Feather-light dessert perfect for spring

Could these cookies be any more perfect for springtime? I think not. They’re sweet, pastel and light as a feather. While they look impressive, they’re astonishingly easy to make. If I can make these, you can make these. Let everyone think you moonlight as a pastry chef in a French patisserie. It’ll be our secret.

Speaking of secret, there’s an unexpected ingredient in these meringue-based cookies. I use gelatin dessert powder (such as Jell-O brand). Besides giving these cookies their beautiful colors and fun, fruity flavors, the gelatin makes the meringue exceptionally stable and very easy to work with.

I imagine my dear readers rolling their eyes thinking, “She’s lost her mind. Not only is she expecting us to make meringue, but she wants us to use a piping bag.” Believe me, I used to be scared of both things, too. But as I said, if I can do this, anybody can do this.

If you can use a mixer, you can make meringue. You simply whip the egg whites, adding sugar and gelatin powder. If you choose not to pipe them, just plop by the spoonful and bake. Using a piping bag is great fun. I have no piping skills whatsoever.

The internet is filled with easy instruction videos. You can invest in some reusable bags and a few tips for less than $5. Any mistakes you make you can scoop back into the bag and try again. Or eat them. I won’t tell.

Perfect for Easter, bridal or baby showers, these cookies are a showstopper. You can add sprinkles, top with colored sugar or dip the bottoms in melted chocolate. You can combine different-colored batters in the piping bag for multicolor swirl effects. At a cost of under $2 a batch, these spectacular cookies are certainly frugal and fabulous.

PASTEL MERINGUE COOKIES

Yield: approximately 36 cookies

Time: 2 1/2 hours total

What you’ll need

4 egg whites

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1/2 cup sugar

1 3-ounce package any flavor gelatin

Here’s how

Preheat oven to 225 F. Carefully separate egg yolks from the whites, taking care that absolutely no yolks get in the whites. Reserve yolks for another purpose.

In a completely clean and dry mixing bowl, beat egg whites and cream of tartar on high speed. When whites reach soft peak stage, gradually add the sugar 1 tablespoon at a time. Continue to beat until stiff peaks form. Turn mixer to low and gradually add gelatin until incorporated.

On a parchment-lined baking sheet, drop mixture by tablespoonfuls or use your piping bag fitted with a decorative tip to pipe meringue mixture. Bake for 1 hour, then turn off heat. Without opening the oven door, leave them in the oven another hour to further dry.

I made cookies using five flavors of gelatin. Pineapple was the family favorite, but each flavor was enjoyable.

Unfortunately, adding the gelatin means they’re not kosher for Passover. Of course, you can omit the gelatin, double the sugar, add a teaspoon of vanilla and a few drops food coloring. Voilà!

Lifestyle expert Patti Diamond is the recipe developer and food writer of the website “Divas On A Dime — Where Frugal, Meets Fabulous!” Visit Patti at www.divasonadime.com and join the conversation on Facebook at DivasOnADimeDotCom. Email Patti at divapatti@divasonadime.com.

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