I was testing out a recipe for Works & Days (an online quarterly I contribute to) last weekend and it called for egg yolks only. Reluctant to throw out the whites, and not a fan of eggs on their own, I did some research to find out what else I could make with these poor, neglected whites so that they’d shine, and not be wasted. That’s when I came across one of my favorite childhood treats: Meringue cookies. As difficult as they look, with only a few ingredients, the right tools, and a lot of patience these light, crunchy, and centrally chewy cookies were a great way to give those whites the flavor, and attention they deserved.
Since I had almonds and Amarena cherries at home, I decided to add them into the mix, but they are just as delicious without. You can also get creative with the additions you make depending on what you have available. Two suggestions I have are: Peppermint extract and chocolate chips; vanilla extract with cranberries and pistachios or walnuts.
What are Amarena cherries? They are small, dark, sour red cherries that are grown in Modena and Bologna, Italy and are commonly brandied to give them even more of a full, rich flavor. After working in a Neapolitan restaurant where they were used as garnish to the desserts, I became addicted to their sweet lush flavor. The sad thing was most people unknowingly left the best (not to mention the most expensive) part of their dessert cast away to the side.
My best guess as to why would be the bad rap marinated cherries have gotten over the years as most people associate these types of cherries with the incredibly sugary and unnaturally neon red Imitation Maraschino cherries that have been dyed, and taste that way. They have given people a distorted view of how delicious the naturally flavored cherries can be. Therefore, I’ve decided to showcase their delicious sweet and tangy flavor in this recipe. They can also be used as a garnish for cocktails like this New Orleans well kept secret, the La Louisiane.
Servings: 9 cookies
Calories per serving: 34 per cookie per serving
Prep time: 20 minutes
Cooking time: 90 minutes
Total time: 1 hour 50 minutes
Almond and Amarena Cherry Meringue Cookies
3 large egg whites
1 tsp cream of tartar or salt
¾ cup castor sugar
1 tsp almond extract (optional)
1/2 cup Amarena cherries, chopped
1/2 cup almonds, chopped
1. Preheat the oven to 200. Then line a baking sheet with a silicone mat or parchment paper. (If your oven doesn’t go down to 200, preheat it to 350 and then when you place meringue cookies into the oven turn the oven off completely)
2. With a hand mixer, or standing mixer, (using the whisk attachment) whisk egg whites in a bowl until white and frothy. Then add cream of tartar or salt, and continue to whisk on medium until soft peaks form.
3. One teaspoon at a time, add the castor (or super fine sugar) to the bowl, and incorporate well before each addition. After all of the sugar is added continue to whip until stiff peaks form. (To test to see if meringue is ready, take a pinch and rub between your fingers to make sure there are no more gritty sugar bits and all has dissolved. If not, whip for a bit longer, and test again.)
4. Once meringue is at stiff peaks and smooth, add in almond extract, and cherries, and carefully fold in. Then add almonds and fold in.
5. Using either a plastic bag (cutting a ½-hole in the corner of the bottom), pastry bag fitted with a1/2-inch tip, or simply two tablespoons (this is my preference as it gives you more creative liberty!) place heaping mounds of meringue about 1-inch apart. Should be enough to make 9 cookies. Then place into the oven and let bake for 90 minutes.
6. Once they’ve finished baking, test to see if they are done by gently trying to remove them from the parchment paper. If they come off easily they are done, if not let bake for another 5-10 minutes, or until they come off easily.
7. The meringues can be enjoyed at this time, or can be placed back into the oven (with it turned off) and left to dehydrate for another 2-4 hours or even overnight. This will give the cookies the optimum hard crunchy outside, with the fluffy, nougat-y inside. Leaving them in the oven for longer also helps slow the cooling process, avoiding cracks in the cookies.