What a sweet little treat these cookies have become for my family. I love the idea for making use of extra egg whites and turning them into these beauties. These cookies are reminiscent of southern mothers, grandmothers and aunties and their nostalgic kitchens and traditions. I have always had a curiosity of all things southern, from cuisine, culture, southern hospitality. I made my first trip to New Orleans when I was in college and was amazed by the food, music, architecture and just the general vibe and mystique. My group of friends and I had decided to road trip our way down from Denver, making our way through Kansas City, Memphis and Jackson Mississippi just to name a few. What an amazingly different topography to take in, such a contrast to the Rockies and high desert I was used to seeing, the air being much warmer, humid and the magical appearance of fireflies in the evenings. Arriving in New Orleans and the French Quarter you could feel the pulse of the city, music trailing out of bars and outdoor cafes. The next revelation was the food, I've been lucky to grow up in a foodie family that loved cuisines from other regions and having international travel to back up some pretty fabulous food experiences myself. New Orleans was something else for me, every meal was something new, beignets, Chicory coffee, jambalaya, etoufee, maque choux, po' boy the list could go on and on. I remember thinking, "how is it that I have never made my way here?" From that spiraled an obsession with all things Southern, starting with authors, Faulkner, Alice Walker, Zora Neale Hurston and one of my all time faves Carson McCullers were making it into my reading rotation. My fascination moved into food and culture, on the hunt for vintage cookbooks anywhere from small town book stores to LA flea markets that represented southern cuisine and traditions. Reading about cakes and pies that won blue ribbons at county fairs and the secrets to the best biscuits or the many things one can pickle! Whenever I read a recipe from one of these treasures it's almost as if a story unfolds of time and place, even a mood.
These forgotten cookie are not so easily forgotten, the name derived from the fact that you turn your oven off after five minutes and let them set up over night. When I make these cookies an image comes to mind of a hot summer evening, too hot too turn the oven on for long periods of time, the day being busy with family/friends and a loved one taking the time to quickly whip these up for an afternoon treat the following day. Seriously what a delightful thing to wake up to and have with coffee. There are many variations of these meringues, this one has toasted pecans, dried cherries and chocolate chunks with a sprinkle of vanilla infused sea salt. Can you imagine yourself eating one of these? Maybe with afternoon tea or maybe you are one of those "ladies" who lunch or just maybe these are the perfect treat to stash away for a picnic after an afternoon of berry picking.
Adapted from Food and Wine, Sarah Grueneberg
2 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon cream or tartar
3/4 cup sugar
1 vanilla bean pod scraped
3/4 cup bittersweet chocolate chunks
3/4 cup chopped toasted pecans
1/4 cup dried cherries
Tahitian vanilla sea salt
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar at medium speed until soft peaks form, 1 to 2 minutes. With the machine on, gradually add the sugar. Add the scrapings of the vanilla bean and beat at high speed until stiff peaks form, about 3 minutes. Using a spatula, scrape down the side and bottom of the bowl and fold in chocolate chunks, pecans and cherries.
Using 2 spoons, drop 2 inch balls of meringue mixture onto a large foil lined baking sheet. Sprinkle the cookies with the vanilla sea salt and bake for 5 minutes. Turn the oven off and leave the cookies in for at least 8 hours or overnight before serving.