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Christmas Cookies: Conquering My Fear of Meringue

When I started baking from scratch, I was a preteen. I scoured the Joy of Cooking for an easy cookie recipe that included ingredients we kept in the house. I found that in a sugar drop cookie recipe. Before long, I was adapting the recipe to make thumbprint cookies, decorated cookies and more.

One year, my very good friend Allison and I decided to have a baking blitz to produce dozens of Christmas cookies in one single day. It was just days before Christmas, and I’d like to think it was snowing hard outside while we mixed, rolled and baked. To be honest, though, I am not sure if that’s the case or not. Nonetheless, we baked nearly all day – sugar cookies, chocolate chip, and more. The kitchen, with it’s makeshift kitchen island table, and glorious dark cherry cabinets, was covered in flour, sugar and more. Everything was crying for a cleanup, but we pressed on for one last recipe – meringue cookies.

Neither of us had ever made meringue before and we really didn’t know what we were looking for when the recipe called for stiff, glossy peaks from the egg whites. We beat and beat and beat, but the result was nothing that resembled what I know now to be stiff and glossy. Still, we pushed on. When we tried to pipe the cookies onto the baking sheet, they created one very flat layer. But did we take pause? Nah. Into the oven they went. I don’t remember exactly what went wrong after that, but the result was a tan-colored, overcooked, foul-smelling mess.

I haven’t attempted meringue since that day. I was traumatized by the whole experience. Instead of light, crisp cookies, Allison and I had produced a colossal disaster. Fortunately, we’d made many, many batches of delicious cookies to fall back on.

That was 15 years ago. Back then, out of the box cooking for me was trying to make French fries with Adobo seasoning in a bit of oil on the stove. Inevitably, they made me ill. Guess what? Adobo and I are not friends. So, I’ve grown and learned since then. Today, I am a far better cook than anyone ever expected me to be (lest you think I am bragging, I’m not. The expectations weren’t too high). Still, the trepidation from that first attempt at meringue has hung with me for all these years.

Recently, I decided to conquer my fear. Why should I be afraid of this airy little cookie? Am I not a capable, confident woman with all the right tools?

This batch wasn’t without flaw – the recipe wasn’t that good and some of the cookies literally exploded when touched. And I discovered that I didn’t have the right sized pastry bag or pastry tip — right as I was about to start piping. That’s why there won’t be any recipe for this.

But my fear? Gone. It turns out that when you understand what the recipe is asking you to do, the cookies are ridiculously easy.

Do you have a food or recipe that you fear making? A bad kitchen experience that turned you off of making something? Share in the comments below!

Deconstructed Chocolate Peppermint Bark Cookies
Deconstructed Chocolate Peppermint Bark Cookies
Reflections on Christmas 2008


Wednesday 24th of December 2008

Hi Sarah,

My apologies for putting down the wrong name. I think you've already guessed what happened. I was on the other website without realizing I was on your site already. I got to learn my mistake only after I clicked another link. I wouldn't mind if you could give me some tips on cooking meringue so it won't be another disaster next time. Thanks.


Wednesday 24th of December 2008

Hi Connie,

It's been awhile since I last browsed through your website and I am so pleased to note the changes you've made with it. Well done! Like you, I have a bad experience with meringue. I tried to conquer it today and it wasn't really bad though it didn't turn out the way I like it as it wasn't crunchy. It was chewy and a bit rubbery. Maybe you could share some tips on how to solve this? Thank you in advance.