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My grandmother was born in 1900, and lived through several wars as well as the Great Depression. Though her family seemed consistently insulated from the worst, Grammy was a product of the messages of her time: She threw nothing away. When it came to kitchen drawers, that meant she had little scraps of tinfoil, rubber bands and glass containers lurking everywhere. When it came to food, there was no way Grammy was chucking the egg yolks when she made an angel-food cake, or the whites when she made custard sauce. Her collected recipes complement each other: The yin of yolk usage fits with the yang of a recipe employing whites. Meringues — whether as surprise cookies like these or just plain crisp meringue — were a stalwart repository for left-over egg whites. (A richer white-catcher is Titusville Cream Custard.)

Surprise Meringue Cookies from Baking FamilyThe “surprise” in these meringue cookies are mini chocolate chips and pecans. When I made the cookies recently, I followed Gram’s instructions — and ended up with something so sticky that I couldn’t get it past my molars. What’s more, the chocolate and nuts were lost in the meringue’s marshmallow.

So I upped the cooking time substantially, lowering the oven temperature to dry out rather than brown up the meringues. Divine. A whisper of crunchy meringue, grounded by chocolate and nuanced by nuts.

And next up? The custard sauce that I made out of the leftover yolks.

Surprise Meringue Cookies

If you are using a dark cookie sheet, drop the cooking temperature by 25 degrees and keep an eye on the bottoms of your cookies so they don’t get too brown.

Makes about 3 dozen cookies

  • 3 egg whites at room temperature
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 1 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
  • 1 cup pecans, chopped

Preheat the oven to 300°F. Line a large cookie sheet with parchment or aluminum foil.

In a large bowl, beat egg whites until stiff. Add vanilla and salt. Continue beating while gradually adding sugar until mixture is thick and glossy. Fold in chocolate chips and nuts. Drop by heaping teaspoonsful onto lined cookie sheets. Bake for 55 minutes or until dry to the touch and browned on top.

Recipe and photograph copyright 2010 Garside Group LLC

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