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A recipe for cloud-like meringues

These easy-to-make sweet treats offer a taste of French royalty

This image released by Milk Street shows a recipe for meringue cookies topped with salted peanuts and chocolate. (Milk Street via AP)

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Light, crisp, cloud-like meringue cookies have long been associated with French royalty, a decadent treat that required skill and dedication to pull off. Perhaps once, but then the whisk attachment was invented.

For those with a stand mixer, they’re surprisingly easy — and adaptable to whatever extra bits of chocolate, nuts or other flavorings may be left over after a holiday baking marathon.

In this recipe from the book “Cook What You Have,” which draws on pantry staples to assemble easy, weeknight meals, there are three variations on the cookie (which incidentally was not French, but is credited to a Swiss chef named Gasparini in 1720, from a town called Meiringen.)

For a chocolate and salted peanut variation, you’ll need about 2 ounces of chopped chocolate, some orange zest and a handful of roasted nuts. Or try them with roasted cashews, unsweetened coconut flakes and lime zest. Or with pistachios, candied ginger and turmeric. Or experiment with different flavors using these ratios.

The meringues can be made into a dozen 3-inch cookies or six oversize 6-inch puffs. Serve them alone or split them open and fill them with whipped cream and scattered fresh berries. The cookies will keep in an airtight container for up to five days.

Start to finish: 2 hour and 30 minutes (35 minutes active), plus cooling
Makes 12 small or 6 large meringues

One-fourth cup salted roasted peanuts OR almonds OR cashews OR pistachios, chopped
One-third cup dark chocolate OR semi-sweet OR milk chocolate chips, chopped
6 large egg whites
Half teaspoon cream of tartar
One-fourth teaspoon table salt
1 cup white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon grated orange zest

Heat the oven to 250°F with a rack in the middle position. Line a rimmed baking sheet with kitchen parchment. In a small bowl, toss together the nuts and chocolate.

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or in a large bowl with a hand mixer, whip the egg whites, cream of tartar and salt on medium until frothy and opaque, 1 to 2 minutes. With the mixer running, gradually add the sugar. Add the vanilla, then increase to high and beat for 5 minutes (no less, or the meringues may fall slightly during baking); the whites will be thick, shiny and hold stiff peaks. Remove the bowl from the mixer. Using a silicone spatula, fold in the orange zest and half of the nut-chocolate mixture.

Scoop the meringue into mounds onto the prepared baking sheet, dividing it into 12 portions of about half cup each or 6 portions of about 1 cup each; space the mounds evenly apart. Slightly smooth the tops and sprinkle with the remaining nut-chocolate mixture.

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes for small meringues or 1 hour and 30 minutes for large meringues; they will be very pale golden brown and have expanded slightly. Turn off the oven, prop open the door with the handle of a wooden spoon and allow the meringues to fully dry and crisp, about 45 minutes.

Remove from the oven and transfer the meringues from the baking sheet to a wire rack. Cool to room temperature.

Meringue Cookies with Cashews, Coconut and Lime

Follow the recipe, using salted roasted cashews, replacing the chocolate chips with one-fourth cup dried, unsweetened, wide-flake coconut and substituting an equal amount of lime zest for the orange zest.

Golden Meringue Cookies with Pistachios and Candied Ginger

Follow the recipe, using salted roasted pistachios, replacing the chocolate chips with one-fourth cup chopped candied ginger and adding 1 teaspoon ground turmeric and half teaspoon ground cinnamon to the egg whites along with the cream of tartar and salt.

NOTE: For more recipes, go to Christopher Kimball’s Milk Street at 177milkstreet.com/ap

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