Saturday, November 21, 2009

two Meringue disasters = kitchen mad science!

I attemped to make my Mom's famous Forgotten Cookies the other day, and had multiple egg disasters.

(why do you call them forgotten cookies? Cuz you put 'em in the oven and forget about them until the next morning. seriously).

Attempt one: made meringue with egg whites, waited too long to add sugar, so i added sugar fairly quickly, and it didn't all disolve, and the meringue fell. looked like the texture of frosting. air bubbles were floating to the top and popping. this is bad, but I didn't know it yet. Oh, and I wanted to make mint flavored Forgotten cookies, so i added some Peppermint Oil. If you've ever worked with peppermint oil,you know you only need a drop to flavor a weeks worth of food. well, there was only a few drops left in the bottle, so i just dumped it all in. the peppermint cloud nearly took my head off. and the oils made the meringue fall even more. But hey, I've got an electric mixer! 40 minutes later, i could smell the engine in my mixer over heating. and the texture of the fallen meringue hadn't changed one bit. not one stinkin bit!

time to try again.

two more eggs. an 1/8 tsp cream of tartar. now for the sugar. granulated or confectioners? during the last hour of holding a mixer over a bowl, I'd had plenty of opportunity to read every single article in The Joy of Cooking about eggs and meringue, and there was some mention of using superfine sugar, because it dissolves easier. Superfine sugar is confectioners sugar, right? original recipe called for 2/3 cup sugar, let's try 1/2 cup of confectioners sugar, and added it approximately one tablespoon at a time.

and baby, it was perfect. ok, nearly perfect. the texture was a little, umm, chewier than usual, but maybe that was just the differnet kind of sugar? i also added a handful of chocolate chips and a drop of red food coloring to make pink cookies. into the oven those babies went!

next morning i went to take them out, and they all stuck to the tin foil. Meringue cookies will dry out in the oven, and although there is a little peeling involved in taking them off a lined cookie sheet, they shouldn't stick at all. these stuck. i tasted one.

I'd made taffy. Thank God i don't having any fillings. I made the husband taste one. he laughed. We agreen to throw the entire batch into the garbage.

So what went wrong?

first, the granuated sugar - I added it too much at a time, and it never dissolved properly. because it didn't dissolve right, it couldn't bond to the air bubbles in the foam and keep the bubbles from moving around (like to the surface) and popping.

second, the peppermint oil - not only did i add about 10 times more than i needed, but oil = fat, and fat + meringue = doesn't work. Next time i have a craving for pepperming meringue cookies, i think i'll make unflavored cookies, and after they come out of the oven i'll spray them with a mix of water and a teensy bit of peppermint or other flavors. A bit of chocolate chips doesn't usually hurt, becuase they have very little oils/fats in the surface, and never really get hot enough in the oven to melt and release the oils.

third, the confectioners sugar - I haven't quite figured out that one yet.

for a while I was really cranky that my cookies didn't turn out, but it was some sweet kitchen chemistry. and the husband did help me with dishes after.

if you've read this far, you deserve some fun articles on the science of of meringue.

and now i know why you can buy "meringue fragrances" online. it's oil/fat free flavoring for your meringue. kitchen science rocks.

No comments: