Thursday, September 30, 2010

National Homemade Cookie Day

Yes, it’s already NHCD and my new book, Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-In-Your-Mouth Cookies is still about 3 weeks away. Who plans these things?

To celebrate the perfection of my timing, here’s an enticing preview of the book to come, complete with recipe. It’s the least I can do.

Look for killer brownies (including the ones with the ice bath technique), incredible new chocolate chip cookies, amazing graham crackers, French macarons, a gaggle of gluten free cookies, gooey caramel-filled alfajores, healthy whole wheat biscotti, and more. Some of my newest favorite cookies involve mixing nut butters (such as peanut butter or sesame tahini) with meringue. The results are fantastic!

When you add crunchy toasted hazelnuts or almonds and generous shards of creamy milk chocolate to melt-in-your mouth peanut butter meringues, you get a symphony of textures with a sweet and salty finish. Make sure you use natural peanut butter—yes, the kind you have to stir in order too 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 before measuring
2/3 cup (3.3 ounces) toasted and skinned hazelnuts or toasted almonds, very coarsely chopped
3 ounces coarsely chopped milk chocolate (such as Scharffen Berger Rich Milk Chocolate), or 1/2 cup milk chocolate chips
3 tablespoons finely chopped salted peanuts

Cookie sheets lined with parchment paper
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven
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. Scatter small spoonfuls of peanut butter over the meringue. With a large rubber spatula, fold about three strokes. Scatter 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.

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. 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 may be stored in an airtight contain for at least 2 weeks (but usually a lot longer).