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M&M Cookie Dough Ice Cream Cake

  It seems conflicting that while I am pushing myself and doing my darnedest I still feel more lost than ever.  It seems like poor timing that I should lose all interest in school during the time when I really need to be studying the most.  It seems unfair that I still have no specific direction and yet everyone keeps asking about how that's going.

  The life of an INFP am I righttttttt

  I had a stellar birthday, you know, last MONTH.  This semester has actually flown by.  I'm tired.  I'm exhausted.  I want to throw all of these useless homework assignments into one huge pile and set it on fire.

  Shawowza are you feeling my positive energy yet?

  Let's talk about cake instead.

  I threw this together in the final hours leading up to my birthday festivities.  I finished a group project and power walked my frustration off on the way to an overpriced downtown grocery store.  After loading up on all the sugary things, I hopped on a bus home and also ran into my Italian professor.  The whole time we spoke I was freaking out about whether or not I should try and use my sad Italian, but she was chill.

  To be honest I'm finding it hard to wax poetic right now.  I'm desperately trying to clear up my hormonal skin, I don't feel like I belong in any of my classes or really on campus at all, and I lose my patience with all the selfish people around me internally like 80 times a day.

  And I'd be lying if I said I wasn't sitting in class scrolling through my feedly and pinterest and instagram, tearing up looking at my favorite food blogger's beautiful photos and stories and blog posts.  All while I'm taking notes on psychoanalysis and freaking reflexive Italian verbs.

  It hurts.  I think I need a break.  I hope I just need a break.  I miss you guys.  I miss this so much.  I don't feel like me when my kitchen isn't streaked with flour and I'm not spending too much money on butter.

  Goshdangit there I go again!  Cake, sorry.

  But this cake, it helped.  It was awesome to use my pans and get my hands dirty.

  Let me talk you through this:
  1. Soft chocolate cake layers
  2. Cookie dough ice cream nestled between said layers (courtesy of Babcock Hall ice creams)
  3. Eggless m&m cookie dough pressed onto cake as a frosting.
  It's essentially all of my favorite things in one bite.  Shout out to Yammie for creating this devil of a cake.

  I didn't actually enjoy a slice until the next day, per usual.  It was pretty perfect, I sat in contemplative silence fueling my introvert after a long weekend of socializing.  With my new candle burning, I got to reflect on how much fun I had, especially with my two sisters who drive hours to celebrate the good ol' 21st with me.  I got to show them around downtown, and it was so so great.  There was rum, there was cheese curds, and really dang good chili.

  It was a good birthday with people that really actually matter to me, and I can't ask for much more than that.

M&M Cookie Dough Ice Cream Cake
Yield: one 8 or 9-inch cake

Ingredients for the cake:
  • 6 tablespoons butter
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder 
  • 3/4 cup white sugar
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups buttermilk
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1/2 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup all-purpose flour 
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cups cookie dough vanilla ice cream, softened (for between the layers)

Ingredients for the Cookie Dough Frosting:
  • 1 stick of butter (1/2 cup), softened
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cup flour 
  • 1/4 cup milk 
  • 1 cup M&Ms
  • 1/2 cup mini chocolate chips

Ingredients for the little cookies to garnish (optional):
  • 1/2 stick butter (1/4 cup), softened
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 cup flour 
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • About 1/2 cup mini M&Ms and/or mini chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Grease two 8-inch pans and dust lightly with cocoa powder or flour.  Combine the butter and cocoa and cook on the stove in a medium saucepan over low heat until the butter is melted.  Add the sugars and then the milk a little at a time, mixing until smooth.  Remove from heat and add the eggs and vanilla.  Add the dry ingredients and mix until combined.   Divide the batter into the pans and bake for about 45 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool completely before moving on to the next step.

To assemble, immediately stack the cooled cake layers together with the softened ice cream in between and place in the freezer until firm before moving on to the next step.  Press plastic wrap around the ice cream to prevent it from dripping, if you like.

To make the frosting, mix the butter and sugars together.  Add the vanilla and salt.  Alternately add the milk and flour until desired consistency is reached.  Immediately frost/press cookie dough onto cake (if you leave it sitting out and try to stir it again, the color on the M&Ms will just run). 

To make the optional little cookies for garnish, preheat oven to 350ºF and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.   Combine the butter and sugars and mix well. Add the yolk and vanilla and mix until well combined.  Add the flour, soda, and salt and mix just until combined.  Stir in the M&Ms and/or chocolate chips.  Scoop out by about 1/2 tablespoon.  Bake for 5-7 minutes or until done. 

Store completed cake in freezer until ready to serve!  Let it sit out for a few minutes to soften before you attempt cutting.

Sources: adapted heavily from Yammie's Noshery


The New Digs

  I have seen a lot of shoes lately.  A lot of bodies, a lot of backpacks.  Students numbering so many that we stop traffic between classes.  A part of one giant horde of people, in one very spread out university.

  The picture above is from a photo project I had to do for class last month.  We got to play around with a digital Panasonic and this is one of my favorite images that my partner captured.  Photo credit goes out to my girl, Maame, she did a great job.

  I want to say that I'm really sorry I don't have any new recipes for you, but I promise that I have lots of things to write about.  I didn't know it was possible to really get homesick for a blog space, but it is.  And I've been homesick for all of you, because pretty much nothing these days is familiar.

  I came home from class today and as it is the end of the week, more or less, I spent about 3 hours doing absolutely nothing.  There were m&m's involved and really good intentions to start on homework, but I shut down.  Also, I've been spending too much time on facebook, trying to keep up with people that are no longer in very close touch with me.  We're all busy these days.  But in doing that, I have noticed something.  Indigo Scones is still really active.  Every other day I get notifications about someone liking my page, or just viewing it.  Seriously, where are you all coming from?  I've been the worst at posting.

  Then I checked out my blog email, pushing my backpack and notebooks further and further away.  But this wonderful girl from Bolivia sent me an email.  She said I inspired her, and without further ado I popped open blogger to update this danged space because Psychology readings can just wait.

  If you're out there, Andrea, thank you.  Your little email meant the absolute world to me.

  I found something else of note in my email, as well.  A long time ago I did a little phone interview with this lovely lady from a publishing company in London.  They were collaborating with Valentino's new youth branch-off (Red Valentino) to produce some sort of online e-magazine.  I had totally forgotten about this, but apparently the post and my sputtery answers went live in June.  Please check it out here if you haven't already, it's a beautiful space to explore.

  So what's new?  I feel like the world's most out-of-place soul about 80% of the time.  I have spent the past two months balancing a new relationship, my first apartment, new school, and a new (second) job to boot.  I've been a little busy, a little (lot) frustrated, and eating out almost daily.  Moving out in itself was a huge adjustment, and while I love my neighborhood, I'm still figuring out the kinks of commuting to campus daily and somehow also becoming involved.  Being a gap-year sophomore-level transfer student with an undecided major and two physically demanding jobs at a very impersonal campus is not without its difficulties.  But I am also very grateful for what I have learned so far.  I hope the next couple of months bring further adjustment, and oh what I wouldn't give for some good friends on campus.  All in due time.

  This city is beautiful though.  I have become frustrated with people and buses and bicyclists and traffic time and time again, but sometimes I stop and I just get overwhelmed.  Considering that last year I would drive nearly 45 minutes and pay hourly parking just so I could be here, I'm generally pretty happy to be able to call this place my current home.  I've come a very long way to get here, even though I still don't know what exactly that means.

  There have also been good moments.  I've been a barista for quite a chunk of time now, and the highlight of my weekend is the motley crew of elderly neighborhood gentlemen that I get to serve coffee to every week.  I ran into one of them, a Brit named Bruce, walking home from class the other day.  While most of the day was challenging and disheartening, the few minutes I spent walking him to a coffeehouse was golden.  We spoke light Italian, talked about life, and then I went on my way.  I'll see him again when he comes in for his cup of black coffee, which he prefers to consume a half cup at a time because he likes it very hot.  Customer service can produce some very unpleasant experiences, but a lot of times you get those regular gems that never fail to make your day.

  As I've been swimming through this sea of majors, certificates, classes, advising, and whatnot, I've also made an attempt to go back to my roots.  The leading ladies in my life, Molly of Orangette and Joy of Joy the Baker, both just published some pretty great blogposts that I actually remembered to read.  It wasn't so much that the content was especially different, but it was just a reminder of who I was and still am.  The world of blogging is such an inspiration, those ladies that did the four years of college but still managed to make their own path in the world never cease to amaze.  

  I guess what I'm trying to say is that it's not always about choosing the right thing, or taking the right path.  It's about being open-minded, and learning whenever and however you can.  You take the day's challenges, and then the next day's.  And instead of thinking of some distant, lofty goal or reward, maybe consider the little rewards that we tend to dismiss.  I got to have wings with a really great guy last night, and we both visited my new workplace and they gave me a giant cookie on the house.  I was greeted with warmth despite the fact that I've only been there a couple of weeks.

  My sister sent me a beautiful text this week that just about put me to tears.  It was a gentle reminder that despite her fiercely independent spirit, she does look up to me.  I am an example to her.

  I made an effort and studied with a classmate yesterday, despite getting lost trying to find her residence hall and having to bypass several memory-tainted locations to get there.  We had a nice time and on my walk back, I gave a slight nod to acknowledge those ghosts drifting around me before I hiked my heavy pack up my shoulders and walked on.

  It's a funny thing, life.  You spend it thinking, "Oh, I'll get there someday."  Then you realize that you made some of your best memories, lived your best adventures, during that "getting there."  And because we get so distracted by the end goal, we don't even think to embrace them.
  So I think it's true, in a sense, that every day is honestly a gift.

  Things may not be ideal right now, but they are still quite good at times.  And between my fair bits of panicking, I have almost always come out with this overwhelming sense of this is where I need to be.  So I will stay, and continue this uphill journey through undergrad life.  Thanks for your patience, and letting me philosophize both for you and to remind myself of a few things.  And I will bake something for you all when I can.


The Ellen Brain Bar (DIY Energy Bars)

  If you were to rewind about 6 months ago, you'd find a very cold and nervous Ellen standing outside the front door of a coffeeshop at 6:15 on a Sunday morning in the middle of a snowstorm.  After slipping and sliding my car to the side streets to park, I remember trudging through snow-drifted sidewalks and not being able to remember where the back door to the cafe was.  It was my first day on the job.  I finally had a job, and I couldn't find the dang door.  I had to go in there and make people coffee.  I had to learn how to write all the drinks shorthand.  I had to learn how to really wrap a wrap for, like, another person.

  Soon after that I found myself making a similar trip to my baking job during the week.  For hours on end I would package what I watched the bakers make.  Dating, labeling, wrapping, cutting, general assisting.

  But today, today I can roll out of bed and go for a run at 4:30 like it's not a big deal.  I can make two lattes at the same time if both steam wands are free for my milk pitchers.  I can whip out a breakfast sandwich before the person has a chance to even finish paying for it.  I can heave pounds of dough above my head and wrestle with 50-pound bags of flour and sugar.

  But these necessary skills have not come without their setbacks.  I've dropped entire pitchers of freshly chilled iced tea.  I've had entire trays of cookies slip from my hands.  I've shattered wine glasses, plates, and cups.  I've had to develop some routine plumbing habits to deal with women and their clogged toilet tendencies.  I've had to serve some awful people with a smile on my face.  And I've had to adjust to a very early schedule most days of the week, including weekends.

  Breakfast gets difficult, especially when bakery days will burn all your energy within a few hours.  Barista-ing leaves little time for snacking on busy days as well, and often you find yourself reaching for day-old cookies to get you through the mornings.

  No more.  Calling all baristas and bakers and general high calorie burning employees: eat these.  They will stick with you for at least a couple of hours, enough to tide you over and leave you a little hungry for a nutritious lunch.   Let's do this.

  While we have some basic ingredients in these guys, the majority of it is almost entirely up to you/what you have in your pantry.  Either way, we start with our dry ingredients in a large bowl.  I went with a mixture of oats, raw mixed nuts, raisins, chopped dried apricots, unsweetened coconut, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds.  I've also thrown in chia seeds, flax seed, and other healthy goodies.

  Throw all the good stuff in and give them a good tossing with a wooden spoon.

  Next I whip out my honey, natural Skippy, coconut oil, and tahini.  Into the microwave they all go.

  Cue melted honey/tahini/peanut butter action shot.

  This is when you really want to make sure that everything is really well moistened.  If not, you'll be dealing with some abnormal and unnecessary crumbles.  While the finished product is a little fall apart-y, it should still hold its general shape when you pick it up.  If you find quite a few dry pockets while mixing, throw in a little more honey and see if that helps your mass of health to adhere a little better.

  Then here comes the fun part of moistening your hands and patting this thing into something like a rectangle.  Leave about a 1/2-inch thickness, otherwise they'll be thin and crumbly and burnt.

  Notice how the edges are a little dark, but the center still quite tacky.  That's partly due to our menace of a stove.  For the most part your edges shouldn't burn as much, but your center will still look sketchily underdone to you after a measly 15 minutes of oven time.  No worries, it firms up as it cools.  And incidentally, I let this entire slab cool on the pan in the fridge overnight before I even attempt to take a knife to it.

  But once they've cooled, you've got a high protein breakfast/pre or post-workout snack/lunch/dinner/midnight snack.  They're pretty good for being sugar, dairy, and gluten free.  They'll get you through your milk-steaming and bread-baking filled days.  Or whatever else it is that real adults do at their jobs.


The Ellen Brain Bar (DIY Energy Bars)
Yield: about 24 bars

  • 2 cups old-fashioned rolled oats 
  • 1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut 
  • 1 cup raw, unsalted nuts of your choosing
  • 1/2 cup sesame seeds 
  • 1/2 cup raw sunflower seeds 
  • 1/4 cup chia/flax seeds, if desired
  • 1/2 cup chopped dates, raisins, apricots, or other dried fruit 
  • 1 1/2 cups tahini and/or peanut butter 
  • 1/4 cup coconut oil
  • 1 cup honey 
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.  Line a 10x15 inch rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.  

In a large bowl, toss together the oats, coconut, nuts, seeds, and dried fruit.  In a microwavable bowl, add the tahini/peanut butter, coconut oil, and honey.  Heat on high for about 1 minute, until melted and combined.  Add the vanilla extract and stir to combine.  Pour your peanut butter mixture over the oat mixture in the large bowl, and stir to combine.

Pour onto the prepared baking sheet, and with moistened hands, pat into a rectangle about 1/2 inch-1inch high.  Dimensions will roughly be about 10x12 inches.  

Bake for 15 minutes, until the edges start to turn golden brown.  Do not overbake.  The bars might still seem tacky in the middle, but they will firm up as they cool.  If you have the time, place pan in the fridge overnight before cutting.  Store in an airtight container (I keep mine in the fridge).

Sources: loosely adapted from Popsugar


Dairy-Free Double Chocolate Banana Cake

  "What are your academic interests?"
  "Career field you could see yourself in?"
  "Have a major lined up by the end of sophomore year."
  "Oh, Journalism, you must really love writing and the news."
  "When are you opening your own bakery?"
  "What's your passion?"
  "What makes you happy?"

  I wiped off my palms for the 10th time as my well-meaning temporary advisor guided me through the sign-up process.  The entire day was devoted to getting transfers acclimated, and all around me I felt the vibe of uncertainty pulsing as we all tried to navigate our way around a new system.  Every time I turned a corner in the Union, I felt more than saw the memory ghosts intent upon making the day harder than it already had it to be.  My hands shook and I dropped a lot of things.  I came out with too many papers and enough anxiety to fill a five-gallon bucket.

  Fast forward to the weekend.  Lack of sleep and early early work mornings with far too many complicated customer interactions had me at the end of my rope.  Lying in my bed trying to will my eyes shut, I realized something.  Almost everything I do these days is forced.  Even writing, photographing, and talking about how much I love doing those things is forced.  All the fields I had signed up to explore in college were forced.  Or maybe not so much forced as they are just agiven.  I'm Ellen.  I'm a baker.  I'm a food photographer.  I'm a sweet tooth.

  I sat up and rubbed my eyes as something hit me with profound clarity.  My heart wasn't in any of it.

  Sure, I like doing this stuff, but neither is it everything to me.  I always always feel like there's something more I'm cut out for, I just haven't quite hit that niche yet.  I feel it around every corner, and that's what is leading me back to school.  To explore.  To stop working, to make myself take the time to get to know me again.

  With that thought finally put to rest I fell backwards and almost as soon as my head hit the pillow I fell asleep.  I've put a lot of thought into it since then, and it all makes sense.  The jealousy I've felt towards other more successful bloggers/bakers is not so much that I want their success as it is I want their drive and passion.  I want to put my everything into something and feel good about it, not forced or driven down.  The uneasiness that accompanies every conversation I've ever had with someone about my blog, baking, or photography stems from the very fact that this isn't something I want to actually pursue as a career.  It would drive me crazy.  I adore it all, making the food, photos, and posts....but I don't love it.  And frankly, there have been more days than not that it's driven me up a wall and across the ceiling.

  All in all, I have no idea where my exactly my passions are, but I have some inklings.  I want to follow those inklings and stop pressuring myself into having a super specific passion.  It's just unhealthy.

  I'm not leaving this space, that would still be like losing a little piece of myself.  But I do think that I'll become a bit more relaxed with it.  Try to put my spare time into different things and see what happens.  I've learned so much about myself in baking and writing, and I do not want that to stop.  I'm taking my crazy flour-dusted camera and laptop to my new apartment next month and they will stay with me through all of my upcoming college ventures.

  The pressure is off, but the oven is still on.  

  I had the biggest bunch of frozen bananas taking up freezer space, so I made my favorite banana bread and a new guy!  This chocolate-y, mildly underbaked (not even sorry about it, kinda love it actually), banana-infused hot mess was the best thing I did with my Monday off.  Dairy-free in honor of several new coworkers I've befriended over the months that unfortunately can't take the buttah or cheese.

  Oil and butter free, you don't remotely miss the dairy in these guys.  Bananas, applesauce, and a hint of molasses create all the moistness you could ever need.  Also, another deal breaker is the fact that these only require one bowl and a whisk.  I love one bowl recipes.

  Armed with this awesome new cake recipe and a weary but slightly more peaceful state of mind, I am so so ready/not ready to just be more.

Dairy-Free Double Chocolate Banana Cake
Yield: 9 pieces, or an 8x8 inch pan

  • 3 medium ripe bananas
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon molasses
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 egg
  • 1 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup chocolate chips
  • Mini chocolate chips for topping, optional

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease an 8x8 inch square pan.

Place your bananas in a medium bowl and mash 'em up with a fork.  Add the sugar and whisk thoroughly until combined.  Add the applesauce, molasses, vanilla, and egg until combined.  Whisk in the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt until just combined.  Stir in the chocolate chips.

Pour into prepared pan and bake and sprinkle with mini chocolate chips.  Bake for 25-30 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean.  Allow to cool on a wire rack before serving.  

Sources: adapted slightly from Friday Is Cake Night


Pink Lemonade Crinkle Cookies

  It's June.  The months have been flying before my eyes these days, bookmarked by the occasional little blurb of a blog post.  I've had far too many people coming and going from my life lately.  I'm learning the ins and outs of latte art.  I'm working through a massive spring head cold.

  And I'm learning.  Always always always learning.  Some profound little life lesson/nugget of wisdom/unfortunate life experience seems to be popping up every week, and I'm just trying to take it all in.

  That being said, have you ever met a person that you just click with?  Like, almost instantaneously you feel comfortable being your weirdest self around them, and they around you.  I love those kindred spirits, and I tend to give them a little extra something when I can.  

  It's these kind of kindred spirits that awaken the baking flame within me.  Over time I find out what kind of flavors they like, baked good they prefer, and all that nonsense.  Subconsciously, my brain arranges all these little facts until one day it hits me with a brilliant idea.

  That is exactly how these delicate, sweet, tart, brilliantly pink cookies were born.  They basically embody the personality of the lady in question, and as soon as I had perfected the recipe, I couldn't wait to see her face when she bit into one.

  It's always an added bonus when such a specially catered baked good happens to thrill everyone else as well.  All who tried these were perplexed at first by the concept of pink lemonade in cookie form, but as soon as they'd had a taste I heard nothing but praise for these summer beauties.

  Descriptions ranged from "They're just the right amount of sweet," to "It's like a lemon bar, but not."  And mostly, and less confusing, "These are amazing."

  I tweaked a few knockoff recipes based on Pillsbury's ever famous Pink Lemonade Cookie to come up with these guys.  They're delicious and I'm so happy with how the lemon really shone through. 

  If you have a pink lemonade lover in your life with an insatiable sweet tooth and a face that you and everyone else just loves to see happy, make these.  Happy summer.

Pink Lemonade Crinkle Cookies
Yield: about 30 cookies

  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup powdered pink lemonade mix (I used Country Time)
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • a few drops of red food coloring
  • 3/4-1 cup powdered sugar, for rolling

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.  Whisk together the flour, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.  

In a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment (or a large bowl with a hand mixer), beat the butter, granulated sugar, and pink lemonade mix on medium-high until very light and fluffy.  Add the egg, vanilla, and lemon juice and mix until thoroughly combined.  Add the dry ingredients in on low speed.  When the dry ingredients are almost completely incorporated, stop the mixer and add 2-3 drops of red food coloring to really bring out that pink.  Continue to mix until just incorporated.

Roll dough into 1-inch balls and roll in powdered sugar.  Place them 2 inches apart on the prepared baking sheets.  Bake for 10-12 minutes, rotating halfway through baking, or until the sides of the cookies are just starting to brown and/or firm up but the centers are still quite soft.  A soft center is key to the chewy cookie factor, they will continue to bake for a bit on the hot baking sheet.  Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.  Store in an airtight container, obviously.

Sources: adapted lightly from I Can't Believe I Ate the Whole Thing


Mint Chocolate Chip Meringues

  I think some of my earliest memories of pine needles come from the little fir grove on my grandparent's farm.  That grove used to seem huge to me.  The tall, curiously cloaked trees constantly dropping pine cones and covering the ground with their sleek leaves.  The shag carpet effect those dying needles created mesmerized me.  The way the light filtered through those trees was different, but I remember loving it.  It was always pretty there, no matter the time of year.

  While that grove was often my go to, other places on the farm also grabbed me.  The raspberry bushes, sunflowers, hammock, the back field where you could see all the land rolling out perfectly beneath you.  Living on a hilltop is not something to take for granted.

  Recently, I was asked to consider what inspires me to keep up this space.  There are so many things, but my paternal grandmother is almost always what I end up referring back to.  Not because she was a world famous pastry chef, but because the lifelong memory her "simple" dishes inflicted upon every member of her extended family never ceases to amaze me.  At some point she made something that one of us just absolutely adored.

  While I have a hard time picking out just one thing, I do know that one of the earliest things to set a mark in my memory was a simple yellow tupperware container of meringues.

  They weren't exactly a delicate cookie, but that's what made them grandma's.  This lady had the patience and talent to whip egg whites and sugar to perfection, but she also had this inherent housewife tendency to bake things until they were browned and set.  I think that just comes with the generation she grew up in.  As a result, her meringues were always slightly browned on the outside, much like the weather-worn skin she sported after spending countless summers in her garden.  This created a very crisp-shelled cookie, but somehow she still managed to maintain that slight marshmallow-y softness inside.  They had a good heart, also like Grandma.

  That's a lot of introspection about a cookie, I'll admit.  But I think there's always one part of my brain constantly turning over some aspect of food, and I've had many years to consider grandma's meringues.

  In a recent post work-induced-nap haze, I found myself craving the satisfaction of whipping up sugar and egg whites on high speed and creating that fantastically easy, glossy miracle for myself.  In my earlier years of meringue exploration, I had some pretty epic fails.  I found out the hard way that egg whites do not like oil.  I was dead set on creating these beautiful peppermint meringue kisses, but every time I added the extract I would watch with astonishment as my beautiful peaks fell before my eyes.  I went to several different grocery stores, determined to find an imitation extract without any oil, before giving up.

  After that sad adventure and my hopeless attempts to beat wilted meringue back into submission, I did some extensive googling about the do's and don'ts of whipping egg whites.  In these explorations I came across one of the most simplistic, but utterly satisfying meringue cookies.  

  Emeril Lagasses's "Forgotten Kisses" are just that.  You whip together a very simple meringue base, plop it onto baking sheets, stick them into an oven preheated to 350 degrees F, shut the oven off, and then forget about them.  You have to give them at least 2-3 hours in the cooling oven, but that's the beauty of it.  I often leave mine in overnight, pull them out in the morning and I have the most delicate, soft-centered meringue imaginable.  It's my favorite way to bake meringue now if stability isn't my main objective.  

  The oven heat renders the chocolate chips to just the right amount of softness, so that they only add to the amazing affect you get when you sink your teeth into one.  You need two hands so you can cup the other underneath to catch any meringue bits and chocolate chips that scatter.  Or you can employ my dad's technique of stuffing the entire thing into your mouth and just letting it dissolve.  Your call!

  Remembering the saving grace these cookies were to my trampled-upon meringue experiences, I felt the need to revisit them.  And I couldn't help but think what an amazing addition just the tiniest bit of peppermint extract would be.  I learned shortly after my bad first experience that 1/4-1/2 teaspoon is way to much oil for egg whites to handle.  But a tiny bit, such as an 1/8 teaspoon, is enough to impart the flavor without killing the peaks.

  So, in a stranger's kitchen I found the necessary tools to make these cookies happen.  Lacking certain necessities like parchment paper (meringues loooove to stick to anything/everything), I got creative and whipped out the aluminum foil.  Finding no cooking spray, I warmed up a bit of butter and lightly but thoroughly greased every inch of the lined pan.  While I'd advise dry parchment paper whenever possible, this method also worked like a charm.

  I honestly don't know why it is that I haven't yet invested in a kitchen scoop, but I was beyond thrilled to find one in a cluttered drawer.  It makes them look like little snowballs, and the sphericalness just adds to their overall charm.  You almost can't even tell that the peppermint-y insides are housing a cave of softened chocolate chips.

  I could wax poetic about these for days.  They were just what I needed last weekend, and they might just be what you need as well.  Whip 'em up, throw them in the oven, and forget about it.  Until you eat them, of course, then they'll be stuck in your head forever.

Mint Chocolate Chip Meringues
Yield: about 16 cookies if you use a small, two tablespoon-sized scoop.  Much more if you end up doing teaspoon amounts, like Emeril originally did.

  • 2 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 2/3 cup granulated sugar
  • A dash of vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon peppermint extract
  • 1 cup semisweet chocolate chips (or finely chopped chocolate)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F and line 1-2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

In a clean, dry stand mixer or medium bowl and hand mixer, whip the egg whites until foamy.  Add the cream of tartar and beat just until fluffy and not at all dry (do not over-beat).  Begin to add the sugar gradually, about 2 tablespoons at a time, waiting until the sugar is completely incorporated before adding more.  When 1/2 of the sugar has been added, add the vanilla and peppermint and continue to add remaining sugar.  Beat until the meringue is shiny and tight with stiff peaks.  Gently fold in the chocolate chips.

With a small kitchen scoop, mound the batter onto prepared sheet pans.  Alternatively, if looking for a smaller cookie, simply use a teaspoon to scoop the dough and then the back of another (tea)spoon to scrape the meringue into a little mound on the baking sheet.  

Place cookies into fully heated oven, shut the door tightly, and turn off the oven heat.  Leave undisturbed in the oven for at least 2 hours and up to overnight.  Store in an airtight container.

Sources: Emeril Lagasse of Food Network