Since moving to New York, I've learned to live without certain luxuries: a television, an electric beater, and even a hairbrush. As of yesterday, I can cross one of those things off that list because a lovely hand mixer has come into my possession, thanks to a coworker who's leaving the country.
Immediately I thought of chiffon cake. Angel food cake. Pavlova. Meringue kisses. Heck, even a plain loaf cake would benefit from some extra airiness. This gluttonous train of thoughts was precisely how I ended up in the kitchen at 11:30 last night (for a grandma like me, that's too late to be doing anything but sitting in front of my laptop, falling merrily asleep to a rerun of Gilmore Girls, hot beverage in reach).
What started out as a batch of meringue kisses ended up yielding a bunch of ugly largish rounds (although America's Test Kitchen is nice enough to call them "rustic" when you shape them with a spoon rather than a piping bag). Considering the 1-hour baking time, I didn't want to divide it into batches, and I'm not an artistic person. These factors ultimately determined that these "kisses" were simply fated to become globs.
However, despite all the obstacles that stood in the way - no cream of tartar, no corn starch, and no patience - I still ended up with some tasty treats...and a fine initiation for this adopted electric beater. Light as air but still chewy on the inside, these are what I call "mini pavlovas" because they're softer and chewier in the middle than meringue kisses. Gotta love that chewiness. Next time I'll try one of the suggested variations - maybe mint extract with some mini chocolate chips.
Adapted from The America's Test Kitchen Family Baking Book
Yields about 18 2-inch-wide "globs"
4 egg whites (preferably room temperature, but mine weren't, and they still turned out fine)
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1 tsp tapioca/corn starch
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 225° F. Line two baking sheets with foil. Mix the sugar, corn starch, and salt together in a small bowl. Set aside. Using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until foamy, about one minute on high speed. Gradually add the sugar mixture while continuing to beat for another 1-2 minutes. By now, the egg whites should look like they're becoming more "meringue-y". Yes, that's the best word I can think of to describe it. Stop mixing for a second and add the vanilla extract. Keep beating on high speed until the mixture looks glossy and forms stiff peaks, another 1-3 minutes. (This means, when you stop mixing and lift the beaters, peaks will form on the surface where the beaters were, and the peaks should stay upright, or "stiff".)
Spoon or pipe the batter into mounds (mine were about 2 inches wide, but that's a little on the large side) on your prepared baking sheets. If desired, sprinkle the mounds with slivered almonds in a decorative fashion. Bake for one hour (rotate pans halfway through). Turn off the oven and keep the pans in there either overnight or for about another hour. Store in an airtight container.