What to Give Santa for Christmas

As Christmas gets closer and closer, I always get nostalgic. When I was a kid, I would help my grandmother and great-grandmother bake dozens and dozens upon dozens of cookies every weekend from Thanksgiving until the week before Christmas in preparation for the big "giveaway."

When we were done baking, we'd package a few of each of the 30 different kinds of cookies in a decorated coffee tin and gift them to our friends. For me, it was a magical time and I loved giving my tins to the special people in my life.

Giving a homemade gift feels real to me, so that's what I've continued to do on my own. Yes, I have given my own signature to my holiday gifts, but it's still what I prefer to do for the people I love. Interestingly enough, this tradition is how Cowgirl Granola got started...

Each decorated tin was lovingly topped with an overnight cookie (also known as forgotten cookies) or two or three. These delicate, little, white meringue cookies are morsels of melt-in-your-mouth-goodness and, for me, they scream "Christmas is here!" Plus, they are just beautiful.

The best part was making the cookies at night and waking up to find these bright gems waiting for me in the oven. Hence the name "forgotten" cookie. I made them many times with my step-children when they were kids and I hope you'll make them with your kids, nieces, nephews or even grandchildren. They are fun to make, easy and you pop them in the oven and fuggetaboutthem.

One of the tricks to these precious packages is to make them on a crisp, dry day so the meringue dries out completely. Otherwise, you end up with sticky, not-so-special cookies that taste great but don't have the right texture. Because we have been having some dry weather for a change, I thought it a perfect way to get me in the spirit.

And I have yet to meet a Santa who didn't love these cookies as well...

Buen provecho!

Overnight Cookies (aka Forgotten Cookies)
The Cowgirl Gourmet (http://www.thecowgirlgourmet.blogspot.com/) adapted this recipe from her grandmother and a similar recipe from Cook's Illustrated Holiday Baking 2010 magazine

Print recipe

When I was a child, we called these overnight or forgotten cookies because you make them at night, put them in a preheated oven, turn off the oven and forgot about them until the next morning. When you woke up they were dry and ready to eat!

The trick is to make them on a cool, crisp day and to let the meringues cool in the oven overnight, without opening the door. In the morning, transfer them to an airtight container where they will keep for up to 2 weeks, if they last that long. Which they won't.

Makes 16-24 cookies, depending on how big you make them

3 large egg whites
A pinch of Kosher salt
2/3 cup sugar
2/3 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup chopped pecans or walnuts, optional

Adjust the oven racks to upper-middle and lower-middle positions and heat oven to 225 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

While the eggs are cold, separate the yolks from the eggs and reserve the yolks for making something else. Let the egg whites come to room temperature as they make a better meringue that way.

In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites and salt at high speed until soft white peaks form, about a minute or two. With mixer running at medium speed, slowly add the sugar about 3 Tablespoons at a time allowing each addition to incorporate fully.

When you've addedd all the sugar, stop the mixer and scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Return the mixer to high speed and beat until glossy, stiff peaks have formed, approximately 3-4 minutes. Taste the meringue. The sugar should be fully incorporated and not gritty at all but thick and creamy. If it's still gritty, beat a little longer.

Carefully stir in chocolate chips, vanilla and nuts or not. My grandmother loved adding chopped nuts to hers, so that's not an option for me...

While you can use a pastry bag to pipe these or a ziploc bag with an end cut-off, it's just as easy and fun to use two tablespoons. Scoop the meringue in one spoon and scoot it off onto the baking sheet with the other spoon. Depending on the size of your mounds, you will get between 16 and 24 cookies.

Place the cookie sheets in the preheated 225 degree degree oven and let cook for one hour. After an hour, turn the oven off. Allow the meringues to remain there overnight, about 6-8 hours. Do not open the oven until the next day!

When you and the kids wake up in the morning (and they will wake up early for these cookies, trust me), this is what you will find! And they do go quite well with a steaming cup of coffee...or hot chocolate.

It is Christmas, after all!

Merry Christmas!

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