These little meringue buttons studded with cranberry and cherry “rubies” and slivered almonds are light as air. They make gorgeous gifts, and are great as little nibbles amid the rich fare of the holidays.
8 large egg whites, at room temperature
2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon almond extract
3/4 cup dried cherries and cranberries, finely chopped
1/2 cup blanched and slivered almonds, lightly toasted
Preheat oven to 175 degrees F and arrange racks in top and bottom thirds of the oven. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or silicone mats.
In a clean metal bowl, beat egg whites and a pinch of salt in a stand mixer with a whisk attachment on high speed (or use a handheld mixer fitted with whisk attachments) to just beyond when they hold soft peaks (about a minute). Add sugar gradually, continuing to beat until all the sugar is incorporated and the mixture makes stiff peaks. Add the almond extract and continue beating a bit longer until peaks turn shiny. Total beating time will be about 2-1/2 minutes.
Scoop mixture into a pastry bag (you may have to do this in two batches, depending on the size of your pastry bag) fitted with a mid-sized fluted tip and pipe 1-inch mounds, leaving a finger-width of space in between each. Continue piping until mixture is used up and both sheets are filled.
Carefully sprinkle the fruit and almonds onto the meringues. Bake for 2 hours, swapping the cookie sheets half way through. Turn off the oven and let the meringues cool in the oven for 30 minutes.