The 12 days of Christmas Cookies: Day 7 - Nutty Cinnamon Meringue Balls

Wow, people - I need to hurry if I want to be done before Christmas with the 12 days countdown that's slowly turning out to be a 20 day countdown. Oops. Sorry about that, but I'm still having laptop trouble that's keeping me awake at night (quite literally), plus I kinda have to fit in Christmas parties and Christmas market visits and whatnot into my evenings (today it's The Hobbit), so let's just say: I'm never short of excuses.

Anyway. I've been making these Nutty Cinnamon Meringue Balls for the past few years and my success rate....differs. The first couple of years these turned out beautiful. Last year: completee disaster. Inedible. This year: nice on the inside, not so nice on the outside. So these are a bit tricky, probably because there's meringue involved. So it meringues, macarons or macaroons are no problem for you: go for it. If you've got an ambivalent relationship with meringue: maaaybe give it a try. Meringue never works for you? Go find different cookies. Seriously. Go.

Nutty Cinnamon Meringue Balls

For the cookies:
3 egg whites
250g powdered sugar
1 p. vanilla sugar
1 tsp cinnamon (Or more. I usually use waaaaay more.)
300g finely ground hazelnuts

For the decoration:
I've tried a few different things here before: whole hazelnuts, almond slivers and (this year) sprinkles. So whatever you like best.

1. Start beating the egg whites (best would be to use a stand mixer). Once they start getting stiff, slowly start adding the powdered sugar and vanilla sugar and keep beating until the sugar is well incorporated and the meringue is fairly stiff (mine never gets completely stiff, so don't worry if yours doesn't either. Or maybe that's my problem and you should worry. Drop me a comment if you have a suggestion there.).

2. Put aside about 5 tbsp of the meringue.

3. Quickly fold the cinnamon and ground hazelnuts into the meringue.

4. With your hands, form small, walnut-sized balls (it helps if your hands are wet, since the mix is pretty sticky and your wet hands help form very smooth balls) and put them on a baking tray lined with baking paper. Make sure to leave some space between them, since they will rise a bit during baking.

5. Use the back-end of a wooden spoon or a chopstick and make a small dent in the middle of each ball (about 1cm deep).

6. Fill the leftover meringue (that we set aside earlier) into a piping bag and pipe a little dollop into the dent and around it. Make sure it's not too much if your meringue isn't completely stiff, because it will get runny during baking (Don't I know it.) and that's it's as centered as possible.

7. Put your choice of decoration (nuts, sprinkles etc.) on top.

8. Preheat your oven to 125°C and bake for about 25 to 30 minutes. The tricky thing (as with every meringue-based cookie it seems) is to find the point when the inside is done and before the outside starts to crack.

I didn't succeed this year - the insides were fine, but the outsides had started cracking already (as you can see on the pictures). But with me, it's usually all about the taste, so whatever. :)

♥ Nicole

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