“Have yourself a merry little Christmas.” That song has been echoing in my mind. A little Christmas. A simple Christmas. I don’t know if I can hold onto that zen when I visit my daughter & the”littles” over the holidays, but I’m hanging on to that feeling now.
And there’s nothing simpler than these Chocolate Swirl Meringue Cookies. The idea of Meringue Cookies came from a dear friend in South Dakota. She was a huge source of support & inspiration while I was caring for the folks (who are doing fine, by the way and seem to be relieved to live their lives on their own!) “M” also bakes cookies at Christmas, lots and lots of cookies, including Meringue Cookies.
Honestly, I don’t think I ever payed much attention to Meringue Cookies before I tried hers. Why would I when there are richer offerings on the table? Am I wrong, here? Seriously, right? If you love Meringue Cookies, you know I was missing out. Meringues are a surprise if you haven’t had one, before.
They’re crispy with just a bit of a chewiness about them. The chocolate transforms in these cookies. It becomes like little rivers that dry into an intense flavor. It hardly seems like chocolate at all. It’s like the “essence” of chocolate.
The chocolate you use matters. The meringue is so simple, subtle nuances shine through. If you’d like, enhance it with the faintest touch of coffee (1/2 teaspoon of espresso powder will do the trick) or use a little peppermint. Or more peppermint if that’s your jam. I went half peppermint and half without. I took out half the meringue and mixed the extract with what remained in the mixing bowl.
These cookies can be piped and they’re gorgeous, but that seemed like a lot of messy work when they’re kind of glorious in their rustic beauty when dolloped on the cookie sheet with a scoop. I tried to dust just half of the cookie with cocoa powder…my thought was it’s nice to have a “clean” portion of the cookie to pick up.
Not only are these cookies etherially delicious, they’re down right frugal to make. And really gorgeous enough to give as gifts, packed between layers of parchment in a tin. If you shop the second-hand stores, you’re likely to find tons of tins just for the picking. I make it a point to scout for them all year so I have a store of unusual ones come Christmas. (This Chicken with Lemon and Artichoke is a great way to use up three yolks and cozy enough for this time of year.)
Chocolate Swirl Meringue Cookies
Prepare two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 275 degrees.
- 3 egg whites, room temperature
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch (may use about 2 tablespoons of powdered sugar, instead)
- 1 teaspoon vanilla or peppermint extract
- 1/2 teaspoon white vinegar
- 6 to 8 ounces chocolate, melted and cooled, see notes
- 1/2 teaspoon espresso powder, optional, for a mocha flavor
Prepare chocolate first, so it can cool as the meringue is whipped. Add the espresso powder to the chocolate if desired.
Place egg whites in a stand mixer bowl fitted with a whisk and whip until frothy.
Mix sugar and cornstarch together. Gradually add sugar mixture to the beaten egg whites and continue beating until mixture is glossy and forms stiff peaks. Add in vinegar and vanilla or peppermint extract, and beat until just mixed in, scraping as necessary.
Drizzle about a third of the cooled chocolate over the meringue, using a butter knife to make one or two through the top third of the meringue. Simple is better, just a quick cut through any big, huge dollops of chocolate is all that is needed.
Working quickly, using a two tablespoon scoop, scoop in a manner that starts just before a drizzle of chocolate and ends after (So chocolate will show more prominently at the top.) Make about 10, then repeat the drizzling and scooping.
Place fairly closely on baking sheet (you’ll want about 17 on a sheet, so 3 across, five down, leaving room at the bottom edge for an extra two to be squeezed in.)
Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until tops are set for a chewier meringue. Add an addition few minutes for a meringue that is crispier all the way through.
Store in an airtight container after completely cool.
- Meringue whips better when there’s no trace of fat in the mixing bowl or beaters. Make sure they’re clean and if in doubt, wipe down with a little vinegar.
- Eggs whites should be bought to room temperature or be slightly warm if possible, but isn’t strictly necessary. Zap in the microwave for 15 to 20 seconds.
- A two tablespoon scoop will give a cookie that is about 2 inches across & 2 inches high. Work quickly or the last of them will be flatter and spread.
- These are done when the tops are firm, but may be baked a few minutes longer if you’d like a crisper, less chewy cookie.
- May be piped. Dollop a cup of the meringue, layer with chocolate, add another cup, then layer with chocolate. Repeat till meringue is gone.
- To melt chocolate, place in a small microwave proof bowl. Microwave for one minute, then stir. Continue to microwave in 30 second increments, stirring after each, until chocolate is nearly smooth, then stir. A butter knife works well for stirring. If chocolate is melted first and not allowed to get too hot, it should be cool by the time the meringue is whipped.
- For a smoother, less dry chocolate in the cookie, mix the melted chocolate with 2 tablespoons of heavy cream.