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1. Place egg whites in a large bowl. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Line two large cookie sheets with parchment paper or foil; set aside.
2. In a food processor, combine almonds and the 2 tablespoons granulated sugar. Cover and process until almonds are finely ground. (Or if you have a coffee grinder or nut grinder, work in small batches to grind the nuts with the sugar.)For meringue::
3. Add almond extract and salt to egg whites. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form (tips curl). Gradually add the 1/3 cup granulated sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating on high speed until stiff peaks from (tips stand straight). Fold in almond mixture.
4. Transfer meringue to a decorating bag fitted with a small open star tip or a large round tip. Pipe 1-1/2-inch circles 1 inch apart onto the prepared cookie sheets, building up sides to form shells. If the tip gets clogged, use a toothpick to unclog. Bake all of the meringue cookies at the same time on separate oven racks for 20 minutes. Turn off oven; let cookies dry in oven with door closed for 1 hour. Lift cookies off paper or foil. Transfer to a wire rack; cool completely.
5. Before serving, spoon about 1/2 teaspoon of the cherry preserves into the center of each meringue cookie. If desired, sprinkle lightly with powdered sugar. Makes about 48 meringue cookies.