Saturday, February 5, 2011

Meringue.



Meringue is simple and tricky all at the same time. It’s just a bunch of fluffy egg whites, sugar, cornstarch and salt. But what’s a bit complicated is that you need to know exactly when you’ve got it right – when to keep beating it, when to stop, and what it should look like when it is truly done.

It dawned on me how daunting this is while having lunch with a friend the other day (Hi Risa!). She said she had only just recently realized after years of making it, what meringue was really supposed to look and feel like when it had reached perfection. I immediately wanted to go home and try it again, since I had only made meringue a few times. I was certain I had gotten it wrong most of those times – the glossy stiff peaks she described sounded familiar and correct, but I was almost sure I had never quite produced them.


I decided to hunt around for a good beginners recipe - there was no WAY I was risking an entire gorgeous pie or baked Alaska with my unconfirmed meringue skills. I ended up finding a simple “cookie” recipe for mocha chip meringues in an old issue of Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food – lovely clouds of meringue flavored with cocoa and espresso powder, dotted with semisweet chocolate chips.

I’m happy to report that they came out great, but it was touch and go for a while. I think my egg whites were a smidge too cold, and that maybe the unprocessed sugar I used was too heavy – in the end these were two things I overcame by beating the egg and sugar mixture longer than called for. And speaking of beating, I don’t recommend you use a hand mixer. Mine wasn’t powerful enough to make a successful meringue, so I ended up getting out my electric stand mixer, which did the trick.


Anyway, make these! Meringue is a great learning experience in texture. When you achieve the glossy lovely peaks the recipe describes it’s really exciting. And the cookies are super dreamy too.

Mocha-Chip Meringues
from M-Stew's Everyday Food

3/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon cornstarch
3 large egg whites, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 300˚, with racks in the upper and lower thirds. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. In a small bowl, whisk together sugar and cornstarch. Set aside.

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer, beat egg whites and salt on medium speed until frothy. Beating constantly, add sugar mixture about a tablespoon at a time. Beat until stiff, glossy peaks form, about 6-8 minutes total (scrape down the bowl halfway through). Add espresso powder and cocoa. Beat until well blended. With a rubber spatula, fold in chocolate chips.

Drop batter by tablespoons onto prepared baking sheets (if they're a little bigger it's okay too), about 1 inch apart. Bake until crisp, about 40 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Cool completely on sheets, about 20 minutes.


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