Crunchy munchies …

Gnarled meringue goblins are sweet and crisp, with an initial crunch of a thick potato chip …

But after a second or two in the mouth, that brittle texture melts, dissolving into diaphanous delight.

The shapes are amusing. Piped from a pastry bag fitted with a plain 1/2-inch tip (or squeezed from the cut corner of a heavy plastic zipper-style plastic food bag), no two are alike.

Some are spooky and some are silly. Some downright weird.

Meringue Ghosts
Yield: About 16-18 servings
Parchment paper and pastry bag with plain 1/2-inch tip or gallon-sized zipper-style plastic bag
3 large egg whites, room temperature, see cook’s notes
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
3/4 cup sugar, divided use
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
About 36 miniature semisweet chocolate chips or pieces semisweet chocolate

Cook’s notes: To bring cold eggs to room temperature, submerge in warm water 5 minutes. Pat dry. Meringue ghosts can be prepared 5 days in advance. Store cool cookies in single layer on baking sheet (not touching). After two days, cover loosely with paper napkin.

1. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 200 degrees. In large (impeccably clean and dry) bowl of electric mixer, beat egg whites on medium speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar and increase speed to high. Beat until soft peaks form. Continuing to beat on high speed, add 1 tablespoon sugar at a time, beating 30 seconds between additions. Beat until very stiff peaks form, about 1-2 additional minutes.

2. Add vanilla and beat until combined. Smear a tiny bit of meringue under corners of parchment paper to anchor it to baking sheets.

3. Spoon meringue into pastry bag fitted with 1/2-inch plain tip (or spoon into gallon-size heavy plastic food bag, then cut off 1 corner to make 1/2-inch-wide opening).

4. Pipe meringue onto baking sheets into ghostly shapes about 1/2 inch thick and 3-4 inches long, leaving about 2 inches between ghosts. Using firm pressure on pastry bag, squeeze out head 3/4 inch high. Squeeze with less pressure to make body, moving in loose ‘Z.’ At the end, stop squeezing and lift up. To make eyes, press mini chocolate chips into meringue.

5. Bake in preheated oven about 1 1/2 hours (or until firm to touch), switching pan positions halfway through baking. Turn off heat and leave meringues in closed oven 1 hour. Slide spatula under each meringue to release.

Source: adapted from Sunset magazine