How do you encourage graduate students to show up to any event? By making them cookies of course! This week it’s my turn, and as the speaker eats gluten-free, I thought I’d make a cookie held up by nothing more than air, instead of that complicated flour concoction so prevalent in gluten-free cooking. There are actually quite a few easy gluten-free “flours”, such as almond flour or other nut flours, but sometimes it’s nice to skip the flour entirely. Meringues take a bit of forethought, which I haven’t quite mastered: they take 1 1/2 to 2 hours to bake (in a 225 degrees F oven), so now they won’t be out of the oven until after midnight. But who cares, because they just melt in your mouth like slightly sweet, slightly chocolaty, slightly Grand Marnier-ey clouds with a crispy exterior and an almost spongy interior. Below is my recipe adapted from The Joy of Cooking‘s “Meringue I (Granulated Sugar)”. And don’t worry if you love them and want to play around with different kinds, because Joy also has “Meringue II (Granulated Sugar and Powdered Sugar)”, “Warm-Method Meringue”, and of course “Meringue Mushrooms”. If you’re curious about the meringue mushrooms, then you should really look in their inventor’s book (another favorite): Maida Heatters Book of Great Chocolate Desserts.
Chocolate Grand Marnier Meringues
Egg whites from 4 large eggs (about 1/2 cup)
1 teaspoon Grand Marnier
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
3/4 or 1 cup granulated sugar (I like mine less sweet)
2-4 tablespoons cocoa powder
Special equipment: parchment paper, electric hand mixer
Preheat the oven to 225 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper (it’s really worth it for how easily the cookies come off the paper). Put the egg whites, Grand Marnier, and cream of tartar in a large mixing bowl and beat with an electric hand mixer until the egg whites have soft peaks. Mix the cocoa powder with the sugar, and spoon it into the egg whites spoonful by spoonful, while continuing to beat the mixture. Beat until stiff peaks have formed. Plop the very thick batter onto the lined baking sheets and bake in the oven for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Let the meringues cool for 10 minutes before devouring.
The first time I made these, I didn’t use cream of tartar, and the meringues still turned out delicious! I may have had to bake them a little longer to make them stiffer, and I may have had to beat them for longer before they held stiff peaks, but so it goes. While we’re discussing substitutions, vanilla extract was the flavoring of choice in the original recipe, but I’m guessing that any liqueur would work wonderfully.