Light as air

A couple weeks ago a friend came over for some kitten therapy, and brought me this, which she’d found when clearing out a family member’s things. She knew I liked baking, so thought I’d appreciate it.

It’s a wonderful little book, published in 1954, and I had a lovely time thumbing through it that night. There’s quite a few recipes I’m going to have to make out of this book, but one in particular I bookmarked specifically for this month: Lemon Meringue Lady Fingers. Because after making creme brulee and ending up with a lot of egg whites, the best way to use them up is to turn them into meringues!

The book provides a recipe for basic vanilla meringue cookies, as follows:

Ingredients:

  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1/3 cup water
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees F.

Boil the sugar and water to 250 degrees F, or until it forms a soft ball when a little is dropped into cold water. Beat the egg whites very stiff. Beating continuously, add the syrup very slowly; when all the syrup is used, add the vanilla. Fold in the confectioner’s sugar.

Butter a baking sheet and dust it with flour. Spoon the dough in strips 3 1/2 inches long and 3/4 inch wide or, better still, force the batter through a pastry bag fitted with a small plain tube. Bake 20 to 30 minutes and keep the oven door slightly ajar with a wedge of paper.

After that, there’s several different varieties (chocolate, orange, coffee, and lemon), with directions for how to modify the original recipe. For the lemon variety, you substitute 1 tablespoon lemon juice for the vanilla extract, and you stir in 1 teaspoon lemon zest when folding in the confectioner’s sugar.

I didn’t feel like fussing around with trying to make perfectly shaped logs of dough, so instead I used my largest star tip and a pastry bag and piped out individual cookies that way.

I thought they were rather tasty – nice and crunchy on the outside with a chewy middle and a delicate lemon flavor – but everyone else I offered them to went crazy over them, so clearly this recipe is a keeper. I am definitely going to have to try some of the other variations at some point – the coffee one intrigues me.

Here is where I now admit that I actually made these yesterday, because what with carting kittens to and from the vet to get fixed, work, and rehearsal in the evening, I knew I wasn’t going to have any free time to bake. So take it from all the members of the local Lacy Knitters Guild chapter, as well as the members of Vox Musica – these are worth giving a try.

Lemons used: 1
Total lemons this month: 17

Making a lemon thing a day for Thingadailies.

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