I’m sure these go by many names, but in my house this is the moniker we used. It always made perfect sense to me because these are cookies you make before you go to bed. No sampling the batter. No first bite hot out of the oven. Nothing. It never bothered me either because tomorrow was filled with the promise of sweet goodness. When I went away to college I spent a lot of my free time baking, and once I was in my own kitchen I quickly realized why we made them before bed and not in the middle of the day.
I’ve read other meringue recipes and wondered if I’d ever find any like what I had made as a kid. Most recipes call for heating your oven to somewhere around 300-350°F, baking for a short amount of time, and then dropping the oven temperature somewhere around 200°F for another hour or more. I’m sure this results in some fantastic meringues – I’ve just never done it. When I read the recipe from my grandma’s kitchen everything made sense to me. Why keep your oven on for so long if you can just dry out your cookies with residual heat? Sure it takes at least 8 hours, but I have time to wait while I’m sleeping! That being said I have bad news if you have one of those fancy ovens that uses a fan to cool itself after you turn the heat off – you can’t make this recipe. I speak from a place of experienced disappointment. The oven in my last house was awesome. It’s only flaw was being unable to make this recipe. Also to be noted – humidity will definitely affect your outcome – a dry day is much better than a humid one.
2-3 egg whites, room temp (depending on the size of your eggs – if you’re using extra large go for 2)
a pinch of salt
a pinch of cream of tartar
3/4 c sugar
1 c mini chocolate chips
1/2 c chopped pecans (optional – actually I’ve never used these but it’s on the original card)
Preheat your oven to 350°F.
Start by gradually whipping your eggs. Now I have a stand mixer. It has been the single greatest purchase I’ve made for my kitchen. You don’t have to have one to make these, but it cuts down the time it takes for your egg whites to whip up pretty substantially. Start on low and begin to work your way up speed wise.
When your eggs start to just get foamy add your pinch of salt & pinch of cream of tartar. I have to admit – I added this step. You can leave it out. I have made meringues without it, and they turn out fine. I’ve read that it helps to stabilize the meringue, so I throw it in for good measure. Keep increasing that speed – you should be at medium-high before the next step.
As you start to reach soft peaks you’ll want to start gradually adding in your sugar. I usually stream in about a 1/4 c at a time – but remember that gradually is the key word. Now let your mixer do its thing. You should find that you’ve increased your speed to the highest setting by now. What you’re looking for is a glossy, thick mixture that forms stiff peaks when you pull the whisk out. Like this.
And it is thick – gloriously thick and shiny. Do be mindful of your mixing – if you over whip your egg whites they turn into something not so pretty – more of a liquidy, scrambled lumpiness that is not going to be edible.
This step can actually be done while you’re waiting for your whites to whip up all the way, but if you were nervous about them over whipping so you watched them like a a hawk (yes I do that too) go ahead and prep your pans now. Simply take two baking sheets, line them with foil, and then spray them with a non-stick spray.
Now drop your thick & sticky meringue batter by the spoonful onto your pans. Don’t worry about getting them too close to each other – they don’t spread. I wouldn’t have them touching, but crowding the pan shouldn’t really be an issue.
Since you’ve already preheated your oven you should be ready to go. Stick your pans in and shut the door. Here’s the trick: you really only want to leave the oven on long enough for it to reach it’s original temperature after you let out some heat putting the pans in. My mom would always have us count to 30 before she turned off the oven, shut off the kitchen lights, and tucked us in. If you’re feeling a little wary – I’d say you could go as long as 60 seconds, but don’t wait too much longer. One of the best things about these meringues is that they come out a little shiny, and they don’t crack like other ones I’ve seen. The key is a short burst of heat, and then leaving them alone with that residual heat for at least 8 hours before opening the oven door again. It’s a slow process, but the results are worth it. If you have curious, little hands in your kitchen, making this a make-before-bedtime-only dessert ensures that no one will accidentally check on the cookies in the middle of their long, slow drying out process. As an adult I can tell you with surety – waiting is still the worst. Yes, I get the best pictures with the help of added daylight, but waiting for them to be done is awful. If you do find yourself making these in the middle of the day I would suggest leaving a reminder near or on the oven so that no one finds themselves tempted to peek.
That should do it. Your waiting will be rewarded. After 8 hours they pop right off the pan and are perfectly safe to put right in your mouth. Breakfast of champions. I kid, but seriously I wouldn’t deny yourself all that waiting without a little reward.
And what a reward it is. They practically melt in your mouth. Unlike other meringues I’ve had these stay a little chewy and can be a little sticky on your fingers. No complaints here, though. They were definitely a special part of my childhood, and I absolutely plan on sharing the dreamy joy of waiting with my children.
Now go, make (wait for) something delicious!