The Christmas Season
Today is the sixth day of Christmas. Though many folks have been celebrating Christmas since the day after Thanksgiving, according to tradition we are only half way through the real season of Christmas. Despite pre-Christmas advertising campaign countdowns to the contrary, the twelve days of Christmas actually begins on Christmas Day and continues through the celebration of Twelfth Night on January 5, until the Feast of the Epiphany on January 6 begins a new season.
Though we are truly only in the middle of the Christmas season a long trail of broken or discarded candy canes have already made their way into my kitchen. Candy Canes seem to have become more of a decoration to tie onto packages than a seasonal treat that anyone actually eats. Or maybe that’s just my family. Instead of being consumed they collect in a sad pile in my kitchen while my family’s traditions of thrift inspire guilty feelings whenever I consider tossing them in the trash.Repurposing Candy Canes
That’s why I saved the recipe for White Christmas Dream Drops from the December issue of Sunset magazine. This year I am recycling those candy canes in a pretty meringue cookie. Reading through it I had to smile. It is based on the same basic recipe and technique as my mother’s Chocolate Chip Meringue Cookies, a recipe that makes a relatively soft centered meringue that is often hollow inside. I have seldom seen it anywhere else and here it is again, substituting bits of crushed peppermint candy for the nuts, white chips for the chocolate and adding a few minutes in the oven once it is turned off to set the meringue with a little added crunch.
These delightful cookies are gluten free, easy to make, low in fat and require only a few ingredients. They are a great way to use up leftover candy canes and are a good choice for celebrations late in the Christmas season and beyond, when you want a bite of something sweet but without the weight of butter-rich cakes and cookies. These cookies are instead a light and fresh way to enjoy the tastes of the season.
Peppermint Dream Meringue Cookies
from the December 2011 issue of Sunset
2 egg whites, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon vanilla
¾ cup sugar
6 ounces white chocolate chips (about 1 cup)
1/3 cup plus 1½ Tablespoons coarsely crushed peppermint candy
Preheat oven to 250F.
With an electric mixer beat together egg whites and cream of tartar just until soft peaks form. Add salt and vanilla. Continue beating at high speed as you add the sugar one Tablespoon at a time, allowing 10 seconds or so between additions. (Very stiff peaks should form). Fold in chips and 1/3 cup peppermint candy.
Cover two cookie sheets with parchment paper. Drop meringue by Tablespoonfuls onto the parchment paper. Sprinkle cookies with remaining 1½ Tablespoons of peppermint candy.
Bake at 250 degrees for about 30 – 35 minutes or until cookies are set and dry to the touch but still pale. Turn the oven off, prop open the oven door and allow the cookies to stand in the oven another 10 minutes. Remove pans from oven and allow cookies to cool on the pan.
Notes: I drop these cookies on the parchment paper using two spoons, one to scoop up the desired amount and the back of the other to push the batter onto the parchment. These could also be made, and might look more uniform, if the cookies were formed using a gallon sized Ziploc bag. To try this, simply scoop the meringue into the bag, seal it, then cut a 1-inch opening across a lower corner of the bag. Use it like a pastry bag to pipe meringue onto the parchment paper in Tablespoon-sized dollops.
These cookies are extra pretty dipped in or drizzled with dark chocolate for contrast. To do this dip the lower half of each cooled cookie in melted chocolate allowing the excess to drip back into the pan before placing the dipped cookie on a parchment (or wax paper) lined cookie sheet to set. When the cookie sheet is full place it in the refrigerator for a few minutes until the chocolate is firm.
Or, place the melted chocolate in a small Ziploc freezer bag and snip ¼ inch from a lower corner of the bag. Drizzle the chocolate over each cookie. Place cookies in the refrigerator until the chocolate is firm.
This meringue could also be piped into heart shaped cookies like Valentine Meringue Cookies. To do this I would suggest chopping the white chips before adding them to the meringue so they will be easier to pipe.