It never ceases to amaze me how one can manipulate an ingredient and cause it to morph into a completely different state. Magic. Continuing from yesterday’s post about beaten egg whites – which miraculously transform from a clear, viscous liquid into a voluminous mountain of white fluff after a few minutes worth of air has been beaten into them – here is a recipe for transformation.
Beaten egg whites + cocoa powder + sugar = velvety brown meringue mixture. Drop this mixture by the spoonful onto a cookie sheet and they are ready to be baked into crispy meringue goodness. Of course, you can pipe the mixture from a pastry bag instead, for more elegantly swirled meringue shapes. Dropping them off a spoon produces eclectic – and somewhat eccentric – shapes. Meringues bake in a slow oven for a relatively long time so they have a chance to really dry out. Then they crackle and splinter when you bite into one, their sweet shards melting once they hit your tongue. These kisses retain the light, ethereal quality of meringues but are filled with a deep, rich chocolate flavor.
Couple of notes:
It is important to have the egg whites at room temperature, otherwise they take a very long time to beat. Whisking by hand (my electric hand-held beater died a sudden, smoky death not long ago), it took me less than 5 minutes to beat until stiff. With an electric beater it is a fraction of that time.
Lining the baking sheets with parchment paper allows the meringues to release very easily. You could grease the pan instead. Or do as the Germans do, and us back oblaten (a thin, edible wafer that gets baked under the meringues and prevents sticking).
Use the best quality cocoa you can afford – it really makes a huge difference in the taste.
Adding chopped nuts is an optional variation which I have eaten (tasty!), but not made myself.
Finally, if your sugar and cocoa is lump-free, there is no need to sift it.
Cocoa Kisses (Chocolate Meringues) (adapted from The Joy of Cooking)
3 large egg whites, room temperature (save yolks for another use)
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 teaspoons water
3 Tablespoons unsweetened cocoa, sifted
3/4 cup chopped nuts, optional
Preheat oven to 250 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Beat egg whites until stiff, but not dry (they should hold a peak). Beat in the salt and half the sugar. Combine the water and the vanilla and add gradually to egg whites alternately with the remaining sugar. Fold in cocoa (and chopped nuts, if using) and mix to combine. Drop 1 teaspoonful of mixture onto baking sheet, using a second spoon to nudge it off the spoon and to form a little peak. Alternatively, pipe mixture from a pastry bag*. Repeat, leaving a little space between meringues on the baking sheet, using the remaining mixture. Bake for 2 hours, until hard to the touch. Turn off heat and allow to cool in oven. Remove from oven, the meringues should easily peel off the parchment paper. Stored in an airtight container, they will last a long time
*a small plastic bag can be improvised for a pastry bag – fill the bag with meringue mixture, snip a tiny bit off one of the corners of the bag and pipe.