Every year, my Ma sets aside one December day to bake Christmas cookies. In 12 short hours, she produces dozens upon dozens of almond crescents, pinwheels, rum balls, pfeffernusse, and the holy grail of holiday treats: peanut butter and jelly bars. Once she's finished, she passes out on the couch, leaving the family to descend upon the kitchen like so many sugar-starved cookie vultures. It's never the healthiest of evenings, but hell if it ain't one of the best.
So, I'll be the first to admit: substituting low-cal Christmas cookies for the real thing is morally akin to stabbing Santa with a rusty fork. What's nice about meringue cookies, though, is they're not supposed to replace anything. Instead, they're intended as delightfully airy add-ons to your standard cookie cache. The calorie count (10 to 15 per meringue) is completely incidental.
Other nice things about meringue cookies: the entire batch costs under a dollar, each serving is totally fat-free, and the flavor can be customized to whatever extract you have on hand. (Here, it's peppermint). Plus, they're feather-light and undeniably cute.
If you decide to make them yourself, know that excess humidity and/or underbeating the batter may result in flat cookies. Additionally, your mileage may vary on the number of servings. My batch yielded 44 medium-ish meringues, but anywhere between 30 and 50 sounds reasonable.
Here's looking at you, Christmas cookies. Whatever your calorie content, you'll always have a place in my gastrointestinal system.
- 2 egg whites
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract (optional)
- 4 drops green food coloring (optional)
Heat oven to 225°F and line two cookie sheets with aluminum foil.
Spoon mixture into a plastic bag and squeeze out most of the air. Cut off one small corner of the bag and pipe cookie-sized dollops of meringue on to cookie sheets, about 1 inch apart. (If done correctly, the cookies will stay in those exact shapes when finished.)