A slight detour from ice cream. Because ice cream usually requires egg yolks but not egg whites, I frequently have leftover whites. I’m ashamed to say that I often just tossed them down the drain, but I’ve subsequently reformed my ways. I’ve been making pasta lately (more on this at another time, I’m sure), which also requires egg yolks but not whites. However, because of the sheer number of yolks required (as many as ten for a half batch of Flour + Water’s basic egg dough), the prospect of wasting that many egg whites was too much to bear. Keep in mind my mother told me recently that she didn’t want to throw out the simple syrup I had made a few months ago because when she was a young girl in India, sugar was rationed and the idea of discarding sugar was anathema to her. I guess in my family we try to avoid waste.
But what to do with egg whites? Someone suggested egg white omelettes, but I’ve always thought they’re kind of sad. I could spice nuts, but give that you only need one egg white for almost two cups of nuts, that seemed inefficient. So I decided to do meringues. I have some friends who don’t eat gluten, and thus my cookies are often off-limits to them. But meringues don’t use flour, so meringues are perfect for then. And, frankly, they’re pretty pleasant — a light treat for when one doesn’t want to be too indulgent.
Yotam Ottolenghi, the mastermind behind Plenty, Jerusalem, and Plenty More has a recipe for rosewater pistachio meringues in his first cookbook, Ottolenghi, which I have modified a bit. Fundamentaly meringues are just egg whites, sugar, and a flavoring (with a touch of salt and cream of tartar as well), so they’re easily repurposed to suit your taste. The basic proportions I use is a quarter cup of sugar for each egg white. So, if you’re making one of my standard ice cream recipes and want to use the whites for meringues, set aside ¾ cup of sugar.
My friend Bahrad, who is of Iranian ancestry, raved when I had finally perfected this recipe that my version was indistinguishable from what you’d buy in a Persian bakery. This flavor combination is very common in Persian food, and you can find rosewater in most good supermarkets or in specialty stores. I was pleased to have allowed him a sort of Proustian joy upon eating a meringue (rather than that other “m” French cookie, the madeleine), and given how excited he was about the prospect of a constant flow of meringues from my oven, he certainly deserves to be the eponym.
Bahrad’s Pistachio Rosewater Meringues
Adapted from Yotam Ottolenghi’s Ottolenghi
3 egg whites
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 ½ tablespoons rosewater
1/8 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
½ cup crushed toasted unsalted pistachios
In the bowl of a standing mixer, mix the egg whites and cream of tartar with the whisk attachment until foamy. Add the rosewater and salt and whisk again on high speed until the egg whites have doubled in volume. With the mixer running, slowly add the sugar and continued to whisk until the egg whites are white (not translucent), holding stiff peaks. It will somewhat resemble whipped cream in appearance.
Transfer meringue base into a pastry bag, or use two spoons. You will slowly pipe or place a small mound of meringue base on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. I use a small dab of meringue base on the underside of each corner of the paper to stick the paper to the sheet. Each mound should be about an inch in diameter, and you should leave an inch in between the mounds.
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees Fahrenheit. Sprinkle a small amount of the pistachio powder on each mound. Bake for two and a half hours. When finished baking, turn off the oven and wedge a wooden spoon between the door and the oven to slowly let the heat escape. Remove cookie sheet from oven after fifteen minutes and let meringues completely cool before eating.