Ode to Trash Cookies

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by Barb, who’s finished her Christmas holiday baking

In the 1960s, my mother had a challenge. Her annual Christmas cookie baking resulted in ten unused egg whites. Unwilling to throw them away, she searched for a recipe that would use them up. The first year she made actual coconut macaroons, shaped like wreaths with red food coloring bows and green leaves. I thought they were beautiful and delicious (I still love macaroons) but in a couple of days they were hard as rocks. Since my mother did her Christmas cookie baking in a flurry in one day (as I do), then stored the cookies in tins and doled them out for gatherings and parties all month, that wasn’t going to work.

Then she found a recipe for “marangoons.” These tasty concoctions were pure 1960s cooking. (Even the Google won’t find a recipe for me now.) The egg whites are beat with confectioners sugar, and then cornflakes, shredded coconut, and chocolate chips are folded in. The resulting mess is dropped by spoon onto cookie sheets and baked.

That was the recipe that stuck. My mother called them “trash cookies.” They were meant to use up the egg whites and to maybe help fill out a plate full of cookies, but other than that her disdain for them was total. They were the very poor relations of the more refined rolled and cut cookies, the butter cookies and the hazelnut wreaths, which were tons more work, required more expensive ingredients, and most important, a more discerning palate to appreciate their subtle flavors.

My mother-in-law, on the other hand, always declared the marangoons her favorites. She seemed to believe her love of the cheapest cookies somehow made her a more virtuous person. Just as my mother’s snobbishness about the marangoons tells you something about her personality, my mother-in-law’s vocal embrace of them tells you something about her.

The cognitive dissonance was a little much for me, but I rolled my eyes at both of them and went on.

The truth is, the marangoons don’t last all that long or travel well. Nonetheless, when I became the primary cookie maker in the family, I would ship a tin full of all the different kinds of cookies to my parents. “I don’t know why you even include the marangoons,” my mother would say every year. “They’re stale when they get here.” But I continued to include a few, which tells you something about my personality.

My husband, in keeping with his personality, has tried to upscale the trash cookies. Really good chocolate chips do make a difference, but fancy coconut was terrible and the organic free-range cornflakes he bought at Whole Foods turned into a sodden mass. Better to stay with Kelloggs. I told you it was a 1960s recipe.

I lost the actual recipe a few years back, and by then what I was doing bore only a passing resemblance to the original directions.

I made half the usual amount this year, because I’m doing some of my cookie baking with my granddaughter in Virginia later in the month. Here is how I made the marangoons.

Ingredients

5 egg whites
1 cup confectioners sugar
1 12-ounce bag of chocolate chips
1 7-ounce bag of shredded, sweetened coconut
1/2 the contents of a 12-ounce box of cornflakes.

Instructions

In a large bowl, beat the egg whites, adding the confectioners sugar gradually until it is a gooey mess. Fold in the cornflakes, then the chocolate chips, then the coconut, mix thoroughly.

Drop by the spoonful onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper.

Bake at 350 degrees for fifteen to twenty minutes.

Readers: Do you have a recipe that is like a poor relation that came to stay?

40 Thoughts

  1. No recipe, my mother would have made angel food cake – what can I say, note the absence of recipe. I love the thrifty use of marangoons. Cannot imagine the taste, but very 1960s!

  2. No, but I have a method from the lazy guest who came to stay: I make a regular chocolate chip cookie recipe (not for Christmas), then pat it out in a big rimmed cookie sheet. Bake and cut into squares. Bingo. I don’t have to dirty three pans and make all those individual cookies, which tells you something about my personality. That’s the part I loved best about your post, Barb – the telling of personalities!

  3. What a great story, may have to give them a try! I did find a recipe for Olive Oil biscuits online when I didn’t have any eggs. They have become an easy fave! I don’t really have any good use it up recipes that I can think of this early in the day!

  4. My mother used to make a similar cooky called Forgotten Cookies. Egg whites, granulated sugar and chocolate chips. We would make them after dinner. The oven would be turned on and then once the cookies were in it was turned off and in the morning the cookies were done!

  5. Last year, The Girl made something with egg whites and crushed peppermints. I wasn’t sure about them, but they went like hotcakes. Turned out like a merengue with chips of peppermint.

    I don’t know that I have a “use it up” or “poor relative” recipe.

  6. I love this post! And the name Marangoons is priceless! The last syllable has all kinds of possibilities for fun!
    I am half French and from eastern Massachusetts. Lots of interesting recipes that stayed. My conclusion is that, somehow, they were comfort foods. Researching some of the origins though, is a lot of fun. Sometimes, the recipes and the locations where you could buy some of these items has been very long and singular. Rochette’s Beans for instance.

  7. These look delicious. And cornflakes were a big ingredient in the 60s and 70s. I have a memory of making some kind of chocolate thing that included cornflakes. Anyone else remember this?

      1. Oh, definitely. Smear mayonnaise on the skinned chicken and then roll in crushed corn flakes. Always so tender and juicy.

      2. Yes! My mother used cornflake crumbs for breading fish and chicken and adding bulk to salmon cakes. And honestly? Sometimes I do too. Very crisp and a nice flavor.
        A family tradition that started when my kids came home from college for Thanksgiving- no interest at all in any of the delicious seasonal pies I can make. They wanted childhood nostalgia – chocolate pudding and bananas in a graham cracker crust! Homemade whipped cream was an accepted as a sub for the canned stuff.

  8. I’m not much of a cookie maker anymore, but I do remember a lot of non-bake cookies from the 60s and 70s that included various kinds of cereal.

    I had an aunt who always made at least a dozen different kind of cookies every year for Christmas presents. Even marzipan! She was diabetic so she couldn’t even eat any of them!

  9. Our family loves Forgotten Cookies (Meringue Cookies). I have made them for 50 years now and still a favorite. I make some with just chocolate chips and others with chicikate chips and chopped walnuts or pecans. I have also made some with chopped candied glacee cherries for a beautiful cookie tray. These are done in an oven that is preheated but shut off after adding the trays and then letting the cookies dry out all night long. I never make these in damp weather as they will very often be too chewy or moist. By storing them in a tin with a tight fitting cover they will stay fresh for weeks. I serve them on a dessert tray by themselves. Mixing these with other cookies can ruin their crispy texture. My hint is to never store these meringues in tins with other kinds of cookies. They also absorb other flavors and can get too soft in my humble opinion.
    This post reminded me to fit in time to make my Forgotten Cookies this week!!!
    Thank you.

  10. My grandmother on my dad’s side used to make this cranberry salad that he loves. No one else in the family liked it so when my parents got divorced, my mom was happy that she never had to make it again. Turns out we had all gotten used to it. It’s actually not that bad. It’s made with strawberry jello, apples, pineapples and walnuts. She still makes it for Thanksgiving dinners and now my husband and his family love it.

  11. My mom found a recipe years ago for yams and apples. You layer yams and apples, then sprinkle in raisins, cinnamon, and a little lemon juice. Repeat until the ban is full and then bake.

    I don’t remember what caused her to create this, but years ago, she started making a version with canned yams (that she then mashes) and applesauce. Just heat this one up on the stove. Yes, we still love the original, but we have the other one much more frequently and it is almost as good.

    No snobs in my family. We will gladly eat both. 🙂

  12. I remember making something called Hello Dolly Cookies. You use sweetened condensed milk poured over layers of chocolate chips, coconut and other ingredient. I wrote the recipe out for a friend of my mother’s once and forgot to say how long to bake it. She later told me that the cookies were “a bit loose.” We had lots of laughs about that mistake for years to come. I guess that says something about my personality. I used to like to bake cookies, but only bake with the Grands now.

    Thanks Barbara, this is a fun post!

    1. Judy, I’ve had those cookies, and they are delicious! Years ago someone gave me the recipe, calling them Hello Dolly cookies. One of my sisters later found a similar recipe that called them Magic Cookie bars. No matter what you call them, they’re yummy!

  13. I used to make Forgotten Cookies . . . then there were all the warnings about undercooked eggs and salmonella. Perhaps someone scientific can give a definitive answer.
    Personality tests based on food — intriguing. One year my niece made a point of repeating that her children preferred simpler homemade desserts to my “fancy expensive” cheesecake — she repeated it a few times; then I clarified that I had baked it using the restaurant’s recipe. She apologized and I decided that thinking it was professionally made was a sort of compliment, too.

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