These adorable Snowman Meringue Cookies will be the hit of the cookie swap. They'll stand out amid the plethora of sugar cookies, gingersnaps, lemon bars and every other classic holiday-cookie-swap treat. Crispy, flaky and a bit chewy, these stacked sweets strike a just-right sugary note when you're looking for a nibble that isn't too sweet. Bonus: They still manage to be lower in calories and sugar than most holiday cookies.
Meringue cookies are very simple to make. These only require five ingredients (egg whites, cream of tartar, sugar, vanilla and chocolate chips), things you probably have in your pantry right now. The meringue is piped into the shape of snowmen, baked until hardened and then decorated with melted chocolate to add the super-cute features. With a few helpful hints in this step-by-step guide, they come together in a snap.
These Snowman Meringue Cookies are much easier than they look, too. That makes them a perfect kid-friendly weekend baking project. Little ones can help pipe the snowmen bodies and even draw on the faces and limbs. The snowmen cookies could even have a colorful scarf if you add a few sprinkles.
Photos: Stephanie Olson
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Cold eggs are easier to separate than room-temperature ones, so separate the egg whites from the yolks soon after you take them out of your fridge. Older kids can help with this step. Then, let the whites come to room temperature.
Make sure the bowl and beaters are completely clean and that no egg yolks sneak into the whites. Even just a speck of fat will keep the meringue from forming. If you do end up with a bit of yolk in your whites, use one of the eggshell halves to gently scoop out the yolk.
Add the cream of tartar, then beat the whites until soft peaks form. Younger kids can slowly start adding 1 tablespoon of sugar at a time while you beat the whites. Beat until the whites are stiff and glossy. Add the vanilla and beat for 30 more seconds.
At the soft-peak stage, the whites will mound, but sharp points will not form. (See photo on the left.) Once the sugar is added and they are beaten to stiff peaks, the whites will be shiny and glossy and will hold a stiff-pointed peak. (See photo on the right.)
Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven, and preheat the oven to 200°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats. Fill a 1-quart sealable plastic bag (or a pastry bag fitted with a ½-inch plain tip) with the meringue.
Cut off one corner of the plastic bag, and fold the top of the bag over a few times to push the meringue toward the cut corner. Hold the bag perpendicular to the baking sheet, and pipe the meringue into a 1-1/2-inch-diameter cookie. Then, pipe half as much on top to resemble a snowman.
Kids will love piping the snowmen but may need a little help learning to squeeze the bag. Just make sure to keep the meringue pushed down in the bag, so it doesn't start to come out of the top.
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Place the pans in the oven, and bake. Switch the pans from top to bottom and back to front halfway through the cook time. Bake until the cookies are dry and crisp, about 1 1/2 to 2 1/2 hours. The baking time will vary depending on the humidity in the kitchen, so if you're making these on a rainy day, they may take longer.
Make sure the cookies are completely dry before removing them from the oven. Place the pans on a wire rack, and let the cookies cool to room temperature on the pans for about 15 minutes. At this point, the snowmen can be stored in an airtight container for up to 1 week.
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Melt chocolate chips in the microwave, and then place the melted chocolate into a sealable plastic bag. Push the chocolate down to one corner, and snip off a tiny section of the corner. The smaller hole will make it easier to pipe the dots for the eyes and buttons, the expressive mouth and the twig-like arms. Let the kids give each snowman its own personality. Just like snowflakes, each of these snowmen will be unique and darling.
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