8.21.2011

Susan * Chocolate Meringue Cookies

The custom-built kitchen was straight out of Mad Men, only it wasn’t a set for a television show. The butcher block counters sprawled out and hugged the walls, not one but two shiny ovens sparkled and gleamed, and a little hallway opened up into a grand dining room filled with shimmering chandeliers, a french mahogany table and velvet-cushioned chairs. Upstairs, in the bedroom, slept an enormous collection of cookbooks, well over one hundred — some nestled on bookshelves while the others, the ones that rarely caught a wink, sat piled high beside the bed. The bed belonged to Susan’s mother.

“My mother’s life-long hobby,” Susan explains, “was hosting dinner parties. She had them about twice a month, for four or five couples at a time. She would spend not only the entire day cooking, but the day before, making these incredibly lavish dishes like croquembouche — a french pastry that builds into a cone — and chocolate roulade — a sheet cake with whipped cream rolled into it. The best part was that, as a kid, if you hung around long enough, at the end of the night you could help clean up, get some of the food and watch all of the adults get drunk.”

Susan

Though the dinner parties never failed to impress, Susan’s mother was by no means a perfectionist in the kitchen. “She didn’t get too hung up on all the details,” Susan says, “She was never a food snob. She came from a family where they really enjoyed food — it was a delicacy, but always sort of hearty. She was the kind of the mother who just said ‘go cook something’ and encouraged us to do it ourselves. Sometimes she would have us go down to the beach with a big bucket to collect mussels, and then she’d steam them with wine for dinner. She just made use of what was there.”

As Susan describes her mother’s dinner parties and the leisurely joy she found in food, her words play out before me like a silent film reel. I can picture clearly the time and place, and yet the scene feels somehow foreign. These days, life seems far too hurried, too distracting, too expensive to be throwing the kinds of parties, with the kind of frequency, that Susan’s mother enjoyed. It’s harder to get people together, to coordinate hectic schedules, to manage work and play and that ever-elusive balance between the two. There are many great things about the present day, but still, there’s no denying the pull of the past. Thankfully, certain remnants have been passed down to us.

“After my mother passed away,” Susan says, we donated most of her books, but I picked out a few that I remembered her using more heavily, that had more emotional value to me. And this is one of them: Never in the Kitchen When Company Arrives.” The book is worn and weathered with use, missing the jacket it came in, filled with splatters of the food it was designed to make. “In the 1960s, the book was considered very gourmet, it was trying to use more fresh foods. But looking at it now — well, no one with high cholesterol would be cooking out of this book. That’s what I like about it. It’s filled with very rich, very delicious food.” Things like Peaches Glamour, Friendship Fruit Cake, and one of Susan’s mother’s favorites: Chocolate Meringue Cookies.

“These cookies are something my mother made a lot for company, something sort of special.” Susan begins to set out the ingredients on the counter: the eggs, the sugar, the walnuts, the chocolate. “They don’t have flour in them, so they feel very light,” she tells me.

Susan beats together the egg whites and the sugar. We add in the vanilla and the melted chocolate, cooled just to room temperature, then stir in the chopped walnuts until the mixture is a smooth, chocolatey cloud. “If you’re my mother’s child, this is the part where you get to lick the spoon,” she says.

As she gathers up generous dollops of dough and drops them onto a baking sheet, Susan advises me that the cookies are not meant to be perfectly shaped. They’re supposed to be a bit messy, a bit irregular, with dreamy peaks, sweet valleys and craggy, nutty mounds. The outsides turn crisp and glossy as they cook, but take one bite and you’ll find a center filled with rich, gooey chocolate.

So rich, in fact, that for just a moment, I can feel myself dissolve backwards into the decadence of a different era entirely.

Three Quick Questions…and Susan’s Answers

It’s your last meal. What do you have?

Oh, clearly a Greek salad. I sort of developed a fondness for them as a teenager. There was this tiny little shop in town called the Mediterranean Snack Bar, and my sister and I used to go all the time. I would order the Greek salad, and I’ve loved them ever since.

Your kitchen is burning down. What’s the one thing you grab?

I don’t know, what do I have in there? I’d say photographs of the kids, and the artwork. But is that answer too typical?

Do you have a favorite cookbook?

I would say this cookbook, Never in the Kitchen When Company Arrives, because it’s such a sentimental book for me, and you can’t reproduce the memories that go along with it. So even though I don’t entertain that much and we do more things as a family, this would have to be my favorite cookbook.

Chocolate Meringue Cookies
Print
Recipe type: Dessert
Author: From “Never in the Kitchen When Company Arrives” by Theresa Morse
Prep time: 20 mins
Cook time: 12 mins
Total time: 32 mins
Serves: Makes about 18 cookies
These cookies are incredibly quick and easy to make. If you serve them at a dinner party (as Susan’s mom would), be prepared to hand over the recipe as there will be no shortage of requests!
Ingredients
  • 2 egg whites
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 6-ounce package semi-sweet chocolate chips, melted and cooled to room temperature
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla
  • 3/4 cup chopped walnuts
Instructions
  1. Beat egg whites, slowly adding in sugar, until the mixture forms soft peaks.
  2. Gently fold in melted, cooled chocolate, vanilla and nuts, and stir just until blended.
  3. Drop by spoonfuls, 2 inches apart, onto a greased baking sheet.
  4. Bake 12 minutes in 350° oven.
  5. Cool for 2 minutes, then transfer to platter.
Google Recipe View Microformatting by Easy Recipe

Comments

  • I’m wowed that these have no flour! So simple, but yes, elegant as if from a different lifetime entirely. I envy the idea of an unhurried kitchen!

  • Kathryn

    I envy it, too!

  • I love the looks of your well-used cookbook. It just has such a classy feel to it in those pictures.

    Delicious recipe, by the way.

    Any reason you think it’d be bad to drop the walnuts and throw in pecans instead?

    • SarahBethF

      You can ALWAYS substitute pecans for walnuts. You might get a slightly different flavor, but it won’t be bad!

  • I loved reading this story! And the cookies look delicious!

  • Kathryn

    Rob — I think pecans, or any type of nut, would work just fine. Actually, pecans sound really good!

    Erin — Yay! Glad you liked it.

  • Anna

    I want to try to make these. Lovely post Kathryn!

  • Erica

    I made these cookies yesterday and they are just as you described them –the outside crackly and crisp and the inside soft rich chocolate. They were incredibly easy to make. And I loved the description of Susan’s mother’s relaxed approach to encouraging her children to cook–this is something we can aspire to.

  • Kathryn

    Thanks, Anna :) Let me know if you try them!

    Erica, I am so glad you enjoyed them. And I agree with you on Susan’s mother — definitely something to aspire to.

  • Dana

    I lreally enjoyed this story Kathryn-it really came to life. Your mother suggested I check out this website and it is great! She thinks I should share one of my “special” recipes, although none of them as decadent as the sounds of these cookies! :)

  • Kathryn

    You SHOULD, Dana!! I am sure that you have something decadent up your sleeve – maybe next time I’m back in town we could do some cooking together! :)

  • Totally lovely story and I love the look of that cookbook – lovingly worn in. I’ve baked something similar and I can see why it’s a favorite cookie.

  • Kathryn

    Thanks, Jeannette!

  • Josh

    Maybe someday I’ll be invited to Susan’s and be served those little love nuggets. Wouldn’t that be fine!

    • Kathryn

      Hi, Josh– it was quite the treat!!

  • Christine

    So glad you shared the recipe for these–they seem exactly like the cookies a local bakery is famous for. I’ve been searching for a recipe for a long time. These look delicious! I can’t wait!

    • Kathryn

      Oh good!! It’s a great recipe, I hope it can end your recipe hunt!

  • I love how these look – crisp shell and gooey interior. Totally drooling over here.

    • Kathryn

      Thanks, Sally! They are very dangerous – way too easy and way too good!

  • Robyn

    Hi, love the photos and the story, do you think this cookie would work without nuts? thanks:)

    • Kathryn

      Thanks, Robyn! You can definitely leave out the nuts and go 100% chocolate with these : )

      • Robyn

        thanks:):)

  • Oregon Kathryn

    they were better than any GF product I’ve ever had, these are my new go to! thank you!

    • Kathryn

      Kathryn – I’m glad to see there’s another Kathryn out there who loves these cookies as much as I do! :) Thanks for your sweet comment!

  • Ashley

    Hate is a strong word, but I hate whoever posted this recipe. I probably just gained 20 pounds.

    • Kathryn

      Ha! Thanks, Ashely — I’ll take that as a compliment!

  • Julia

    Love this recipe, quick and simple for someone whos never made meringues before.
    Im allergic to nuts, so i made mine with soy nuts and they came out great :)

    • Kathryn

      Julie, thanks for the feedback. I’m so glad they were a success!

  • Madeleine

    i love you moms and your cookies!

  • Julie

    These look great. I make another cookie so similar but the shelf life on it isn’t very long (not that they stay around long in this house). What would be the shelf life of these cookies, how should they be stored? Thanks.

    • Kathryn

      Hi Julie- If you store them in an air-tight container at room temperature,they should stay good for 2-3 days. Not super long, but I agree they tend to go fast!

  • Michelle

    This recipe made 18 cookies for me, but my cookies were all different sized. It was a delicious! Exactly as she described, and they were really nutty. I’m definately going to make these again, my dad’s already begging for more!

    • Kathryn

      Glad you liked them, Michelle (and your dad, too!).

  • Chocoholic

    These look gorgeous.!! nut is it possible to replace d eggs?? :( if so how?

    • Chocoholic

      But*

    • Kathryn

      Ooh, that’s a tough one…not that I know of :(

  • Sandy

    Is it possible to freeze these!?

    • Kathryn

      As far as I know, meringue cookies generally do not freeze well. But these should keep in an airtight container at room temp for up to two weeks.

  • These chocolate beauties appeared in my inbox today, courtesy of Gojee. I can’t wait to try them! Love the story that comes along with them, too, Kathryn.

  • [...] It’s time for holiday baking!  This year we baked an assortment of goodies, including gingerbread ninja cookies (recipe below), chocolate mint cut-out cookies, matcha shortbread and vanilli kranzchen.  We also made a couple of delicious, guilt-free gluten and dairy-free recipes – chilled double chocolate torte and super-easy, decadent chocolate meringue cookies. [...]

  • Anna

    Made these tonight! Delicious :) I also added crumbled pretzels instead of nuts and they are really good.

    • Kathryn

      Yay–what a good idea!

  • [...] mis cette recette de côté il y a pas mal de temps déjà, dénichée sur un blog anglo-saxon. Par curiosité et parce que j’aime bien avoir sous le coude quelques recettes simples et rapides [...]

  • Marta

    I just made these today! They are amazingly tasty and nice and chewy

  • [...] My last ditch attempt to save my baking pride was some Chocolate Meringue Cookies. [...]

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