Saturday, February 25, 2012

Meringue Cookies with Bittersweet Chocolate and Sea Salt

In my quest for healthy recipes, it made sense to try meringues, since they are fat-free and very low in calories, being made from just egg whites and a little sugar, with cream of tartar to stabilize them, and maybe a little flavoring if you like.  Plus, I had egg whites needing to be used since I used a bunch of yolks only for orange curd.

I've never been a big lover of meringue, and will always pass on pies topped with meringue.  It's just not my thing.  I'd rather have a lemon or chocolate pie with nothing on it at all, or just a little whipped cream, then a towering 5-inch layer of mushy meringue.  Even if it's nicely swirled with pretty browned peaks.

However, I wanted to give the cookies a try, and see if it would change my mind.  So I whipped up the whites with a little cream of tartar and almond extract, and then kept on whipping them as I sprinkled in a little sugar.  I was amazed at how much volume they acquired as they turned into stiff, glossy peaks.  When they were stiff enough to hold their shape, I piped them onto a silpat-lined baking sheet in little stars, swirls and hearts.  Then they went into a very low 200-degree oven to bake for a two hours, after which they emerged looking very pretty and elegant.

Jamie tasted one and said they tasted like packing peanuts.  I have to admit, I kind of agree.  I do like the slightly sweet, melt-in-your-mouth thing that they do after getting past the styrofoam aspect, and they're crisp and light as air just as they should be, but I'm sorry, they're just not a real cookie, in my opinion.

To make them a little more palatable, I dipped and drizzled them with a tiny bit of bittersweet chocolate and sprinkled them with a pinch of coarse sea salt.  That improved them tremendously, and we ate a whole bunch of them with very little guilt (on the day that we spent a whole Saturday in our PJs, drinking mimosas and watching episodes of Entourage).  This entire batch of cookies in fact has only 540 calories, which is about 10 calories per cookie, depending on how small you pipe them.

Even so, I'm not positive I'll be making them again, since chocolate-covered styrofoam still isn't really my thing any more than wet, quivering meringue is, but for those of you out there who do like meringue cookies, then you will enjoy these! :)

Meringue Cookies with Bittersweet Chocolate and Sea Salt
printable recipe

  • 2 egg whites (let sit at room temperature for 1 hour)
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 1/4 teaspoon flavoring (almond, vanilla or peppermint extract are good options)
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 2 ounces dark bittersweet chocolate
  • pinch of coarse sea salt

Preheat the oven to 200 F.  Line 2 baking sheets with silpat liners or parchment paper.  The meringue is very sticky, so you must use silpats or parchment.

In the bowl of your stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium speed until foamy.  Add the cream of tartar and extract and beat until soft peaks form.  Continue beating on medium to medium-high as you gradually sprinkle in the sugar.  Whip the egg whites until stiff and glossy and they easily hold their shape.  The meringue will be very sticky.  (If you pipe them onto the baking sheet and they spread out or lose their shape, then they have not been whipped long enough.)

Scoop the meringue into a pastry bag fitted with a star tip.  Pipe the meringue into various shapes, as big or as small as you like, about 1 inch apart.  They won't spread during baking, so they can be fairly close together.

Bake for 2 hours, rotating the pans halfway through.  After two hours, turn the oven off, crack the oven door open and let the cookies sit in the warm air until they are thoroughly dry. (Note, if you bake these on a humid or rainy day, they may not dry out and will end up sticky.)

Set cookies on a wire rack to cool, then melt the chocolate and dip or drizzle it over the cookies, finishing them with a sprinkling of sea salt.  Let sit for an hour at room temperature until the chocolate sets, before serving.

Yields anywhere from 30-50 cookies.
Weight Watchers Points Plus Value:  4 points for 1/4 of the batch (16 points for the entire batch of cookies)

Recipe from Curly Girl Kitchen