Friday, June 15, 2007

Marvelous Meringues

I've had a 3/4 cup measure of ground almonds sitting on my counter for quite a while now. I made a recipe (I don't remember which one) and didn't use up all the ground almonds called for. So they've been sitting there, patiently waiting for me to think up something to do with them. I'd read through cookbooks and blogs and any recipe with ground almonds would catch my eye, but they would either call for more ground almonds than I had, or they would call for an ingredient that I didn't have, so there they sat. I'd clean around them and my family knew better than to touch them. I was almost at the point of getting rid of them (well, not throwing them away, of course, but putting them in a jar on the shelf which was as good as throwing them away because then I would immediately forget about them and years later in a fit of cleaning find them and think, "Hmmm, I wonder what this is and why I kept it" before pitching it.) If you wonder about this strange pack-rat compulsion of mine, visit my father's basement lair. Tours are given Tuesdays and Thursdays, and you'll need to sign the standard form releasing him from liability should a stack of camping equipment, woodworking tools, paint cans, or fly-tying equipment tip over on you.

So it was a happy moment indeed when I opened my beloved Baking to a picture of lovely chocolate meringues. They called for ground almonds and I had extra egg whites in the fridge. Bonus!

I first fell in love with meringues as a child. You may recall that I was a picky eater extraordinaire. Also single track eater. So when I was cajoled into trying a meringue, that was it. It was my new favorite dessert. I recall asking for a meringue at a restaurant in Switzerland (why I was there in another post) and the waiter asked what I wanted on it. On it? Plain. A meringue. A blob of sugary, crusty, chewy sweet goodness on a plate. What was hard to understand? I got a look and perhaps a small eye-roll (the Swiss are very polite) but I also got my meringue.

My daughter, on the other hand, dislikes meringues on principal. She says they are deceitful food. They look like whipping cream but they're crackly and crumbly instead of soft, creamy, and gooey. I don't have a problem with that, so I really enjoyed making and eating these beautiful meringue cookies, mostly with the help of my almost 5-year old. He has no principals when it comes to sugar and chocolate!

Cocoa Almond Meringues

1 cup confectioner's sugar, plus extra for dusting
1/3 cup finely ground almonds
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
Pinch of salt
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/3 cup very finely chopped bittersweet chocolate

1 - Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 300 deg. F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

2 - Sift together the confectioners' sugar, ground almonds, and cocoa.

3 - In a large mixing bowl (impeccably clean and dry) whip the egg whites and salt on medium speed until the whites are opaque. Increase the speed to medium-high and continue to whip as you add the sugar about 1 Tbsp at a time. Then whip until the whites are firm and hold stiff peaks - they should still be very shiny. Beat in the vanilla, and remove the bowl from the mixer. With a large rubber spatula, quickly but gently fold in the dry ingredients, followed by the chopped chocolate. The whites will inevitably deflate as you fold in the dry ingredients - just try to work rapidly and use a light touch, so you deflate them as little as possible.

4 - Drop the meringue by tablespoonfuls onto the baking sheets, leaving about 2 inches between the mounds. Dust the tops of the meringues very lightly with confectioners' sugar.

5 - Bake for 10 minutes, then, without opening the oven door,, reduce the oven temp to 200 deg. F. and bake for 1 hour more. Remove the baking sheets from the oven and allow the meringues to stand in a cool, dry place ( not the refrigerator) until they reach room temperature.

6 - Carefully peel the meringues off the parchment or silicone lining.

The meringues must be kept in a cool, dry environment or they will become unpleasantly soft and sticky. Store them in an airtight tin or uncovered in a basket at room temperature.


Barbara said...

They look divine!

Anh said...

Beautiful! I love the first photo a lot. SO delicate and elegant!

Patricia Scarpin said...

Lynn, can you send the ones your daughter doesn't eat over??? ;-)

They look so light, delicate and delicious!

Helen said...

They look great! I love meringues, it was my favorite treat as a child.

Nora B. said...

Lynn, your meringues look great! I prefer flavoured ones like the ones you made rather than the plain ones because I find the latter too sweet. Ooooh, and that reminds me of how much I love pavlova, esp. choc pavlova...!

Cookie baker Lynn said...

Barbara - Thanks!

Anh - Oh, you're so sweet.

Patricia - I would, but I don't think meringues would travel well. But if you are in the area, I'll make some for you!

Helen - Merci!

Nora - Everything's better with chocolate. Hmm, chocolate Pavlova? Hadn't thought of that. Yummmm.

Brilynn said...

Love the photos and how craggly the meringues are!

Kelly-Jane said...

They look marvelous! I have them bookmarked - and would like to make them all the more now.

Emily .M. said...

Are there any left??????????
Could you bring some over for my b-day party?????????????

Oh yeah, P.S.

Mom wants you to talk to you!!!!!!!!!!

Emily .M.