Thursday, January 13, 2011

Sweet Clouds

My kids and I once did a unit study on weather. We had a chart to track the weather with places to mark the temperature, barometric pressure, and what type of clouds we saw. We learned the names of the different types of clouds and what type of weather they presaged. I might have become a really good weather watcher except for around here the forecast is usually "it's raining," or "It's going to rain," or, "It's just finished raining." With almost constant grey cloud cover, there's not a lot of cumulonimbus action hereabouts.

If I want to see puffy, soft clouds, sometimes I have to make them myself. Meringues always remind me of clouds; sweet, crisp-chewy clouds of deliciousness. They're the perfect dessert for when you want just a bit of sweetness without feeling weighted down. And to balance out the sweetness of the meringue, these have just a hint of bitter chocolate nibs, making them even better.

Be forewarned, though, if you have cumulonimbus clouds piling up in the sky, it's probably not the best day to try making meringues. They fare best in dry weather. If it's wet or humid, your meringues won't dry out and crisp properly. Wait till the sky is clear and make clouds of your own.

Caco Nib Meringues
- adapted from Baking For All Occasions by Flo Braker

2 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 tablespoons finely ground cacao nibs

1- Preheat oven to 224 deg. F with a rack in the center of the oven. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.

2- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip together the egg whites, cream of tartar and salt on medium speed until soft peaks form, about 2 minutes. At the same speed gradually add the sugar, about 1 tablespoon at a time, and continue to beat until glossy, white, stiff peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes. In the final moments of whipping, add the vanilla.

3- Remove the bowl from the mixer, tapping the whisk against the side of the bowl to convince the clinging meringue to join the meringue in the bowl. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the cacao nibs. Be very gentle, so as not to deflate your carefully whipped meringue.

4- Spoon the meringue into a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain open tip. If you don't have that, you can use a gallon-size zip-loc bag. Spoon the meringue into it, zip it shut, then cut a small hole in one bottom corner to make a 1/2-inch opening.

5- Pipe a dab of meringue under each corner of the parchment paper to secure the paper so it won't slide. Pipe dainty blobs of meringue, about 1 inch wide and 1 inch apart, onto the prepared baking sheet.

6- Bake the cookies until dry and crisp, yet still white, about 1 hour. If it's a humid day, it will take a longer time than on a dry day. If necessary, reduce the oven heat to keep the meringues from coloring. Turn off the oven and let the meringues cool in the oven for 30 minutes. Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let the cookies cool completely on the pan. Once they are cooled, the cookies will lift off the paper easily.

Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.


Noelia said...

I cant bake meringue i blame my oven, too strong, i have a mini electric one so i should give them a try there.

If you add a TSP of cornstarch it will turn out even better!

bellini valli said...

Meringues are the perfect little bites for our carb-cutting New Year days Lynn. The question is..can I eat just one:D

Elle said...

Your litle clouds look delicious...and I'm impressed that you had a day that was clear enough to bake them!

Barbara said...

I love them but must admit, they don't hold up well in Florida. You have to eat them immediately.

grace said...

clouds are pretty, and while it's fun to look for random shapes in their formations, i'd much rather eat cloud-like cookies. nice work. :)

Amy said...

These are so cute. I bet they are delicious too. I made coffee flavor ones with mini chocolate chips in them before. They are so good. I'll definitely give your recipe a try.