Kat eats local

Christmas mincemeat meringue cookies (dairy and gluten-free)

Sometimes, when you’ve been baking way too many cookies and you say you’ll do just one more batch late in the evening, and you’re a little bit tired, you make mistakes – you’re missing an ingredient, or you skip a step, or both.

No? Just me?

Sometimes, you do this and it’s a disaster, but other times, it works – which is the case with these mincemeat meringue cookies.

I was all set to make the Almond, Cinnamon and Meringue Biscuits from the beautiful Breakfast Lunch Tea book from Rose Bakery – and one day, I will. But I made so many modifications I can’t say I really tried the original recipe. For one thing, I had picked up hazelnut meal and decided to use it instead of almonds; for another, I discovered too late that the candied peel in my cupboard was dried out and unusable, and substituted some leftover mincemeat I had in the fridge. And, I forgot the cinnamon that the original recipe calls for. (I also added some cacao nibs, which don’t entirely work with the mincemeat, but would work with the hazelnuts and, maybe, some cocoa powder added early on, for a better-than-Nutella flavour?)

The original recipe calls for setting aside 200 g of meringue after adding the lemon juice but before adding the remaining ingredients, to be brushed on top of the cookies before they are dried then baked. I forgot this step and while it probably makes for prettier cookies, it makes the recipe more fussy. Finally, the original recipe notes that “they are a little tricky to cut,” which is shorthand for “they are sticky and impossible to get out of the cookie cutter” – so I gave up and just sliced them into squares with a knife, which also means no scraps to waste or, um, snack on. Not that I would do such a thing.

The final product has the look of a scone rather than a pretty cookie, but I love them all the same, and the gluten-avoiders at my party did, too. They can be frozen (they’re somewhat prone to breaking, but I’ve had a bunch in the freezer in a ziploc bag for a couple of weeks and they’re mostly intact) and are also delicious straight out of the freezer, like most Christmas cookies. They’re chewy and nutty with just enough mincemeat flavour.

(Baked custard is one of my favourite things to make with leftover egg yolks, by the way.)

4 egg whites
450 g (4 1/2 cups) icing sugar, plus extra for dusting
juice of 1/2 lemon and grated zest of 1 lemon
320 g (3 1/3 cups) ground hazelnuts
1/2 cup mincemeat

Beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks, then gradually add the sugar. When the mixture is very stiff, beat in the lemon juice. Add the ground hazelnuts, mincemeat and lemon zest. Mix until you have a dough-like paste, then chill in the fridge for 1 hour.

Line a cookie sheet (or more) with parchment paper.

Dust your work surface with sugar and use a well-sugared rolling pin to roll the dough to about 1 cm (1/2 inch) thick. Cut into two- to three-inch squares and place on baking tray (they will spread slightly but not much so they can be fairly close). Leave to dry for an hour.

Preheat the oven to 350F and bake the cookies for about 10 minutes, until the bases are lightly golden. The tops should remain white and the bases should be soft and moist.