Friday, June 25, 2010

Cookie of the Month: Meringue-Topped Bars

You may have noticed there was no Cookie of the Month for May. I didn't mean to skip it; my stomach said, "Yes, yes, yes, give us more cookies for May!" But my summer clothes said, "No, no, no! We will not fit unless you lose that winter insulation you so cleverly accumulated to keep warm!" So I managed to lose six pounds in the last six weeks by avoiding all sorts of sweets and logging my calories in a food diary: mission mostly accomplished. Plus, I discovered a strategy: band mini-camp was this week, so I could sample one cookie and send the rest in with Boy to feed the trumpet section.

But what to make? I thought about making Pfefferneusse, because the name sounds cool and I wondered what cookies with pepper would taste like, but then I looked at the recipe and it said "chill several hours or overnight" and I didn't have time to deal with that. What did I have time for? Bar cookies sounded about right—no shaping or rolling to deal with—so I browsed the section of my trusty Better Homes & Gardens cookbook and discovered this interesting recipe for Meringue-Topped Cookies. Topped with meringue? I like meringue fairly well, and I've never tried making it, so this could be fun. I dove right in:

1½ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup butter or margarine (I used Smart Balance butter blend sticks, easy to measure)
¾ cup packed brown sugar
3 eggs (divided)
1 teaspoon vanilla
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
¾ cup granulated sugar
6 oz semisweet chocolate pieces/chips or two bars English toffee (I used chips)

Stir together flour, soda, and salt. For crust, beat butter for 30 seconds; add brown sugar and beat till fluffy. Separate egg whites from egg yolks; set whites aside. Add egg yolks and vanilla to beaten mixture; beat well. Gradually add dry ingredients to beaten mixture, beating constantly. Spread in an ungreased 13x9x2-inch baking pan. (The dough is rather gooey, so it's easiest to do this by hand.) Bake in a 350F oven for 10 minutes. When you take it out it should be golden brown like this:

In the meantime, wash your beaters (and your bowl, if it's part of a mixing stand). For meringue, combine egg whites and cream of tartar; beat until soft peaks form. (I discovered high speed works better; "soft peaks" looks something like super high bubbles.) Gradually add granulated sugar; beat until soft peaks form.

For this part I was sooooo glad I have my KitchenAid 5-quart stand mixer, which is my favorite favorite kitchen mini-appliance, essential for making cheesecakes—or really, anything that needs blending, now that my wrists and elbows are old and tender and don't like working so hard to mix things up. My trusty KitchenAid made short work of the meringue, and soon I had fluffy white peaks, just like you would see atop a lemon meringue pie or just plain meringue candy.

Next, sprinkle chocolate pieces (which I used) or chopped toffee over hot crust. Spread meringue on top, getting it into all the corners. Bake 30 minutes more or until golden brown.

When mine came out of the oven it looked like this: golden brown and a little crispy. If you've ever had plain meringue candies, you know they are a little golden on the top, a nice crispy exterior with a chewy interior.

You are supposed to cut the treats into bars while they are still warm, or else they will harden and make cutting difficult. I let them cool about 10 minutes, so they weren't too gooey, and made easy cuts like you see here.

And the result? As you can see from the picture, we have a standard bar base, a little bit of gooey chocolate, and a layer of crispy/chewy meringue. This little corner was the only one I tried, and I thought it was just as well I wasn't keeping the rest around. With sugar in the base, sugar in the chocolate, and sugar in the meringue, it was extremely sweet. That doesn't have to be a bad thing, but in this case you have a very lightweight cookie with a very sweet taste. The bar base isn't very thick—it was a challenge to spread it out enough to cover the pan—and meringue has a very light texture. So this little cookie was extremely sweet without being very filling at all. And since it was actually one of the highest-calorie treats in the cookbook's cookie section, at 158 calories per serving (only the brownies surpassed it), this could be very very very dangerous. I ate one cookie and while it was extremely sweet, it felt like nothing in my tummy.

As for how the cookies went over? I'm not sure. Boy said they were acceptable, but instead of feeding them to his section they went to bribe the drum majors. We'll see next month if this proves to be an effective strategy, I guess—or whether they'll need Pfefferneusse to bolster their nefarious plans.

My rating for Meringue-Topped Bars: nom nom (two of five noms).


  1. These sound really good. If you ever need a taste tester, I'm available. Hint, hint. Maybe bring some up to the UP.

  2. this looks so yummy...I always feature good recipes on my blog

  3. I like it better when the cookie of the month comes the week we meet!