birthday meringues 

Having a birthday right smack between Christmas and New Years (December 28th, if you’re curious) can feel like a mixed bag, especially as a little kid. On the one and less fun hand, Christmas will of course always overshadow a birthday, and the window for bday excitement is pretty small. But on the other hand and particularly if you have a Christmas elf for a mother who is happy to keep the joyful vibe of the holiday going, you get the fun of getting your birthday presents under the tree. And if you’re very lucky, when you sneak down in the morning to inspect your presents (because yes, my sweet mother put them out overnight just like she did at Christmas) you’ll find an especially special cookie waiting in the oven, having set up and “cooked” overnight: chocolate chip meringues.

My mom kept the birthday morning meringue tradition going for years when I was a kid, but somewhere along the way it faded out–probably because we always had so many other delicious treats on hand at this time of year. As I was planning for our Christmas party this year and having fun considering what little things Hal and I were turning into our own traditions, I decided to give my old birthday meringues a whirl. And all credit for that goes to my cousin Thomas: I hadn’t had these cookies in years and had never made them myself, but happily when I wrote a post about our grandmother’s eggnog last year, Thomas left a comment with the meringue recipe, suggesting them as a great use for the leftover egg whites. He’s so right! I remembered guiltily tossing the whites last year, and was psyched to out them to good use this year.

I know meringue can sound intimidating, but these little cuties really are simple. Pretty much all you do is whip up egg whites, sugar and vanilla til you get stiff peaks and the mixture feels smooth when you rub a bit between your fingers–if it’s still gritty, you just need to keep on whipping. Mini chocolate chips are folded in, and then you dollop little blobs onto a tinfoil lined tray. For my money, the more pointy and un-uniform the better. The meringues are slipped into an oven that’s been preheated to just 350. The oven is turned off almost right away, and then the meringues set up overnight. When I was little I somehow got the idea that if the oven door was opened before morning all the cookies would be ruined, which just made it feel more special to finally open the oven in the morning.

Thanks to my cousin–and some confirmation from the internet–I learned the ratio you need to know for the cookies: 1/4 cup sugar and 1/4 teaspoon vanilla for each egg white. So if  you do six egg whites, you need a cup and a half of sugar and a teaspoon and a half of vanilla. Simple, right? You can make this with as many or as few egg whites as you wish, but unless you’re cooking for dozens, I don’t know that I’d go over six. Six egg whites translates into a TON of cookies. I had three large baking sheets worth, and plenty of cookies left over after our Christmas party to take in to my students. Merry merry!

chocolate chip meringues

6 egg whites
1 and 1/2 cups sugar
1 and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
mini chocolate chips–you’ll need a couple of handfuls

Preheat your oven to 350 and line baking sheets with tin foil.

In the bowl of your electric mixer with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on low-medium speed until foamy. Gradually add the sugar and continue to beat, on medium-high speed, until the meringue holds very stiff peaks. Beat in the vanilla extract until just combined. Fold in as many mini chocolate chips as you like.

Using two regular old dinner spoons, spoon meringue onto covered baking sheets. They’ll expand a bit in the oven, but not much at all.

Put meringues into oven and turn heat off after 5 minutes. Leave oven closed overnight, and be sure to sneak a tester cookie first thing in the morning!


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