Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Ma's Styrofoam Cookies

My mother-in-law has been generous over the years on many fronts, but particularly in the kitchen.  She has totally helped to round out my cooking education -- she taught me how to properly cook a turkey for Thanksgiving, how to make pumpkin pie WITH homemade crusts (although nowadays I cheat a little and use the pre-made crusts because I have no patience, LOL), how to make pot roast, etc.  One of the most delightful culinary things she has taught me is how to make these delicate, delicious cookies.  She only made them once a year, around Christmas, and they were coveted by everyone in the family, so most people only got to taste a few from her batch.  Then we moved to Colorado, and though she gave me the recipe before we left, it took me years to perfect them due to the high altitude.  (Much to my husband's chagrin, as he really started to miss these during the Christmas season.)  In doing so, I stumbled onto another culinary tool/ingredient that was previously unknown to me: Cream of Tartar.  I think my mom had some in her spice cabinet, but it never got used, so I had no idea what it was for.  But now I do.  ;)

If you've never worked with Cream of Tartar, know that it is a sour, white powder, used for stabilizing whipped, beaten egg whites (meringue).  I'm sure there's probably other uses for it, but that's all I know about its usefulness.  Just a note about these cookies: Due to the fact that they're meringue, these cookies don't do well in humid environments.  They're ideal for Colorado, since it's sooooo dry up here, but I imagine that if you made these cookies anywhere else with relatively high humidity, they wouldn't last very long (eat them all the same day!), and/or they might not turn out very well. 

One last thing - because there is no flour of any kind in this recipe, it is ideal for those who are looking for a gluten-free treat.  As long as you're not allergic to nuts...  ;)

This is enough ingredients for a batch & a half.
2 egg whites
½ tsp Cream of Tartar
½ C sugar
½ C pecan pieces
1 tsp vanilla

Pre-heat oven to 250°F. Beat the egg whites on medium-high speed.  When they have become frothy, add Cream of Tartar.  Continue to beat egg whites until they form stiff peaks. 

Add  of the sugar, beat at least 3 mins longer, or until the whites start to have a shiny, velvety look.  Add rest of the sugar, then the vanilla.  Continue to beat until sugar and vanilla are fully incorporated. 

Remove from mixer and fold in pecan pieces.  Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls on parchment paper-lined cookie sheets and bake @ 250°F for 50 minutes. 

To see if they're done, pull cookie sheet out most of the way to lift paper to see if it's looking brown, not real white.  If they're really done, they should come off paper easily.

What the finished cookie looks like on the inside. ;)

Store in an airtight container, away from moisture. Makes approximately 36 cookies.


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