Thursday, January 10, 2013

Forgotten Cookies are part of our Christmas heritage. They are a particular favorite of my husband. And, unfortunately this year Forgotten Cookies were…well, forgotten. Admittedly they are a bit out of the ordinary in production technique. They are mixed at night, put in a preheated oven that is then extinguished and left in solitary confinement overnight. In the morning, you eagerly open the oven to see the cookies in all their glory, much like awakening Christmas morning and rushing in survey the bounty.
Forgotten Cookies
 They predate our marriage. My mother sent them to me in a care package at college. Many of them were in bits after traveling from Alaska to California, but they were consumed rapidly none the less. The original recipe came from my aunt in Texas. I still have the clipping from the newspaper. For a long time I never saw anything like them but later found similar ones in Christmas Cookies from Southern Living. The recipe was identical except for the addition of a teaspoon of vanilla. They also became popular in the low-fat era because they have no added fat. The original recipe, studded with pecans and chocolate chip makes moot that point, but then I never ate them as a panacea for high fat consumption.

 My version omits the nuts and adds crushed red and green candy canes. 

 Well, last night I decided better late than never to maintain holiday tradition. Since our 33rd wedding anniversary is tomorrow and since it was discovered this week that my husband’s kidney has a malignant mass upon it which will most likely require the kidney’s removal, making the cookies seemed a feeble but thoughtful sop to alleviate some distress and bring comfort.

 They emerged glossy and festive, but rather chewy instead of crisp
Do you ever wonder if some of the foods you cherish and crave at holiday times are not empirically delicious but only tasty to you because of tradition and context? I recently read something Ina Garten wrote in the Ladies Home Journal about that. She loves a Jewish concoction of buckwheat and pasta called kasha varnishkes, but her friends think it tastes “like cardboard.” She calls it “a remembered flavor from childhood.”

 Would others think Forgotten Cookies reside in that category? Do you have a holiday food that you love but others don’t appreciate?

Forgotten Cookies (Vintage version)
 2 egg whites at room temperature (remember, when whipping egg whites you want no trace of yolk or any other residual fat in the bowl or on the beaters. You also want them at room temperature. You can place the whole eggs in a bowl of warm water to facilitate this process. Whipping cream however is a different matter. You want cold cold things then. Put the bowl, the beaters and even the cream in the freezer for a bit. Just thought you'd like to know.)

2/3 cup sugar
1 pinch of salt
1 cup chopped pecans
1 cup chocolate chips

Beat eggs until thick and foamy and gradually add sugar and beat until stiff. Stir in salt, pecans and chocolate chips. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Drop by teaspoonfuls onto foil-lined cookie sheets. (They can be close together because they will not spread.) Place in oven and immediately turn off heat. Leave in oven overnight. (If you tend to be forgetful, put a note on the oven door. This also warns other family members not to disturb or (tragedy) to  preheat the oven for other uses.) Rush to oven in the morning to enjoy one or two with a glass of milk for a "low-fat" breakfast.

Forgotten Cookies (Tweaked by Diana version)
 4 egg whites at room temperature (because one pan was never enough.) See above directions.
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 cup sugar
2 cups chocolate chips
crushed red/green candy canes (peppermint) (A good way to do this is to fill  two Ziplock bags, layered together, with some candy canes. Expel the air and seal. Go out to your front porch...a fine way to feel the Christmas spirit on a frosty night...and place the bags on a concrete step. Pound with the side of a meat tenderizer mallet. Or do this inside but take care with the granite counter top!)

Beat eggs until foamy. Add salt and cream of tartar. Beat until soft peaks form. Continue beating on high speed while SLOWLY adding sugar. Beat until glossy and stiff. Fold in chocolate chips. Drop onto foil-lined cookie sheets. Sprinkle tops generously with crushed candy. Proceed as directed above.

Some people express concern about uncooked egg whites. I'm no chemist, so I haven't been able to determine just how much cooking gets done with residual 350 degree heat and I don't mind living dangerously, but if you are squeamish, this method is available:
Bake at 225 degrees for 1 1/2 hours. Open the oven door and let cookies sit until they are dry and crisp.