Not to dismiss pie, but cookies, now there's a solid reason to love the holidays. As we're already thick into Target-red holiday commercial reruns and yet another destined-for-the-sale-bin Christmas ornament, we really would rather be in the kitchen baking cookies. A lot of cookies. And so we're bringing you Twelve Cookie Recipes, give or take, over the next few weeks. Biscotti, sablés, tuiles, shortbread, bar cookies. Recipes from pastry chefs, new baking books, and who knows, maybe even the pie queen of L.A. Because a cookie is really just pie with the filling tucked somewhere within those floury mounds. Or so we like to think.
We'll kick things off with these peanut butter meringues with hazelnuts and chocolate from the new Chewy, Gooey, Crispy, Crunchy baking book by cookie and chocolate queen (god love her) Alice Medrich. Consider them "Grandma Got Run Over By A Reindeer" therapy. Turn the page for the recipe.
Squid Ink Note: This is one of the few cookie books we've seen in a long time worth keeping (What's not to like about a book organized by texture? Add in Alice Medrich and we're sold).
If you're feeling generous but not particularly flush this holiday season, you could make a few batches of the meringues to dole out to your friends with a copy of the book (all of $17 on Amazon). Actually, maybe this is the sort of baking book you want to keep to yourself. No need for others to think those cornmeal-dried fruit biscotti and gooey turtle bars weren't entirely your idea.
Chunky Peanut Butter Clouds
From: Chewy, Gooey, Crispy, Crunchy by Alice Medrich.
Note: Per Medrich: "Make sure you use natural peanut butter -- yes, the kind you have to stir in order to blend in the oil. It's pesky, but the other kind is too sweet, hard to disperse in the meringue, and just generally not as good. Trust me."
Makes: 30-36 cookies
3 egg whites, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
2/3 cup (4.625 ounces) sugar
1/3 cup (3 ounces) chunky or smooth natural peanut butter, well stirred
2/3 cup (3.3 ounces) toasted, skinned hazelnuts or toasted almonds, very coarsely chopped
4 ounces milk chocolate, coarsely chopped, or 2/3 cup (4 ounces) milk chocolate chips
3 tablespoons finely chopped salted peanuts
Equipment: Cookie sheets lined with parchment paper
1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.
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2. Combine the egg whites and cream of tartar in a clean dry bowl. Beat at medium-high speed with a heavy-duty stand mixer (or high speed with a hand mixer) until the egg whites are creamy white (instead of translucent) and hold a soft shape when the beaters are lifted. Continue to beat on medium to high speed, adding the sugar a little at a time, taking 1 1/2 to 2 minutes in all, until the whites are very stiff.
3. Scatter small spoonfuls of peanut butter over the meringue. With a large rubber spatula, fold about three strokes. Pour the nuts and chocolate over the batter and continue to fold until they are dispersed and the peanut butter is mostly blended; a few uneven streaks of white meringue are okay.
4. Drop rounded tablespoons of meringue 1 1/2 inches apart on the lined cookie sheets. Sprinkle each meringue with a pinch of the chopped peanuts. Bake for 1 1/2 hours. Rotate the pans from top to bottom and from front to back halfway through the baking time to ensure even baking.
5. Remove a test meringue and let it cool completely before taking a bite (meringues are never crisp when hot.) If the test meringue is completely dry and crisp, turn off the oven and let the remaining meringues cool completely in the oven. If the test meringue is soft or chewy or sticks to your teeth, bake for another 15 to 20 minutes before testing another. To prevent cookies from becoming moist and sticky, put them in an airtight container as soon as they are cool. (Cookies will last for at least 2 weeks, but usually a lot longer).