Christmas and treat festivities, Day 2
December 13, 2016
How many meringue cookies can one make with 18 egg whites?
Sadly, I can only give you the highly scientific, if perhaps slightly inaccurate, measure of “a metric assload.” Which is to say, I ain’t real sure.
In point of fact, I have made only eight dozen meringue cookies so far. That would be (a) because I initially separated the egg whites into two batches for this very purpose, and (b) because I damn well got tired of the first batch after eight dozen and threw the rest of that stuff away.
Dear Sweet Baby Jesus, y’all. This is a LOT of meringue cookies.
How it was, was, like this. I was making this eggnog. And it calls for lots and lots of egg yolks. Nature and chickens being what they are, for each and every egg yolk in God’s great big beautiful world, there’s an egg white. And what in the name of all that’s holy are you going to do with 18 egg whites when you’ve used the corresponding 18 egg yolks in making eggnog?
Well…you can make meringue cookies. And I have done so, and will continue to do so for another day. Maybe two.
I had the presence of mind, in an astonishing instance of forethought, to think about meringue cookies when I was contemplating the making of the eggnog, so I set about egg separating with this in mind. Yolks in the stand mixer’s bowl, whites in a stainless mixing bowl. Let them sit off to one side while I played with grain alcohol and made a half-gallon plus a cup of eggnog.
Do you know what volume of egg whites 18 eggs will produce? It will be in the neighborhood of 2 1/3 cups. I was curious, myownself. I measured.
In another surprising, if you are familiar with my cooking exploits, or at least surprising to me, instance of forethought, when I had contemplated the making of meringue cookies last night as I was compiling my grocery list, “Self?” I said to myself. “It would be right cute if you were to food-color half those cookies green, and dust them with red sanding sugar, and color the other half red, and dust them with green sanding sugar. It would look plumb Christmas-y.”
Self amazes me sometimes with her creativity.
Anyway, when Self and I went shopping, we remembered, in a third surprising instance of forethought, to put sanding sugar on the list, and to actually buy it (that’s four instances, if you’re counting). So once we got the eggnog made, we ventured off into meringue cookie making. First, we consulted the Interwebs for a recipe for meringue cookies, as we remembered roughly what we’d done to make them before, but not exactly.
A meringue cookie is a simple creature. It’s about 1 part egg white, 4 parts sugar, and a dozen parts air. Specifically, a small batch calls for two egg whites, 1/8 teaspoon each salt and cream of tartar, 1/2 tsp flavoring, and 3/4 cup sugar. I decided real quick I’d want to do that recipe in stages if I was talking in terms of eighteen egg whites, which would make approximately, I estimated, a Big Damn Batch. I wound up with, roughly:
- 1 cup egg whites (about 8 or 9)
- 3 cups sugar
- 1/2 tsp each salt and cream of tartar
- t tsp flavoring (it could have stood more)
As I was preparing to embark on this adventure, I ran across Problem The First, namely, instances of forethought had failed me and I had no cream of tartar. I started to dash down to the grocery, but decided instead to look at The Interwebs and see what I had that might substitute for same. And lo, I learned I could substitute, one-for-one, white vinegar for cream of tartar.
Hot damn! I’ve GOT white vinegar! We got it goin’ on, now, and it is a successful day, because I Have Learned Something New, and that’s always enough to make a day worthwhile.
And then we encountered Problem the Second, namely, in 61 years I have not yet internalized the immortal truth that one should ALWAYS read the entire recipe, including the directions, before commencing to dump stuff in a bowl.
I had separated my 18 egg whites into two roughly equal portions, one in a stainless bowl, to which I added the vinegar, salt, flavoring (almond) and sugar. About midway through the second cup of sugar, I thought to myself, “Self? I sure hope we weren’t supposed to beat these egg whites before we added the sugar.” And self responded, “Well, sis, if we were, it’s too damn late now.” And self and I finished adding sugar and then read the directions, which specified to whip the egg whites to firm and then gradually add the sugar, and we said in unison, “Well, damn.”
But we figured we’d go ahead and try whipping the dang things, anyway. Started out with the stick blender with the whisk attachment. It took us about 0.6 seconds to determine that wasn’t gonna fly, so we washed out the bowl we’d been mixing eggnog in, and transferred the sugary, still quite liquid yolks to that.
People, can I just tell you, Miz Scarlett, the Kitchenaid stand mixer, well and truly rocks. Those egg whites whipped up like a CHAMP, I tell you. Whisk attachment, high speed, about 10 minutes. Complete with the addition of 24 drops of green food coloring, because I kept adding it and adding it and the best I could get was a right pretty mint green.
The recipe calls for dropping the batter by teaspoonsful onto a parchment-lined cookie sheet, but I was pretty certain that would take way too long, i.e., a good half of my remaining years. So I ladled it all into a gallon ziploc bag — a quite sticky proposition, I might add, best done in proximity to a sink — and clipped off a corner and went to piping meringue.
Three cookie sheets and eight dozen cookies-in-progress later (they bake for 20 minutes at 300), I gave up and threw the bag with the remaining batter in it in the trash. Hush, Grandmama. Those poor kids in China were starving when I was 10, and if they ain’t dead by now, a couple dozen cookies’ worth of meringue ain’t gonna make any difference.
I cannot tell you how proud I am we did not try to do the entire 18 egg whites’ worth today. We will get up in the morning, have a leisurely breakfast, and tackle Christmas-y red meringues with green sanding sugar. We may make more eggnog a little later on, but be assured we’ll either freeze those egg whites or figure out something else to do with them.
Unless, of course, you ‘n y’mama ‘n ’em want to make some meringue cookies. If you do, be sure and let me know.