Meringues and Easter go together like, well, eggs and Easter.
This cookie recipe dates to a 2004 Taste profile of pastry chef Michelle Gayer. I've been hooked on them since I watched her prepare them in the kitchen at the Franklin Street Bakery. Since then, Gayer has opened her own shop, the Salty Tart in Minneapolis, where she's still turning out superb meringues.
There are so many reasons to love these festive, luxurious-looking cookies.
One: They're incredibly easy to make, with just four ingredients. Even better, there are no decorating skills required; the oven does all the design work.
Two: The texture is incredible, with a glossy, slightly crispy shell that collapses into a moist, airy interior filled with naughty amounts of chocolate. (Two-and-a-half: Bake them for kids, and quiz them, "How does the chocolate all gravitate to the center of the cookie?")
Three: They're packed with chocolate, boasting both a mild cocoa tang and a sharper, richer and slightly gooey chocolate bite, depending upon the type used (I prefer a mix of bittersweet and semi-sweet).
Four: They've got great curb appeal, with their shiny tan outer shells cracked to reveal darker, bubbled interiors.
Five: They're gluten-free, and even for those of us who don't stick to a gluten-free diet, isn't it nice to occasionally encounter a lighter, flour-free cookie?
I tend to make them almost absurdly big (think small cupcake), dividing the batter with an ice cream scoop (or, better yet, a quenelle-shaped scoop, to mimic the profile of an egg) and baking all of the batter off in a single batch of a dozen.
They'll work just as well if you're more judicious with the batter; heaping tablespoons will yield roughly 20 cookies.
The secret behind a voluminous meringue -- isn't the egg white one of the kitchen's most miraculous ingredients? -- is buying the freshest possible organic, free-range eggs available.
My egg of choice is from Harmony Organics, a farm near Faribault, Minn., which produces brown eggs so rich in essential nutrients that the whites practically double in volume the moment they come within contact of my KitchenAid mixer's whisk attachment.
OK, that might be a slight exaggeration, but you get the idea: great ingredients yield great results.
You also can find the recipe in the Taste cookbook, "Come One, Come All/ Easy Entertaining With Seasonal Menus," by editor Lee Svitak Dean.
Makes 1 to 2 dozen.
Note: For chocolate chips, Michelle Gayer of the Salty Tart in Minneapolis uses leftover chocolate pieces, in any combination: bittersweet, semi-sweet, unsweetened and white chocolate. If using a convection oven, bake at 300 degrees for 15 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking time. Granulated sugar can be substituted for superfine sugar, but the latter produces a more supple meringue. Make your own by pulsing granulated sugar in a food processor fitted with a metal blade.
1/2 cup egg whites (from about 4 eggs)
1 cup superfine sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons sifted unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 cup chopped chocolate chips
Preheat oven to 350 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a double boiler over gently boiling water, combine egg whites and sugar and simmer, whisking occasionally, until sugar is dissolved, about 3 to 4 minutes.
Pour mixture into bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a whisk attachment. Whip egg white mixture on medium speed for 5 minutes, then increase to medium-high speed for 5 to 10 minutes, until mixture is stiff but not dry.
Using a rubber spatula, fold cocoa into egg white mixture until well incorporated, then fold in chocolate chips. Place heaping tablespoons of batter onto prepared baking sheets.
Bake 18 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through baking time. Remove from oven and cool cookies on baking sheets until ready to serve. Store in a single layer in an airtight container for up to 1 day.
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