Clara’s Cookies

Clara’s Cookies

Growing up, we had a close family friend named Clara.  She was one of those amazing old ladies who, even until she died at age 97, always welcomed unannounced visitors, and always had a plateful of homemade cookies to offer them.  Once she admitted to me that she kept a huge stash of freshly-baked cookies in the freezer and would defrost a plate-full every few days.  What a woman!  My favorite of her cookies were these little numbers she called “Forgottens.”  They were fluffy meringues filled chocolate chips and sometimes sprinkles.  Usually I hate meringues (what a sorry excuse for a cookie), but these tasted so much like chocolate chip cookies it was insane.  Clara explained that they were called “Forgottens” because they were placed in a pre-heated oven, and then the heat was turned off and they were left inside the oven overnight.  After every visit I found myself with a belly full of “Forgottens” and a whole bag-full for later.  Clara died a few days before I moved to Bloomington and someone baked up some “Forgottens” for her visitation.

Later that week I was living by myself in Indiana, no friends, nothing to do.  The hard thing about moving by yourself is that you have no one to eat the cookies and brownies you bake up to comfort yourself when you are depressed and lonely in a new place.  Reasoning with myself that meringues were a healthy alternative to chocolate chip cookies, I attempted my first batch of “Forgottens.”  And they flopped–the crispy meringues turned out flat and undercooked.  They still tasted damn good, but were way too chewy for me to gobble up in one setting.  I must have tried 10,000 recipes during my two years in Bloomington, but nothing ever lived up to Clara’s cookies.  Depressed, I threw in the towel.

Fast-forward to the present.  Frank and I are cookie FIENDS.  But since we usually just chill by ourselves the whole week, I’ve always been wary of baking batches and batches of sugary treats for us to consume alone.  Last week I reached my breaking point.  A wanted a cookie.  Actually, I wanted 100 cookies, to consume all by myself while watching Dr. Oz and curling up next to the space heater, when it finally popped in my head–CLARA’S COOKIES!  And I remembered that I’d found a chocolate-chip meringue recipe floating around in the Smitten Kitchen archives.  Maybe this could be the answer to all of my woes.

Oh yes, yes, yes, it was.  Deb, you are a genius.  Or your mom, or whoever came up with the original recipe you posted.  Apparently the secret to recreating Clara’s legendary “Forgetten” cookies is not to forget about them at all, but to to put them in a hot oven for  a set time (specifically 200 degrees for 2 hours).  I suppose it takes away the fantasy and wonder of the original “Forgottens,” but in its place is the brilliant crispy, crunchy, chocolatey texture of my dreams.

(Frank took all of these tantalizing pictures.  He even helped pour the sugar in while I was mixing.  He’s such a pro!)

Clara’s “Forgotten” Cookies
(recipe derived from Smittenkitchen)

2 egg whites at room temperature
1/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
1 tsp of vanilla (careful not to add too much–it’ll make the cookies brown in color!)
3/4 cup sugar*
6 oz semi-sweet chocolate chips (half a bag)
sprinkles (optional)

Our recipe bakes up 12 medium-sized cookies

Preheat oven to 200°F

Beat egg whites until frothy.  Add salt, cream of tartar, and vanilla and continue beating until the mixture forms soft peaks.  Slowly add sugar to the mixture while beating, and continue until the batter is stiff.**  Fold in the chocolate chips and, if you are feeling festive (I wasn’t), a handful of sprinkles.

Spoon the batter onto a cookie sheet covered in parchment paper (aluminum foil works in pinch) to form cookie-shaped puddles.  Place in the preheated oven and bake for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.  The secret to these puppies is NOT to open the oven door for the first hour of baking!  Really, you can probably get away with leaving them in there for 1 1/2 hours without peaking, and they’ll be done!

*This recipe calls for superfine sugar, but to be honest it works with plain sugar as well.  Apparently the addition of a superfine sugar with create a smoother cookie, but I’ve gotten great results without.  Don’t have superfine?  Whirl your sugar around in the food processor for a bit.

**Now,here’s the thing.  No matter how many times I’ve baked these, I’ve never really gotten a batter that “holds stiff peaks.”  If you’re able to, great!!  If yours is more of a thick puddle like mine, that’s fine!  The stiffer the batter, the taller your cookies will be, but they all taste the same no matter what.  Don’t get discouraged!  (As a side note, I would assume that finer sugar will probably yield a stiffer batter–maybe I’ll experiment with that at some point)

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