When the weather heats up, heavy, creamy desserts can seem a bit too much. Instead, reach for a light, airy confection like these coconut meringue cookie bites that tantalize the taste buds without sitting heavy in the stomach. They’re also naturally gluten free and vegetarian!
Meringues are blissfully easy to make, melt in your mouth clouds of sugary goodness. But in all honesty, their sweetness can be a bit cloying, limiting you to only one meringue before the sugar hit sends you scrambling for the nearest bag of salty potato chips.
Thankfully, all is not lost. By stirring in copious amounts of unsweetened coconut, you can offset the sweetness and add a delectably toasty, buttery note that is blissful with a cup of iced tea or coffee. While some prefer to toast their coconut before stirring it in, I find that it gets plenty of toasting in the baking process, so I leave it plain in my coconut meringue cookie recipe.
Meringues are essentially egg whites, sugar, and a pinch of salt, beaten until smooth, thick, and glossy. I always like to add a pinch of cream of tartar, as this seems to ensure a perfect meringue: crispy on the outside, chewy and gooey on the inside. Some people like to chill their egg whites and the bowl before beating, but I’ve always used egg whites at room temperature and a bowl straight out of the cupboard, and I’ve never had a problem.
Once the base meringue is made, you can fold in any manner of tasty additions, from freshly ground spices and fragrant extracts to chopped dried fruits, shards of dark chocolate, ground roasted nuts, or, as in this case, desicated coconut and luscious vanilla. When you’re adding ingredients to the meringue, be sure to fold it in oh-so-gently so the meringue remains light and holds its shape.
Once the coconut meringue is finished, spoon it onto parchment covered baking sheets. There’s no need to space them very much since they do not spread during baking. You can do tiny little coconut meringue bites, substantial cookie size, or giant ones that can be topped with cream and fruit. Although the big, fancy ones are great for parties, for every day I prefer the cookie or bite-size meringues. They are just the right size for a quick snack throughout the day, and look pretty arranged on a platter if guests suddenly arrive.
While coconut meringue cookies are lovely on their own, I like to add a dusting of freshly ground nutmeg just after they come out of the oven. The warming spice and buttery coconut just seem to go well together, and the combined fragrance is downright intoxicating.
If, heaven forbid, the meringues crack while baking or get dropped, simply let them cool then break them up into lovely, coconut-y shards and sprinkle them over a warm vanilla pudding or plain chocolate cake, or use them in an Eton Mess. They’re also a welcome addition to a fruit salad; just add them in at the last minute to provide a delightful crunch.
- 3 egg whites
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 cup white sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla
- 1 1/4 cups desicated coconut
- Ground nutmeg
Preheat oven to 300 F.
In clean bowl, beat egg whites, salt, and cream of tartar with electric beaters until they are glossy and form peaks when you lift up the beater.
Add sugar slowly, beating after each addition, until meringue is stiff and shiny again.
Gently fold in coconut and vanilla.
Drop batter by spoonfuls onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake 20-25 minutes until lightly golden.
Remove from oven, dust lightly with nutmeg, and let cool completely before serving.