Saturday, January 16, 2010

Chemistry Experiment

Good morning!
I have mentioned my fascination with egg whites before. Do you remember? . . .no? That's ok.

So I have a fascination with egg whites.

Speed and lack of required brain power were the top two reasons for selecting these cookies at 7:00 am. As time pressed as I was, I can still allow myself the five minutes to watch the mixer do its thing. The eggs go from yellow and liquid, to stark white and glossy before your eyes. Magic!

Today, I discovered the difference between meringue candy and cookies. I doubled my egg whites and nuts, added a little extra chocolate, but kept the measurements of cream of tartar, salt, and vanilla the same.

Why? No reason, just sometimes we're a little kooky at 7:00 am.

If you've ever had pavlova or meringue cookies before, you know the surface is smooth, firm and crackly, with an interior that is spongy and marshmallowish. These babies baked up fairly firm but remained on the gooey, sticky side- much more like candy than a cookie.

The answer to your question is- that magic is the work of the cream of tartar. Being a stabilizing agent for the egg whites, (which have no acidity to them), more was needed to accommodate the double dose and make a cookie. (P.S. I didn't like chemistry much in high school. Maybe I should have paid more attention back then, I could have been a chemist . . . or they should have taught food chemistry.)
With the extra cream of tartar, you'll have the cookie meringues; leave it out and you're making candy. Which is better? Each has their place, it depends on the result you're seeking. Mine stuck to my finger as I was eating it- no holding required! Fun for kids or a casual gathering, not so appropriate for a fancy dinner party.

If you like simplicity, make these very plain without chocolate or nuts. If you prefer exciting (I do, at least when it comes to my food), throw them both in. I actually used homemade granola in place of the nuts- this was fantastic, adding some oats and coconut to the mix. If you don't have granola, use toasted and finely chopped almonds, pecans, or walnuts.

*Set out the egg whites in advance so they come to room temperature. You can use my routine: wake up, stumble into the kitchen and crack the whites into the mixer bowl. Cover with plastic wrap. Go workout for 1 hour. Come back and continue baking preparations.
Nutty Chocolate Meringues (candy version)
(makes 30)

4 room temperature egg whites
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup sugar
8 ounces dark chocolate chips, finely chopped
1/2 cup finely chopped granola or toasted nuts

Preheat the oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

In an electric stand mixer, beat the egg whites until they become foamy. Add the salt, cream of tartar, and vanilla, and beat until it holds soft peaks and just starts to look a little solid. Add the sugar slowly and continue beating until the mixture is very stiff and super glossy. Stop the mixture, remove the bowl, and fold in the chocolate and nuts with a spatula until incorporated. Spoon the batter onto the prepared baking sheets and bake for 25 minutes, rotating the pans halfway through, until light gold in color and solid.

Let cool on the pan for 5 minutes before moving the parchment to a cooling rack. After 10 minutes, remove each candy from the parchment to cool complete on a rack. Store in an airtight container.

~ Dedicated to Sharon, Jeff, Grace, Shannon, Sherry, Johanna, Julie, and Andrew ~



Erica said...

How fun. Looks like your experiment turned out well!! I love meringue cookies so I bet I would really enjoy these. Hope the weather is nice out there and that ya'll are having a great weekend

Unknown said...

ooh, the granola is a great addition to these! i haven't made them in too long :)

i used to love math, but i have to double-check myself after halving recipes! i once made muffins where i halved everything but the baking powder... ick!