I get oddly excited about recipes that require only the egg yolks. It’s similar to the way someone might start looking forward to their birthday cake a few days in advance, or how enticing a Friday evening cocktail becomes when you’re stuck at your desk on Wednesday, because when a recipe requires only the yolks it means there will be leftover egg whites, and one of the very best ways to use leftover egg whites is to make meringue cookies.
This variety is my favourite. Big, pillowy meringues laced with ribbons of cocoa. The recipe couldn’t be easier – whisk & dollop. But I should mention that there’s one extremely important rule when it comes to making meringue cookies: you must use 1/4 cup sugar for each egg white. The sugar is what gives the meringues structure in the oven; without it they would simply collapse. By following this guideline you can adapt the recipe depending on how many egg whites you have leftover. These meringues have only a few teaspoons of cocoa so they aren’t overly chocolate-y, but have just a hint of chocolate – more in some bites than in others. When I started making these several years ago I quickly scribbled the recipe on the inside back cover of one of my favourite cookbooks – one that is always out on the kitchen counter – so as not to lose it. It’s something I return to again and again. I’ve even piped the batter into whimsical mushroom cookies like the ones on the Bûche de Noël and used them to decorate my birthday cake. Double win!
4 egg whites
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1/4 tsp salt
1 cup fine white sugar
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder (plus a little more for dusting)
Preheat the oven to 300 F (150 C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a large bowl, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar and salt until fluffy. When the eggs are starting to hold their peaks, begin adding the sugar. With with the beater running, add a tablespoon of sugar at a time until all the sugar has been incorporated. Don’t dump it all in at once or you will lose the air that you’ve whisked into your eggs. Continue beating until the mixture is very firm and glossy. Beat in the vanilla. Switching to a rubber spatula, add the cocoa powder and fold a few times just to spread ribbons of cocoa throughout the mixture.
Place the egg mixture in large dollops on the parchment lined pan, swirling each dollop to create a nice shape. Place the pan in the oven and immediately turn the temperature down to 275 F (135 C). Bake for 50 – 60 minutes, until the meringues are crisp and sound hollow when tapped. (If the meringues begin to brown around the edges, sure the oven heat down a few degrees.) Turn the oven off and crack the door. Allow the meringues to start cooling inside the oven for at least 15 minutes before removing from pan, cooling completely and serving.