The Latin name of “non plus ultra,” means excellent, unrivalled, and unmatched – and these little cookies truly live up to it! The traditional recipe is made with two thin shortbread biscuits sandwiched together with a thin layer of fruity apricot jam encased in a pair of crunchy meringues. They are popular all year round, but especially so during the festive season.
Makes approximately 45 pieces of 3 cm [~1inch] diameter cookies.
For the cookie base
- 200 gram [1¼ cups] plain/all purpose flour
- 40 gram [⅓ cup] caster sugar / superfine sugar
- 1 teaspoon vanilla essence
- 1 pinch of fine sea salt
- 120 gram [1 stick + 2 teaspoons] butter at room temperature
- 1 egg yolk (from a large egg)
For the meringue top
- 70 gram icing sugar/confectioners’ sugar
- 1 egg white
- 1/3 teaspoon (a few drops) of lemon juice
For the filling
- smooth apricot jam
- Mix the dry ingredients – flour, sugar, a little salt – in a larger bowl then rub in the butter. When crumbs form add the egg yolk and the teaspoon of vanilla essence. Combine until just forms a dough ball. Flatten your doughball slightly – it will be easier to start rolling out later – cover tightly in food wrap and place in the fridge for 15 minutes.
- Onto making the meringue. Use a hand whisk for the best result! In a pristine clean glass or metal bowl mix the egg white with half of the icing/confectioners’ sugar. (Any little grease residue on the bowl or whisk could hinder the result.) Whisk patiently for at least 5 minutes in one direction. When starting to turn white and foamy, sprinkle in the other half of the sugar and add a few drops of lemon juice. Continue whisking for another 10 minutes. The result should be of thick, smooth and glossy consistency that is still flexible not dry and grainy. Spoon in a pastry bag or a ziploc bag that makes an excellent substitute.
- Preheat the oven for 170°C/325°F
- Roll the dough to a 2mm thickness on a flat surface lightly dusted with flour. Using a small, 3cm/~1inch diameter cookie cutter punch out circular shapes from the dough sheet. Transfer the dough disks onto a pan lined with baking paper. Pipe the meringue-mix onto each dough circle, leaving a little 2-5 mm edge around uncovered – see image below – Let the unbaked cookie disks with the meringue-mix crown rest for 10-15 minutes on the tray before baking. After resting place in the 170°C/325°F preheated oven and bake for 15 minutes.
- Wait until the meringue cookies are completely cold then pair them up and sandwich the pieces together with half a teaspoon of apricot jam for each pair.