|Chocolate Dipped Peanut Butter Meringue Cookies - recipe in post|
Leave it to me to take a wonderful, naturally fat-free treat and put a swirl of peanut butter through it and dip it in chocolate. I swear, I'll do it to anything. "Hey, that's a nice recipe you have there... have you considered adding peanut butter?"
Sometimes, when I'm bummed, I remind myself of all the people who have it worse than me... like those without food, shelter, or medicine... or people with peanut allergies. (Yes, I realize I'm a horrible person to suggest those things can be lumped into the same category. Moving on.)
I wrote about meringue cookies when I first made them about a year ago. I had never been a big fan, hence why I hadn't whipped up a batch before, but they're an old favorite of The Fiancé's. Since then, he's become a bit of a meringue cookie wizard... I leave him alone in the kitchen and next thing I know the house smells of cookies. And you know what? I love them. I start sneaking them out of the oven long before they're done, and a batch never lasts more than a day or two between the two of us. He's turned me into a Meringue-Cookie Monster!
As I mentioned before, I've been known to put peanut butter in just about anything. Adding it to meringue cookies poses a bit of a dilemma, though. See, meringues are nothing more than eggwhites, whipped with sugar and air... and peanut butter is primarily fat - the arch nemesis of eggwhites. Even a speck of grease can ruin a meringue mid-whip. So how is to done? Carefully!
I had seen this done with nutella, so I knew it had to be possible. The trick is to have your peanut butter soft and smooth (perhaps warmed slightly, but not hot), and to fold gently into an already sturdy meringue. I cut my peanut butter into the meringue with a rubber spatula, aiming for a streaky, marbled effect. This deflated the meringue some, but it held up just fine for piping and baking.
Once they were finished, I dipped the cookies in chocolate, then chopped peanuts. The ones you see in the photos, those are the ones that made it to the dipping faze. The rest never made it past the 90 minute mark in the oven. I tell myself, if I keep opening the oven door they'll just take longer... but that's never stopped me. Still warm and a little gooey inside, it's pretty much impossible not to go back for another, and another, and another...
Recipe Notes: when I first made meringue cookies, I went through a bit of trial and error. The first batch I made was loose and gloppy due to a lack of cream of tartar. I was also using corn starch to help stabilize the meringue when baking, but have since found it isn't necessary - just be sure your bowl and beaters are thoroughly cleaned before you begin.
I've also changed a few other things from my first recipe, such as reducing the amount of sugar, and using a bit of turbinado (raw, unprocessed sugar that still has some molasses in it). This is what The Fiancé likes to use, and I can see why - the flavor is incredible! When he makes these cookies, he folds a few handfuls of chocolate chips into the meringue before baking... I swear, they taste just like chocolate chip cookies, except they're light as air! If you'd like to make them his way, simply replace the peanut butter with chocolate chips, and dollop your cookies with a spoon instead of piping them (or use a very, very large piping tip so the chocolate doesn't get jammed!).
Peanut Butter Meringue Cookies
Adapted from my first meringue's, here - inspired by these meringues, here
4 large egg whites, room temperature
1/2 tsp. cream of tartar
1/4 tsp. salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup + 2 TBSP turbinado sugar* (or more granulated sugar)
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter (or nutella, or other nut butter)
Optional, for dipping:
6-8oz. dark chocolate, melted
1 cup roasted/salted peanuts, finely chopped (or hazelnuts, or other)
*Turbinado sugar is raw, unprocessed granulated sugar. It might be possible to substitute some light brown sugar in its place, but I haven't tried this myself. If you aren't sure, or can't find turbinado sugar, you can replace it in the recipe for more granulated.
Preheat oven to 200f., and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. If you plan to pipe your cookies, prepare your piping bag and set aside.
Before you make your meringue, be sure all of your equipment is clean. A glass or metal bowl is best, and you'll also need your beaters or whisk attachment. Wash everything thoroughly with soap and water, then fill your bowl with warm water, and a splash of white vinegar - this should eliminate any grease, and help to ensure you get a nice strong meringue. Swish your beaters around inside the bowl, then rinse and dry everything thoroughly.
Add both of the sugars to the bowl of your food processor, and spin until very finely ground, almost powdered. Depending on your processor, this may take a few minutes. Set aside.
To your clean and dry bowl, add the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt. Beat on high until they just start to become white and fluffy. While mixing, add the sugar a few tablespoons at a time. Once all of the sugar has been added, the meringue should be thick, fluffy, and glossy. If not, keep beating until it is. Mix in the vanilla extract.
If your nut butter is particularly stiff or solid, warm it in the microwave for 20-30 seconds and stir until smooth. You do not want it to be hot!. Add the nut butter to your meringue and fold 3-4 times with a rubber spatula. Aim for a streaky, marbled look. Do not over-mix!
Pipe or dollop onto your cookie sheets, and place on the center and lower racks of your preheated oven. Bake for 1 1/2 - 2 1/2 hours. With meringue cookies, your goal is to dry them slowly, more than cook them. The time will vary greatly depending on the size of your cookies, and the humidity in the air. If they're still gooey or gummy in the center, pop them back in the oven.
When the cookies are almost done, turn off the oven but leave the trays in until mostly cooled. This will finish drying the meringues, and also help to keep them from cracking. Meanwhile, melt chocolate over a double boiler, or in 20 second intervals in the microwave, stirring in between until smooth. Chop nuts.
If any of your cookies have made it this far, dip them in the chocolate, then in the nuts, and set back on the parchment lined tray. Let sit until the chocolate has set, or place the trays in the fridge or freezer for a couple minutes. Enjoy!