The first time I made meringue, it wasn't exactly amazing. I didn't really understand why, but it was kind of squishy inside. It wasn't until I read more about the wonderful world of stiff-whipped egg whites that I learned about a little thing called "drying time" that is absolutely necessary to achieve desired meringue texture. This is also where that patience comes in.
In order to whip up perfect meringue cookies, in my humble opinion, I recommend at least 8 hours of drying time. Yeah, I know 8 hours sounds like a long time, but think of the last time you made an icebox pie or a gelatin or anything frozen that required 4, 6, or sometimes a day's worth of time to hang out and achieve greatness. So indulge me the 8 hours. I promise you, you'll find it's worth it.
The other little note about cooking large quantaties of meringue cookies is that you have to watch them. Normally, recipes call for low temperatures for small amounts of time, but with this method I find that the meringues are too under-cooked to ever firm up no matter how long you dry them for. I raised my temperature slightly and increased my time, but I watched them like the tricky bastards they are. The second those puppies got a hint of gold on them and were mostly firm to the touch (like a soft baked cookie) I shut that oven off and let the drying begin folks.
The funny thing about the below recipe is you'll notice I used banana extract. It's because originally I wanted chocolate-chip banana meringue cookies. The cookies never had a hint of banana flavor to them, but I never removed the ingredient for fear it was some magical X factor.
Alright, your turn now:
(makes around 50 cookies)
4 egg whites from X-Large, organic eggs
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
2 tsp GF vanilla extract
2 tsp banana extract
1 1/2 cups evaporated cane sugar (fairtrade if you can)
6 oz of mini chocolate chips (my favorite is Enjoy Life!!!)
Preheat oven on a high temperature, i.e. 400 or 450 F.
In a large bowl, beat the first 5 ingredients together using an electric mixer on low-medium speed, until you reach a soft peak form.
Pour sugar in slowly while beating the mixture until the sugar is incorporated.
Beat carefully until you get stiff peaks (if you remove the beater from the mixture you'll notice a peak that can stand on it's own). Go slower than faster. If you over-beat, the meringue will not come together.
Fold in chocolate chips.Using a tbs, drop meringues on two large cookie sheets lined with parchment paper (use the parchment, trust me)
Place the cookies in the oven reducing the heat to somewhere between 275-350 F, depending on how hot your oven gets. Remember we want to cook them slowly but not at a glacial pace.
Watch your cookies (10, 15, 25 minute marks) and the second you see any golden goodness appearing or if you touch them and the cookies feel like they're firming, turn the oven back up to a high temperature for a moment, close the oven door, then SHUT OFF the oven.
IMPORTANT: If you leave the oven at a high temperature for 8 hours, you will not only burn the meringues, but you will likely burn down your house too.
Let the cookies dry for 8 hours. If after 8 hours for some reason you touch the cookies and they're supersoft, rebake at low heat for 15-30 minutes more and dry for a couple of hours. Repeat until they're complete. The amount of time it takes depends entirely on your oven. Once you make the cookies once, you'll know how to run the show next time.
Even though I try not to eat too much sugar, I do love these little yummies. They're great for portable snacks or to share with friends. Just don't forget to store them in a tight, closed container. Go ahead; dry something else besides your clothes for once.