocolate just makes everything better! I actually take the zest and cardamom and stir them together so that the zest is slightly coated in the cardamom. This then gets folded in when the nuts and chocolate are added to the finished meringue.
Once folded gently together, take spoonfuls and drop them onto lined baking sheets. (by the way, in the photos below, the cookies are on the baking sheet without any parchment- just for show!!) This recipe always seems to make between 30-32 cookies. Don’t make them too large or thick- they may not fully dry out by the next morning. The oven should have been heated through thoroughly. Once the pans are place in the oven, close the door and turn off the heat. Done!
So, these little cookies, make them, enjoy them, and impress the heck out of any whom may become the recipients of your ‘hard work’!! These are always a hit on a dessert table, or as a little nibble with a lovely latte. With the Orange Pistachio version, a Turkish Coffee may be just the thing to wash them down. 😉
FORGET ME NOT MERINGUE COOKIES
- 2 egg whites
- pinch of kosher salt
- 1/2 cup plus 1 tbsp (120 g) granulated sugar
- 3/4 cup (approx 120 g) chopped toasted walnuts
- 5 oz (150 g) dark or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
- 1 tsp pure vanilla
- 5-6 dashes of walnut or old fashioned bitters (only if using walnuts in the recipe)
Orange Pistachio and Chocolate Version
- 3/4 cup pistachios slivered if possible, or else chopped, with skins removed to reveal the green nut. These days many specialty nut and dried fruit shops carry slivered green pistachios.
- 5 oz (150 g) dark or bittersweet chocolate , chopped
- 1 tbsp orange zest, divided 2 medium oranges
- 1/4 tsp ground cardamom
Preheat oven to 350F (180C) It must be thoroughly heated through.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper
Whisk egg whites with pinch of salt until stiff and dry. The liquidy chear egg white texture should be replaced with a foamy texture. Gradually add the sugar, whisking until a thick and glossy meringue is achieved.
Gently fold in the nuts, chocolate, vanilla and bitters.
Using a teaspoon, drop heaping spoonfuls (but don't go any larger) onto the parchment, spaced 1" apart.
Put the baking sheets into the oven. Shut the door. Immediately turn the oven off.
Leave these alone without opening the door overnight. In the morning, they will easily come off the parchment paper. They will keep in an airtight container for a week. But who are we kidding, they'll be gone before you know it!
Orange Pistachio and Chocolate Version
Zest the oranges and place the zest in a small bowl. Add the cardamom and stir together till blended evenly.
When the meringue is ready, gently fold in most of the orange zest with the pistachios and chocolate. Save a bit of the zest to sprinkle over all the cookies before they go into the oven.
Proceed to place spoonfuls onto the baking sheets
If you are baking these on a humid day, you may find that the meringue doesn't come together, or that they don't completely cook through, and the insides are still sticky.
If this is the case, thoroughly warm the oven again at 350F, and put the cookies back in, and turn off the oven again. Check after 4 hours.
You could also use chopped dried cranberries or cherries, chopped dried apricots (as long as they are 'fresh' dried), candied ginger, dried apple or pear pieces. Hmmm, fresh chopped thyme and apple would be lovely!
If you opt to use pistachios or almonds etc, then omit the bitters from the above recipe.