If you know me, this won’t come as much of a surprise to you, but if you don’t, it’s important to know: I love ice cream.
It is my favorite food; it is the greatest food, one that I wouldn’t mind eating every single day. (Even in the winter. Who says you can’t eat ice cream in the winter?) My ice cream maker and I are inseparable; I buy heavy cream every time I go to the grocery store; my copy of The Perfect Scoop is one of the most dogeared cookbooks I own. There aren’t any ice cream recipes on the blog yet, but just you wait — I have a million of them.
One of the main benefits of making ice cream all the time is, not surprisingly, getting to eat ice cream all the time. One of the main disadvantages, however, is all the egg whites I am eternally stuck with.
Egg whites are like the flavor packet that comes with a package of ramen noodles: sometimes you want them both, sometimes you just want the noodles, but you never really want it by itself. Sure, there are lots of cool things that egg whites can do, like make flavorless cakes and substandard omelettes and a big mountain of foam that deflates when you look at it, but really, it’s the yolk — the fatty, flavorful, nutritious yolk — that is the real star.
I’ve slowly been coming up with ways to use up egg whites, because as lame as they are, I hate the idea of them going to waste. When I’m feeling fancy, I’ll use the egg whites to make ice cream cones (recipe coming eventually), but that’s a lot of work and something I’m definitely not doing every time I make ice cream. Coconut macaroons are also good, as is angel food cake (kind of), but after that I was at a loss. What else am I going to do with egg whites — make meringues? Those chalky, chewy, flavorless hunks of technicolor sugar masquerading as a “fancy French cookies”? Certainly not.
But then I got to thinking. What if there was a way to use up lots of egg whites and make meringues that are actually, craveably good? After that challenge to myself, I became obsessed. How does one make a meringue that one is genuinely excited to eat? My initial thoughts:
Chocolate. Definitely chocolate. Lots of chocolate.
Instead of piping them out into delicate, colorful shapes, make them ugly. Pretty food is annoyingly deceptive. Ugly food is almost always tastier.
I decided to go with my instincts and concocted a recipe for the ugliest, chocolatiest meringue cookies imaginable. When I pulled them out of the oven, boy, were they ugly. But considering the ingredients (sugar, cocoa, egg whites, that’s all??), I didn’t have much hope for their taste.
And then I bit into one.
It tasted exactly like a brownie. How on earth could it taste exactly like a brownie?? It didn’t have any butter, or flour, or any of the things that made brownies or other baked goods delicious. It defied logic. It defied science. It defied everything I thought I knew about egg whites.
Perhaps I’ve been too harsh on them.
Makes about 3 dozen cookies
½ cup (2 ounces) confectioner’s sugar
¼ cup (¾ ounce) cocoa powder
⅓ cup (2 ounces) bittersweet chocolate, shaved or finely chopped
4 large egg whites (4 ounces), at room temperature
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
½ cup (3 ½ ounces) sugar
Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a small bowl, mix together the confectioner’s sugar, cocoa, and bittersweet chocolate.
Put the egg whites in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and begin mixing on medium-low speed. Add the cream of tartar and salt and continue whipping.
Once the egg whites start to foam, increase the mixer speed to medium high-and begin to add the sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time. Continue whipping the egg whites until the sugar has dissolved and the egg mixture is silky and shiny and holds stiff peaks. Right before you turn off the mixer, add the vanilla extract and mix to combine. Turn off the mixer and fold in the cocoa powder mixture as gently as possible.
Drop the meringue batter by the tablespoon onto the prepared baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between each drop. It’s OK if they’re ugly — that’s kind of the point.
Bake for 10 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 200 degrees F and bake for 1 hour more. After removing the meringues from the oven, make sure to let them cool in a dry, cool location. They’ll keep in an airtight container at room temperature for 2 – 4 days.