These unusual, tempting chocolate meringue cutout cookies are a hit whenever I serve them, but especially on Valentine's Day. They are adapted from a 1909 edition of The Good Housekeeping Everyday Cookbook. Because the original recipe was a bit sugary for modern tastes, I've made several changes to reduce the sweetness. I've also added a little vanilla to round out the flavor. Additionally, I've provided a baking temperature to replace the cook's thoughtful, but for most modern readers unenlightening, guidance: "The oven should not be as cool as for meringues, but not quite so hot as for sponge cakes."
These cookies have a pleasing chewy texture, an intense chocolate flavor, and, due to the way the meringue bakes, a puffy, layered look that always provokes comments. As appealing as they are, it's surprising they aren't a standard in cookie bakers' repertoires today. Now, perhaps they will be.
3-1/2 ounces unsweetened chocolate, broken up or coarsely chopped
2-2/3 cups powdered sugar (divided), plus more if needed
2 tablespoons unsweetened American-style cocoa powder
1/3 cup egg whites (about 3 large egg whites), at room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Sugar, for topping (optional)
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Line several baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a small, microwave-safe bowl, microwave the chocolate on 100-percent power for 1 minute. Stir well. Continue microwaving on 50-percent power, stirring at 30-second intervals. Stop microwaving before the chocolate completely melts and let the residual heat finish the job. (Alternatively, in a small, heavy saucepan, melt the chocolate over lowest heat, stirring frequently; be very careful not to burn. Immediately remove from the heat.) Let cool to warm.
In a large bowl, with an electric mixer on low speed, beat together the chocolate, about one-third of the powdered sugar, and the cocoa powder until well blended. Gradually add about one-third of the egg whites and beat until evenly incorporated. Add another one-third of the powdered sugar, then another one-third of the egg whites, and beat until smooth. Repeat the process, adding the remaining one-third of the powdered sugar, then the remaining one-third of the egg whites, and the vanilla. Increase the speed to high and beat for 2 minutes more, or until very smooth and well blended. Let the dough stand for 5 minutes to allow the egg whites to be more fully absorbed. At this point, if the dough seems dry and crumbly, beat in 1 to 2 teaspoons water until it holds together. If the dough seems sticky and wet, beat in 1 to 2 tablespoons more powdered sugar to stiffen it just slightly. Beat the dough for 1 minute more, or until very well blended.
Divide the dough in half. Place each portion between large sheets of wax paper. Roll out the portions a scant 1/4 inch thick; check the underside of the dough and smooth out any wrinkles that form. Working with one portion at a time, gently peel away, then pat one sheet of wax paper back into place. Flip the dough over, then peel off and discard the second sheet. Using a 2-to-2-1/4-inch or similar small, heart-shaped cutter, cut out the cookies; if the cutter sticks, occasionally dip it into powdered sugar, tapping off the excess. Using a spatula, carefully transfer the cookies to the baking sheets, spacing about 1-1/4 inches apart. Reroll any dough scraps. Continue cutting out the cookies until all the dough is used.
Bake the cookies, one sheet at a time, in the middle of the oven for 9 to 13 minutes, or until dry on the surface but soft in the centers when very lightly pressed. Slide the cookies, still attached to the parchment, onto a wire rack. If desired, immediately sprinkle the tops of the cookies with sugar. Let stand until completely cooled. Carefully peel the cookies from the parchment.
Store in an airtight container for up to 2 days or freeze for up to 1 month.
Be sure to use room-temperature egg whites. Cold egg whites will lower the temperature of the chocolate and cause it to set in small bits, which will yield a lumpy dough. To warm up the egg whites in a hurry, place them in a small bowl set in a slightly larger bowl of barely hot tap water.
The All-American Cookie Book
by Nancy Baggett
Publication Date: October, 2001
Hardcover, 395 pages
Full-color photographs throughout
Recipe reprinted by permission.
This page created January 2002
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