31 Days of Cookies: Sleeping Almond Meringue Cookies
This year, we're celebrating the season with a month of nonstop cookies. For the 24th day of cookies, 'twas the night before Christmas, when all through the house, we were channeling a good night sleep with Sleeping Almond Meringue Cookies.
I think what I miss the most about believing in Santa Claus is falling asleep on Christmas Eve and knowing that, in what feels like the blink of any eye, I’ll be under the tree, ripping into boxes and finishing off cookies left out the night before. Now that I’m the one hiding the presents and baking the cookies, the lure of sleeping in while someone else does the work is that much more appealing.
It’s also why I love making these sleeping almond meringues. For years, I’d been trying to make my grandparents' meringue cookies, which were always crisp on the outside but creamy in the center. The recipe, a straightforward combination of egg whites and sugar, was too simple for them to write down, and I couldn't seem to replicate it. Most recipes I found gave helpful tips on how to completely dry out the meringues, which is exactly what I didn't want to do, and the opposite of what I remembered.
Finally, a friend shared her own grandmother’s recipe. The meringues are piped onto baking sheets, then placed in a scorching-hot oven that is immediately turned off. Though they were wonderful with just a little bit of lime juice and vanilla for flavor, I couldn’t resist the added crunch of toasted almonds. Left on their own overnight, they take on a pearly sheen that gives way to a taffy-like center — just as long as you can keep yourself from peeking in the oven until the next day.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread the almonds on a baking sheet in a single layer. Toast until fragrant, stirring frequently to avoid burning the almonds, 5 to 7 minutes. Set aside to cool on a rack. If piping the meringues, roughly chop the almonds.
Raise the oven temperature to 450 degrees F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick liners.
Using a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, or a hand beater, beat the egg whites on a low setting until foamy, about 1 minute. Increase the speed to medium low and add the sugar one tablespoon at a time until the meringue holds soft peaks, about 5 minutes. Add the lime juice and vanilla extract. Gradually increase the speed to high and continue to beat the meringue until it forms glossy, firm peaks, an additional 3 to 5 minutes. Gently fold in the cooled almonds.
Pipe the meringues onto the baking sheets in the desired shape using a pastry bag, or drop small mounds onto the sheets with a spoon. Place both baking sheets in the oven, close the door and immediately turn the oven off. Leave the oven unopened for at least 8 hours and up to 12 hours.
Click here for the printable Sleeping Almond Meringue Cookies recipe.
Ana Sofia Peláez covers the spectrum of Spanish and Latin American cuisine on her blog, hungrysofia.com . From the rich smells and flavors of the Cuban food she grew up with to modern Peruvian causas, hearty Brazilian feijodas and delicate Mexican flor de calabaza soup, she’s always looking for her next great meal.