I’ve always loved meringue of any sort – piled high on top of a tart lemon pie, or a crisp meringue cookie, doesn’t matter to me. Growing up, my parents’ friend LuAnn was an incredible baker – to the tune of giving my dad a giant, dense chocolate raspberry torte for his birthday. It was amazing stuff, and mom would slice it up and store in the freezer to be doled out in precious servings weeks later. I think the torte was just as good frozen as it was fresh – no one could ever wait for a slice to thaw before digging in. LuAnn later went on to open the first gourmet chocolate shop in the area, Choo-Choos Chocolates. It’s still there and she’s still whipping up amazing desserts.
Once in awhile, Mom would take us to Choo Choos and LuAnn would wrap up a meringue mushroom for each of us, wrapped carefully in a cellophane bag and sealed with her classic gold sticker. Her meringues were crisp, light as air and more importantly, she dipped the bottom of each perfect mushroom cap in creamy belgian chocolate. It was the perfect treat. And I think that the next time I’m in Michigan, I’ll have to stop by LuAnn’s and pick up a meringue or two.
My meringues are nothing like LuAnn’s, though still very tasty. These meringues are mini pavlovas, a favorite dessert of New Zealand. A pavlova is a beautiful thing – dry and crisp on the outside, and light as a cloudy and soft inside. Pavlovas are usually baked as one giant meringue, to be shared amongst many guests and topped with fruit and whipped cream.
We took my meringues to Stacey and Jon’s home for dinner and games and I wanted a light dessert we could snack on as we played. Instead of one giant pavlova, I made mini pavlovas. They’re flavored with a hint of orange zest and a healthy dose of cocoa. The meringue base was absolutely perfect, too…until I added a teaspoon of chocolate extract, and it was too much liquid for the egg whites, and they didn’t hold their shape when baked. But even so, the final result was quite pretty on its own, and the texture was perfect.
Makes 16 cookies
4 egg whites, room temperature
1/4 tsp cream of tartar
1 cup powdered sugar
pinch of salt
4 T good quality dutched cocoa powder
zest of one orange
1 tsp chocolate extract (dangerous and optional)
- Prepare a baking sheet with a silpat or lined with parchment paper, and prehead the oven to 275 degrees.
- Place the egg whites in your clean stand mixer bowl with the whisk attachment. Beat the egg whites, cream of tartar and salt on medium speed for about 5 minutes, until the whites hold soft peaks.
- Increase the speed to high, and slowly add the cocoa powder and powdered sugar. Beat until glossy and the mixture holds stiff peaks and is very thick – another 3-4 minutes of mixing. Add the orange zest. If you dare, add the chocolate extract right at the end.
- Using a cookie scoop or large spoon, make sloppy mounds of the batter – about 1/4 cup each, leaving 2-3″ between meringues – they will spread. The recipe makes about 16 pavlovas.
- Put the meringues in the preheated oven and immediately reduce the heat to 250. Bake for 40 minutes, until the outer shell is dry and just beginning to harden, but still gives a bit when pressed with your finger. Turn the oven off and crack the door just a bit. Leave the meringues in the oven for another 30 minutes, then remove and let them cool completely on the counter. When they are cool, store in an air tight container for a day or so, but they’re really best the first day.
38 cal per cookie, 0 fat, 25mg sodium, 50mg potassium, 1.2g protein