Monday, September 28, 2009

Chocolate Meringues

Last weekend I wanted to make something special but simple. I can't really think of a more sophisticated-looking treat with such a small amount of ingredients as a meringue cookie. So I opened Martha Stewart's Cookie Book and decided to make these chocolate meringue cookies. They are quite easy - just a little bit of arm work, and if you don't have a piping bag or tips, then I think you could spoon little dollops out and have a more rustic meringue cookie with the same results.

Here are the ingredients for Chocolate Meringues from Martha Stewart's Cookie Book (makes about 4 1/2 dozen):
-4 large egg whites at room temperature (preferably)
-1 cup granulated sugar
-1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
-pinch of cream of tartar
-1/4 cup cocoa powder (unsweetened)

To begin, preheat oven to 175 degrees and cover baking sheets with parchment paper.

Combine egg whites, sugar, and cream of tartar in a large heatproof bowl. Place over a medium saucepan filled with about 2 inches of water. Make sure the water is not touching the bottom of the bowl, because it may overheat the eggs and compromise their protein structure, creating a less than optimal meringue. Set the saucepan over medium heat, and bring water to a simmer to create a double boiler.
Whisk constantly until sugar dissolves and the mixture is warm to the touch, about 3 minutes or more. Rub mixture between fingers to test that the sugar is completely dissolved.
Remove from heat and use an electric mixer to beat the egg white mixture into stiff, glossy peaks, starting on the lowest speed and gradually bringing it up to the highest speed. It will take about 10 minutes for stiff peaks to form.
Gently fold in the vanilla extract to the meringue.
Sift the cocoa powder over the meringue and fold in so that streaks remain.
You are now ready to place the meringue in a piping bag, using a 1/2 inch star tip.
Pipe 1 1/2 inch size cookies about 1 inch apart across your baking sheets. At first I was terrible at getting the hang of how to pipe the meringue out into the correct shape. I was swirling the meringue around, but then I realized the tip should be doing most of the work. It just takes a steady hand and even pressure to create the correct shape.
Then place in the oven for about 2 hours or until the cookies come off the parchment clean and easy. Below is an example of when your cookies are not yet done.
Depending on how large your cookies end up being it might take a longer or shorter amount of time. Mine took about 1 hour and 45 minutes, and I started checking them at an hour and half.
The cookies cool almost immediately so you can put them in an air tight container in a single layer and they should last for a few days. Be sure to try them straight out of the oven though, they are crunchy on the outside and have a warm chewy center - delicious!
For more on meringue basics, click here to read Martha Stewart's tips.

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