These meringue-type cookies are based on a 19th century Russian confection known as pastila. The original is quite a labor-intensive process; one recipe called for beating the mixture by hand for half an hour! These cookies bake, or rather, dry, long and slow, anywhere from 6 – 8 hours in the oven, a bit less in a dehydrator. They’re simple to make, yet still a bit tricky, or at least I found them to be so, and I’m not sure I’ve mastered them, even after making several batches. Worth the effort though, as they’re quite sweet and tasty. One is usually enough for me. If you have unsweetened applesauce on hand you can of course forgo the cooking of the apples part.
3 large apples, or 2 c applesauce
1 t lemon juice
3/4 c sugar
1/2 t almond or vanilla extract
1 t cinnamon
2 egg whites
1. Peel apples. Halve, core, and slice or chunk. Steam or bake until tender. Purée, either with a masher or in a food processor. Transfer to a large, preferably high-sided bowl (trust me on this). Stir in lemon juice, sugar, extract, and cinnamon.
2. Beat egg whites until stiff but not dry or shiny. Fold into applesauce mixture. Beat at high speed for at least 5 minutes, and up to 10 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 150ºF or your oven’s lowest setting. (Mine is 170ºF. You can leave the oven door slightly ajar if you like, but I usually don’t.) Line a baking sheet or two with parchment paper. Lightly grease the parchment paper. Alternatively, if you are using a dehydrator, either line trays with parchment or use a fruit roll screen. Lightly grease.
4. Drop large teaspoon amounts or scant tablespoon amounts onto prepared trays. Don’t let them touch. Bake or dehydrate (at 150ºF) for 6 – 8 hours, until the cookies are dry to the touch. I found that the dehydrator cookies took 6 hours, while the oven cookies took almost 8 hours. Allow to cool on the trays for 5 – 10 minutes before removing to wire racks to dry.
5. The cookies will be chewy at first, but will become crispy as they age. Keep in a tightly closed container.