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Jamie Lynn Stevenson can still remember the smell of walnut meringue cookies wafting from her great-grandmother's kitchen. The "little piles of heaven," also known in her family as bussels, or "kisses" in German, were dense but chewy, with hints of caramelized nut flavor inside.
"I was just salivating waiting for them," Stevenson recalls. "And the great thing about these cookies is that they didn't take very long to bake!"
But when she tried to follow the recipe in her own kitchen in Ashtabula, Ohio, after her great-grandmother died, she realized the cookies were not so easy to re-create. Stevenson knew the list of ingredients but had no clue about her great-grandmother's measurement or technique.
So she sent in the recipe as part of All Things Considered's "Lost Recipes" series, and with the help of Gesine Bullock-Prado, a pastry chef and cookbook writer in Norwich, Vt., decoded the secrets of meringue.
Walnut Meringue Cookies
Makes about 30 cookies
Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.
Combine the chopped walnuts with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch in a food processor, and process until very fine.
Spread the mixture on a parchment-lined sheet pan, and bake for 30 minutes at 250 degrees F. Allow to cool completely.
Once mixture is cool, stir well with 1/4 cup of cornstarch.
Boil water in a pot large enough to sit a clean, metal mixing bowl on top.
Beat the egg whites and 3/4 cup sugar in the mixing bowl over boiling water until the sugar is almost, but not completely, melted.
In a clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, combine egg white mixture with 1/2 teaspoon of salt until mixture is foamy.
Slowly add the remaining sugar, then 1 teaspoon of instant coffee or espresso powder, and whisk until the meringue becomes very stiff.
Gently fold the walnut mixture into the meringue.
Dollop tablespoons of the meringue, or pipe silver-dollar-sized dollops with a pastry bag, onto a parchment-lined sheet pan.
Bake at 250 degrees F for 25 to 30 minutes or until tender inside but not wet. You can open the oven door to check after 20 minutes but not before; otherwise, the meringue could collapse.
If you need help solving your own "Lost Recipe," submit it here to NPR's All Things Considered with "Lost Recipe" in the subject line.