Monday, June 10, 2013

Something From Nothing #13: Chocolate Meringue Cookies

Boy do I ever have a case of spring fever.  All I want to do in the evening is sit on the front porch, have a cool drink and watch the world go by.  I just can't seem to get in the kitchen and get cooking for anything.  It has been chicken spaghetti salad and leftovers around here for the past week.  It is times like these that are perfect for a something from nothing recipe.

Since I haven't posted a dessert in awhile, I set my sights on coming up with something sweet, simple and easy.  It didn't take me long to land on meringues.  Light and versatile, these little crispy clouds are really pretty easy to make, they just take a little time.  You can flavor them, dip them, add food dye to color them or just enjoy them as they are.  A couple of my favorite ways to eat them is by mixing raspberries or strawberries in syrup and lots of whipped cream with them for a delicious Eton Mess or crushing them over ice cream.  Another way is just throwing some cocoa in with the sugar and eating them like cookies, which is what I've done here. 

While the ingredient list is short, there is one thing you need a lot of, and that is time.  These are perfect when you have no plans for the day, because under the best of circumstances they take about 3 hours start to finish (the more humidity in the air, the longer they take).  I think they are just perfect for when you want something spectacular with just a little bit of effort.  Now, back to the front porch for me.

4 large egg whites, room temperature
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 - 1/2 cups powdered (icing) sugar
1/2 teaspoon table salt (normally I use kosher, but for this I like plain old table salt because the grain is finer)
4 tablespoons cocoa (optional, for white meringues just omit this)

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.

Place egg whites in the very clean bowl of a stand mixer (I wipe everything down with a little vinegar).  With the whisk attachment in place, beat whites until they are foamy.  Add the vanilla extract and continue to beat for approximately 15 minutes or until whites are stiff and glossy.

While the whites are being beaten, whisk together the powdered sugar, salt and cocoa.  Add the sugar mixture to the beaten whites a heaping tablespoon or two at a time, mixing well between each addition.

At this point you can transfer the mixture into a pastry bag that has been fitted with a large decorating tip and pipe them into little swirly mounds, but since this is something from nothing, I spooned mine onto a Silpat lined cookie sheet or one that has been covered with parchment paper and sprayed with non-stick cooking spray.  Be sure and pile it high and top with a little swirl if you can.

Place cookie sheet into the preheated oven and bake for approximately 2 - 1/2 to 3 hours.  Some recipes call for you to close the door onto a wooded spoon so it remains cracked to keep the oven from getting too hot and to allow any steam to escape.  I usually just cook mine with the door closed and that seems to work fine for me.  Perfectly cooked, they will peel easily from the surface they are baked on.  It is important to remember that you are not cooking the meringues as much as you are drying them out.

Turn off the oven, crack the door and let them cool in the oven.  Serve or store in an airtight container.

Makes 24 meringues.

*Don't worry if your meringues are a little underdone on the inside I still love them.  Just say that they are truffle filled.  This works every time with Americans. . . Europeans not so much.

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