Cherry Almond Meringue Cookies

It’s funny how you can go away on vacation to relax and unwind, only to return home more tired than you were when you left.

My family and I just spent a week vacationing in Kissimmee, Florida. And I’m exhausted. I have two boys who think rest is for chumps. They dragged me and my husband to Disney World, Legoland, a water park, 32-hole putt-putt and an arcade. I never got to take the nap I fantasized about–lying on a hammock, swaying in the breeze, enjoying the warmth of the sun. Instead I got to stand in long lines, listen to kids whine about it being too hot, and spend our children’s college fund on food at the parks.

We drove to Florida to avoid spending money on a rental car. (That will never happen again.) It was 8 hours going and 11 hours coming back. We must have stopped every 15 miles on the way home so someone could use the bathroom again.  At least there were some nice hotels along the way. The Marriott Courtyard in Jacksonville was my favorite. (FYI: On road trips we only take bathroom breaks at hotels. When my kids were babies the idea of taking them into a gas station or rest stop bathroom was too traumatic for me so I started stopping at hotels with them. Even though they’re older now we’ve become accustom to hotel restrooms, which are clean and lack the creepy people hanging around like at alternative bathroom facilities.)

When we finally arrived home, I was too exhausted to do anything. And I knew I had a blog post to do since I hadn’t done one in almost 2 weeks. I wanted to contribute to the cookie exchange happening in the blogoshpere during this Christmas holiday season. However, I also wanted to sleep in and not be bothered with going grocery shopping, especially with all the crazy holiday shoppers roaming around reaking havoc on the city.

Since we were on vacation for a week my cupboards were bare. I didn’t even have flour or butter. (That was a first.)

How do you make cookies without flour and butter?

Determined not to leave my house, I put a few of the ingredients I already had on the counter to get inspired–chocolate chips, vanilla, sliced almonds, dried cherries, oatmeal, coconut and egg whites I found in the freezer. That’s when meringue cookies popped into my head.

I’d made them once before and I wasn’t too impressed.  They tasted blah, like something was missing.  (Butter and flour, maybe?) My husband and oldest son liked the meringue cookies so I decided to make them just so I’d have at least one Christmas cookie posted. I gave the meringue a more life by adding chocolate chips, dried cherries, and sliced almonds.  A little kosher salt also did the trick.

The cookies turned out better than the first batch I’d made a few weeks ago.  They were crisp and melted in your mouth. Each bite had something different in it–one bite had a chocolate chip, the next had  a dried cherry or almonds. Making these cookies was simple, but they had my oven on lock down for about 18 hours.

I had a couple for breakfast this morning with a cup of coffee. When my youngest son saw me eating them he whined, “How come you get to eat cookies for breakfast?” I popped a piece in my mouth and took a sip of coffee and said, “Because it’s my house.” He’s a smart boy so he knew to leave it at that.

With the cookies made and this post completed I’m finally going to take that nap I didn’t get to take while on vacation. And I’ll dream about that hammock at the beach with my name written on it.

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas and an awesome New Year!

Meringue Cookies
Makes about 2 dozen cookies

3 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips or finely chopped semisweet chocolate
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup finely chopped almond slivers, crushed

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Beat the egg whites on medium speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until foamy . Add the cream of tartar and salt, and beat until fluffy. Add the sugar gradually, about 3 tablespoons at a time. When 1/2 of the sugar has been added, mix in the vanilla. Add the remaining sugar.

Increase the speed to medium high and beat until all of the sugar is dissolved and the meringue holds a stiff peak. It will be very shiny and tight.

Gently fold in the chocolate chips, nuts and cherries.

Use 2 teaspoons to scoop meringue onto the prepared cookie sheets, push a teaspoonful of meringue from the tip of 1 teaspoon with the back of the other teaspoon onto the lined baking sheets, leaving 1-inch of space between cookies.

Bake the cookies for 1-1/2 to 1-3/4 hours until pale and crisp, rotating halfway through baking.

Leave the cookies (undisturbed) in the oven overnight, or until they are crisp and dry.


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