As beach and vacation season approaches, it seems like everyone is trying to watch portions and cut calories wherever possible. To those devoted souls, I salute you! ...I have no idea how you do it. I really try to eat a balanced diet, but rely more on how I feel than what the labels say. For example, if I have Razzy Fresh for lunch, I'll have a plate of steamed broccoli for dinner. (And then possibly followed that with a late-night stop at another Razzy location. Gulp.) All about balance, or something like that :)
But, I absolutely couldn't stand to cut out a sweet treat now and again and especially not baking. Summers are always tough because having an oven on all afternoon will send the temperature in my apartment well above 80 degrees (gah!), so while I cut down, sometimes I bite the bullet and go ahead anyway. And the recent Lenten season was tough, too, but I opted to bake and immediately deliver the goods to others. It's not just the final products that I love (oh how I do love them!), but the process of creating something with my hands from which myself and others will receive great joy.
So, rather than cutting out baking, how about cutting out the butter and oil?
No! Don't go! I swear, it's only just this once. But you won't even miss it. That's the joy of a meringue cookie! I totally prefer to call them cloud cookies, though. Growing up, a friend and her family referred to them and I thought the name was so cute that it's stuck with me ever since then.
Whipped egg whites and sugar, with the help of a little ingredient called cream of tartar, turn out the lightest cookies you'll ever encounter. Both physically and calorically. Out of curiosity, I calculated and each cookie clocks in around 35 calories. That's it!
And they're pretty fun to make. It's like having a magic show right in your kitchen. Watching the egg whites go from foamy to fluffy ("soft peaks" in kitchen speak) to little mountains of chocolate-dotted meringue!
And, once baked, they are crispy and sweet and melt in your mouth (a bit like cotton candy). Little puffs from Heaven, I tell you! An extended pinky isn't necessary for eating, but it sure makes the experience more enjoyable. Oh, and don't worry about these being too dainty. A variety of coworkers and friends devoured these without hesitation... and without overwhelming feelings of guilt. Win win!
(adapted in parts from Joy of Baking and Smitten Kitchen)
-makes 35-40 cookies
A few notes: Not sure what to do with those egg yolks? Make coconut cream pie! I had whites left from the pie adventure and stored them in a sealed container in the fridge for 5 days before I made the cookies. Also, if you're feeling particularly spunky, feel free to add a little food coloring, some chopped nuts, or use a piping bag and star tip to make some very attractive little cookies
4 egg whites, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup mini chocolate chips or chopped regular size chips (optional)
Preheat oven to 225F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Beat egg whites until foamy. Add salt, cream of tartar, and vanilla, and beat mixture again until it holds soft peaks. Add the sugar, gradually, beating the batter until it is stiff. Fold in the chocolate chips. Spoon or pipe batter in 2 to 2 1/2 inch rounds onto parchment paper-lined baking sheets. Bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours until tops of cookies are firm to a light touch.
Store between sheets of parchment paper in a sealed container for up to one week.