They might not look like much, but these meringue-style cookies are by far one of my favourite things to make. A Nigella-inspired recipe, these cookies are so-called because they are placed in an oven as it cools down and forgotten about overnight. This produces a delicate, chewy, crowdpleasing sweet, which can be eaten simply as a cookie, or used as a base for a dessert with crême fraîche and fresh fruit. They are incredibly easy to make, and are perfect for using up egg whites.
Nigella uses a number of other ingredients, including cornflour and vinegar to produce a sturdier biscuit. However, I find it works perfectly without, and requires much less faff. Simple chocolate chunks are delicious, but I like the addition of honey, and sometimes extra spices such as cardamom.
Takes approximately 12 hours, makes 12 cookies.
You will need:
- 2 egg whites
- Pinch of salt
- 100g caster sugar
- 50g chocolate, chopped finely
- 1 teaspoon of honey
Preheat your oven to 180°C (160°C Fan/Gas mark 4/350°F).
In a medium bowl, use an electric whisk to beat the 2 egg whites together with the pinch of salt until it begins to form peaks. If you don’t have access to an electric whisk, hand-whisking is fine, but be prepared to use muscle!
Bit by bit, beat in the 100g caster sugar, until it forms a glossy, stiff mixture. Fold in the chocolate, honey, and any other flavourings, being careful not to knock out the air you just whipped in.
Line two baking trays with baking parchment, and carefully spoon 12 cookie-sized dollops of the mixture onto the tray. Place in the oven, and switch the oven off. Leave with the door closed overnight.
Enjoy these the next morning with a cup of coffee!
So, what am I actually doing?
These cookies are a little like meringue, with a crucial difference: the quantity of sugar. When you make meringue, you need twice as much sugar as egg whites, as it is the sugar that binds to the egg proteins to retain their structure. Reducing this sugar therefore reduces the stability, leading to slightly more delicate and cookie-like meringues.
When it comes to the baking part, it may seem strange to simply turn off your oven. However, essentially when we cook meringue, we are not cooking it, but evaporating the water molecules within the structure of the meringue. This water will then leave behind the dry structure of egg whites and sugar, which is your meringue. We are doing the same with these cookies – rather than cooking, we are drying them out to leave behind a delicate, slightly chewy cookie. However, if your oven is particularly efficient, then you may want to bake these for just 5 minutes to get them started, as you need the initial heat to begin the process of evaporating the water.