Just before Christmas, my friends, Lisa and Marybeth, host a neighborhood cookie exchange. Having taken over the Cookie Queen reins from Debbie and Tracy–and I imagine two brave women who preceded them–this party has become a longstanding River Falls tradition. Second to Christmas Eve, this is my children’s favorite party of the year. Not that they are invited, oh no, not at all, but to wake up* to the incredible array of COOKIES!, well clearly this is any child’s dream come true. And of course, as would be the River Falls way, this is no mere exchange of cookies. There’s a competition element, with prizes awarded for Most Creative, Best Presentation and Best Tasting, because why participate if there isn’t a chance to win?
Each year the ante is upped with cookies that sparkle, shine and flat out make your mouth water. This high set bar has me cowering because as you know, baking is not my forte. I look for a cookie recipe that is first and foremost, not too difficult and secondly, that looks tasty to me (a person who doesn’t really enjoy sweets). I did my research and decided upon a chocolate toffee cookie only until my 14 year old daughter said, “Enough! You will never win with that!” She declared herself to be in charge and immediately began her search. In the end, she presented me with two cookie options and a list of ingredients to pick up from the store.
As you may have guessed by now, Mattes’ Melted Snowmen Meringue Cookies won the Most Creative category. We (she) won! These distressed puddles of meringue were not only adorable but delicious. Crisp outer shells surrounding soft, sweet, melt-in-your-mouth insides (sort of like a real snowman). In reading about the recipe she chose, Melted Snowmen Meringue Cookies were all the rage in 2008 when they were first posted on Tablespoon and went viral on Pinterest. Mattes’ snowmen didn’t look exactly like the ones pictured in the original recipe but she did use creative license to appeal (a.k.a. suck up) to the judges who just so happened to be her former tennis pro and former swim team coach (Editor’s Note: The judging was done independently, the judges did not know the identity of the baker and PricewaterhouseCoopers audited the results).
So, if you are looking for a fun activity to do with your kids this weekend or really anytime this winter, I encourage you to make these adorable snowmen. If you’ve ever made meringues, you know that they bake long and slow in a barely warm oven. If you have time, you may want to bake them one day and then decorate the next. With holiday music playing, icing scattered along the kitchen counter, and lots of “tasting breaks” nothing could feel more like Christmas. Enjoy!
*This year my children were waiting up for me to arrive with the box of assorted cookies from the exchange so many did not survive the night.
- 4 large egg whites
- 1/4 tsp almond extract
- 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
- 1 c sugar
- large ziplock bag or decorating bag
- decorative icing
- Preheat oven to 200ºF. Line 2 baking trays with parchment paper or a silpat (silicone) mat (we found that this worked best) and set aside.
- Place egg whites in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a wire whip, or in a large bowl if you are using a electric hand mixer.
- Add almond extract and cream of tartar.
- Whip at high speed until the mixture looks like snow with stiff peaks.
- Gradually add sugar while mixing at medium speed.
- Switch to high speed until the mixture begins to shine.
- Assemble the decorating bag with tip or a large ziplock bag and fill with the meringue. If using ziplock, use scissors to snip a small corner off the bottom of the bag.
- Pipe a ball for the snowman head and pipe the body by piping meringue back and forth on the tray. Fill baking trays with snowmen heads and bodies (they’re separate).
- Bake snowmen for 2 hours or until meringue sets but is not yet browned.
- Turn off oven, open the door slightly and let snowmen sit in the warm oven for 2 more hours.
- When cool, assemble the snowmen by piping some frosting on the underside of a snowman head and rest the head on a snowman body.
- With the decorating icings, pipe the eyes and mouth in black, the carrot nose in orange, the stick arms in brown and the buttons and/or scarf in any desired color.
- This recipe can be easily doubled, tripled or in our case, quadrupled--you'll just need multiple ovens and lots of time.