Christmas Cookie Extravaganza, Part III: Pistachio Meringues
For my third installment of Christmas Cookie Extravaganza, I decided to do something different: I dug deep into my kitchen drawers and pulled out a Christmas-themed cookie cutter. And surprise, surprise, I decided to try yet another recipe from Gesine. She is doing her own Christmas cookie extravaganza, but cleverly calls it Cookiemas. And she made lovely, green heart-shaped cookies made of a pistachio meringue.
Rolling out cookie dough and cutting the dough into fun shapes can be both fun and messy (which can also be fun, depending on your mood). The task gave me the opportunity to break out the new pastry board I purchased (on a sample sale website, no less) a few months ago:
Giant, is it not? But also cool: it has inch measurements on the side, and several circles that allow you to measure whether your pie crust or tart crust is 6 inches in diameter, 9 inches, 10 inches, etc. Of course, this time around I did not need to measure the dough to a specific size, but I still got the benefit of having a giant board on which to roll out my pistachio-meringue cookie dough. If you do not have one of these lying around your tiny New York City apartment, fear not. Just use your clean kitchen counter. Don’t have a rolling pin? A bottle of wine will work wonders. Don’t have wine? Well … I can’t help you there.
I do not own a heart-shaped cookie cutter, but I do own a few Christmas-themed cookie cutters. The cookies are green in color, so I thought, “Why not make my pistachio meringues in the shape of Christmas trees instead? Gosh, I am so brilliant.” Well, I did not turn out to be quite as brilliant as I thought.
Let us first discuss the taste. They are delicious. No butter or oil, just whipped egg whites with confectioner’s sugar, added to ground pistachios and a large pinch of orange zest. They are light, airy, and divine.
The Christmas tree cutter idea, however, was somewhat of a bust. As you can see above, they have the perfect Christmas tree shape when going into the oven. After baking, that changed for many of the cookies; some turned out lop-sided, some had pistachio bumps bulging out one side of the tree. While the cookie is yummy, it is not as pretty as I had hoped it would be. I will definitely make these again, but with the heart shape instead. The Christmas tree is a more complex cutter, and is simply too unforgiving with this type of dough.
I also think I made another mistake: I did not grind the pistachios finely enough. If you look at the picture above, where I am about to fold the whipped meringue into the ground pistachios, you can see large bits of pistachio in the bowl. Next time I make this (and I would certainly make these again), I will be sure to grind the pistachios finer, so you do not see those big chunks in the ground nut mixture.
Overall, making these was a learning experience that ended up tasting pretty darn good.
Adapted from Confections of a (Closet) Master Baker
Makes lots of cookies, depends on the size and shape of your cookie cutter
Total time: 45 minutes
2 large egg whites, room temperature
1 1/4 cups confectioners sugar
8 ounces (by weight) shelled, raw and unsalted pistachios
1/4 teaspoon (large pinch) orange zest
extra confectioners and parchment paper for rolling
1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a food processor, grind together pistachios, 1/4 cup of the confectioner’s and the zest until the pistachios are finely ground. Set aside.
2. Combine egg whites and salt in the bowl of a very clean and dry mixing bowl. Whisk until the egg whites become foamy. Slowly add the confectioner’s sugar and beat on high until you get stiff, white peaks (this can take a few minutes, so be patient).
3. Set aside about 1/4 to 1/3 of the meringue mixture (just eyeball it). I would set aside closer to 1/3 of the mixture, but definitely not more. Fold the remaining meringue into the ground nut mixture until you’ve create a thick dough.
4. Sprinkle a generous amount of confectioner’s sugar on a piece of parchment. Flatten the dough on top of the parchment and sprinkle a generous amount of confectioner’s sugar on top of the dough and then top with another piece of parchment. Roll the dough to about 1/4 inch thick.
5. Place a small dish with a little water next to your cutting board. Using a heart shaped cookie cutter, stamp out the hearts and place on a parchment lined cookie sheet. Dip the cutter in water each time you stamp out a new cookie, which will keep the cutter from sticking to the dough. Spread an inch or so apart. The cookies do not spread much when they bake.
6. Using a small offset spatula (or a small knife if you don’t have one, like me), smear the tops of each heart with a light layer of the reserved meringue. If you want, you can add a drop or two of food dye, like I did. Continue with the rest of the cookies.
7. Bake at 300 degrees for about 15 – 20 minutes, or until the bottoms of the cookies are a VERY light golden brown. The cookies should be light and chewy, not hard and crunchy.