Although I’ve never liked any kind of meringue pie, I adore meringues — those crunchy bits of pillowy slow-baked egg-white goodness. Maybe it’s because my maternal grandmother always had a reused (I don’t think we would use the word “recycled” 40 years ago) coffee can full of them when we’d drive up from Tennessee to visit her and my grandpa in southern Illinois. I assume that with her Depression-honed frugalness, she made them from leftover egg whites — although I don’t remember her making anything especially yolk-centric. Anyway, to keep me from embarrassing her by buying four containers of store-made meringues at once, Younger Daughter has perfected her recipe and technique for homemade meringues. They’re so much better and better-for-you than store-bought. Her great-grandmother would be proud.
Then fold in 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract and some grated vanilla bean. Put half egg-white mixture into a plastic gallon food-storage bag and cut one of the corners off. Squeeze dollops of the mixture onto a parchment- or wax-paper covered baking sheet. For chocolate meringues, add 1 1/2 tablespoon cocoa powder and mini chocolate chips to remaining egg-white batter and repeat. Bake at a low temperature — 225 degrees — for about one hour. They’ll be yummy but still a bit chewy. Then turn oven off and let sit overnight or for several more hours to dry out. Just remember to take them out of the oven before turning the oven on for something else. I’m just saying. Anyway, I could eat a whole pan of these at one sitting. They’re really easy and fun and have no fat in them whatsoever. And I still can taste the grandmother-love in them, along with daughter-love. That is one powerful combination.