The Bread Peddler
222 Capitol Way North – Olympia, WA
Meringue, probably more than most cookies (and pie toppers, for that fact), is divisive. I have friends who ADORE meringue, and others who tell me that it is not so much different than eating a stick of sidewalk chalk. I am not sure if I know anyone who sits on the fence with meringue, anyone who says: “eh, it’s alright. I can take it or leave it.” A person will either take it – with gusto, or leave it – happily. And like all matters of taste, there is no accounting for it. We likes what we likes.
Me? I likes the meringues. I like them very much. I like them flavored with coffee and chocolate, lemon and ginger – even ground up candy canes. I like meringue when it is soft and foamy and sitting atop a nice lemon, banana, chocolate or coconut pie (in fact, I will eat the filling and the meringue and gladly cast the crust aside). I even like those (admittedly somewhat chalk-like, but in a good way) meringue kisses that come in the plastic tubs at Trader Joe’s. I like how they’re all stiff and dusty when you pick them up, but when you pop it past your lips and press it between your tongue and roof of your mouth, it dissolves like some sort of cotton candy/seafoam hybrid. So pleasing.
Meringue: it is egg whites and sugar – plus a flavoring or add-in. that’s it – nothing more (except maybe a dash of cream of tartar). Like little clouds of sweet bliss. What’s not to like?
But if there’s any meringue out there that has the potential to coax a hater to the other side, I’ve a feeling it could be this playa from The Bread Peddler, a pretty great bakery in downtown Olympia. To begin with, it is not chalky or powdery. And… it is studded (and I mean teeming) with sliced and perfectly toasted almonds, giving a typically nutritionally void cookie a respectable amount of food value. A nice dose of magnesium, potassium and vitamin E, in addition to some LDL cholesterol-reducing fats to temper the glycemic spike makes it go down all the more smoothly.
When you first break into the almond meringue, the outer regions will shatter into a thousand pieces (while staying somewhat connected, for the most part – see photo) and the interior will retain an almost marshmallow-like chew (I believe the key ingredient separating marshmallow from meringue is gelatin; the two confections are close cousins). And with every crackly, sticky-yet-somehow-still-dry bite, your mouth is multi-tasked with absorbing the melting meringue while simultaneously crunching the crisp, toasted almonds, which act not just as a dietary bonus, but also as an agreeable counterpoint to the sugary poof.
Plus, would you get a load of the crazy size of this meringue? I forgot to add some sort of prop to the photo – like a toothpick or something – in order to provide scale and give you an idea of its massiveness. But as the photo caption indicates, this is a standard-sized dinner plate. That mother is a beast – and in this case, I will tell you that less is not more. More is more. So much more.
P.S. If you are holding on to your disdain of meringue, fine. Like I said before, there ain’t no accountin’ for taste. But know this: The Bread Peddler is peddling much more than bread and meringues. If you happen to be traveling up or down I-5 in the state of Washington, it is positively worth a detour off I-5 into downtown Olympia for a pit stop. The bakery’s case is loaded with lovely tarts, tortes, cakes and loafs made with in-season fruits (and/or brown sugar and nuts and chocolate), artisan breads (some filled with cheese and walnuts, pesto, etc.), a nice selection of homey cookies, chocolate bouchons, coffee cakes, a deep, dark chocolate orange Bundt cake – to name only a few of the fetching items on display. I’ve also gotten an eyeful of some nice-looking sandwiches, quiches, soups, etc. See their website to view a menu.