For meringue lovers, a heavenly treat


The cloud: a heavenly baked meringue, with a generous mound of chocolate mousse. The taste: You'll be on cloud nine, it's so creamy and rich. For convenience, make the meringue shell a day before serving. Fill it with the mousse and berries within two hours of serving.

Strawberry-chocolate meringue

3 egg whites

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 cup sugar

1/2 cup toasted finely chopped almonds

3-ounce package cream cheese, softened

1/2 cup packed brown sugar

1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder

2 tablespoons milk

1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup whipping cream

3 cups fresh whole strawberries, stems and caps removed

2 squares (2 ounces) semisweet chocolate, cut up

2 teaspoons shortening

Let egg whites stand at room temperature for 30 minutes. Cover a baking sheet with plain brown paper or parchment paper. Draw a 9-inch circle on the paper; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl combine egg whites, the 1 teaspoon vanilla and cream of tartar. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form. Gradually add the 1 cup sugar, 1 tablespoon at a time, beating on high speed until very stiff peaks form (tips stand straight) and sugar is almost dissolved. Fold in the chopped almonds.

Spread meringue mixture over the circle drawn on paper, building up the sides taller than the center to form a shell. Bake in a 300-degree oven for 45 minutes. Turn off oven; let meringue dry in oven with door closed for at least 1 hour (do not open oven door). Remove baking sheet from oven. Lift meringue and carefully peel off paper; transfer to a flat serving platter. (Or, store shell in a flat, airtight container overnight.)

For cocoa mousse, in a small mixing bowl beat cream cheese and brown sugar until smooth. Add cocoa powder, milk and the 1/2 teaspoon vanilla; beat until smooth. In another chilled small mixing bowl beat whipping cream with chilled beaters of an electric mixer on medium speed until soft peaks form; fold into cocoa mixture. Carefully spoon mousse into the meringue shell. Press whole berries, points up, into the mousse.

In a small heavy saucepan melt semisweet chocolate and shortening over low heat, stirring constantly. With a small spoon, lightly drizzle chocolate over berries, filling and meringue.

Serve immediately, or cover and chill filled meringue for up to 2 hours. To serve, cut into wedges, dipping knife into water between cuts. Makes 10 servings.

Nutrition information per serving: 337 calories, 19 grams fat, 42 milligrams cholesterol, 5 grams protein, 42 grams carbohydrates, 3 grams fiber, 66 milligrams sodium.

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