May 17, 2009

Weekend Baking Fail: Tasty, but Not-So-Pretty Meringue Cookies

I love meringue cookies, and because they don't contain butter or flour like other cookies, they can be pretty reasonable snacks.

I used to buy Miss Meringue chocolate chip meringue cookies from the grocery store (, and really liked them. Making them yourself, though is a lot cheaper, especially since they go fast! (You can eat about 4 for 2 weight watchers points a piece - right under 100 calories!).

So this weekend I prepared to make these Chocolate Hazlenut Meringue Kisses that I had seen in an old issue of Cooking Light. I knew there was an art to beating egg whites, and that making a meringue can be tricky, but I was ready.

It was not pretty site, though. Here's what the finished product was supposed to look like (picture from Cooking Light, December 2008) :

Cute, huh? Problem is.... mine did not look like this. And I've had a lot of difficulty after 3-4 attempts (sad, I know) to make stiff peaks with my meringues. But, before I show youa pic of how mine turned out, here is another picture of what meringue cookies should look like. This time, Sandra Lee's Strawberry Meringue Cookies. Picture courtesy of the Food Network:

By the way, this recipe was labeled "Easy" on the Food Network's web site. Apparently it's supposed to be "easy" to beat egg whites and make a meringue with a proper, stiff peak. Well, apparently I am challenged in this arena, because I did not find it easy... At all. And I don't consider myself a total rookie in the kitchen...

But clearly I was doing something wrong, because here is a picture of my cookies (image courtesy of my crappy camera and terrible photography skills):

Granted, they do look more like cookies (do I get points for that?). Granted, they still taste like a meringue cookie; just as healthy, and just as melt-in-your-mouth good as the more proper kind... But obviously, something is not right about these bad boys, and I followed the recipe to a T... so what went wrong?

The difference in color I can explain: the recipe called for toasted hazlenuts, chopped bittersweet chocolate, and cocoa powder to be combined in a food processor. The hazlenuts were still warm when I combined them, so it made the cocoa powder clump with the melted chocolate, rather than dispersing throughout the batter. Oh well, that I wasn't worried about.

The clear problem is that my egg whites never reached the optimal volume.

Here are some details from a few of my failed attemps:
  • Round One: The first time I beat the egg whites, I think I actually got the right consistency. But then instead of gently folding in the chocolate nut mixture, I continued to use the mixer, so I think I over-beat the eggs.
  • Rounds Two and Three: I was going try again, making sure to not over-beat the whites. Except I was using liquid egg whites I had bought from the grocery store, which were not foaming, or peaking whatsoever. After another try with them, I came to the conclusion that there was something very different about the liquid egg whites that was preventing them from fluffing.
  • Round Four: I went back to regular egg whites, and went through the steps, and saw better results than through the liquid whites, but the peaks never reached a really stiff consistency, and obviously, made my meringue batter like the consistency of pancake batter.... which is why my meringues are flat like pancakes.
Well, after so many attempts, obviously I'm exhausted, and a little confused. One thing I think makes the difference is having the egg whites be room temperature. Sandra Lee's recipe above calls for the whites at room temp, and my mom agreed that to her knowledge, egg whites separate easier when cold, but beat better when a little warmer.

Round Five to come... I'm determined to get this right eventually. Int he meantime, does anyone have any ideas on what I'm doing wrong?


  1. Apparently you have to add the sugar VERY slowly, like tablespoons at a time when you are getting to the end. Also, apparently plastic bowls suck for this sort of thing. Of course this is all second hand knowledge. You know I don't bake.

    Big Sis

  2. Yeah, I actually never used a plastic bowl, and I added the sugar very slowly (tbsps at a time), but at the end of the day, I think I really need to just try it with the egg whites at room temp. That seems to be the missing link.

  3. maybe the hazelnuts weighed it down.I was searching makin these cookies and came across your site, I luv it :-)Wish me luck im tryin meringue cookies tomorrow for my first time.

  4. Thanks for stopping by Sarah! Maybe that was it. Since then, I learned about meringue powder (Wilton brand makes it - I found mine at Michael's craft store in the baking aisle) and I have made meringue cookies since which worked perfectly. I found the tatse was off slightly, but sure enough the stiff peaks formed! Please please let me know how your cookies turn out!

  5. Oh no I just posted a long comment and it had an error. Anyways they turned out great, they didnt look like the pic they were more spikey lookin but they are nice and fluffy and taste great, my boys say it taste like cotton candy.Tonight im gonna try it with lime zest.Thanks so much for sharin this site with u all.Im always on the hunt for a great site with healthy recipes since my hubbys tryin to lose weight and im tryin to gain LOL. As far as the meringue powder im not sure whats in it cuz my brother cant have anything with Gluton and it might contain it. Im your newest fan :-) Keep this blog goin :-) Have a great weekend..

  6. I have a batch waiting in the oven - they began as nice little mounds. Now they are a uniform blob the entire size of the baking sheet. :(

    I hope they will at least be edible, as they involved chocolate, and wasted chocolate is a sad thing...

  7. I've never had a problem beating egg whites. Be sure their is NO yolk in the whites when you separate. I also use a cold bowl and beaters with cold whites. I gradually add the sugar after the whites are stiff. DO NOT keep stopping and starting the beating process and work quickly. I'm curious how you made out the next time around.