Giant Meringues with Cacao Nibs and Cocoa
The first time I saw Giant Meringues was way back in the 1970s in Paris. I knew what meringue cookies were, but these gargantuan orbs bore no resemblance to what I was used to. The Parisian ones were baked to a soft off-white, almost beige, which brought out the toasty flavors in the sugar and the were topped with a scattering of sliced blanched almonds. They made a huge impression on me. I did buy one, for the experience, and I enjoyed it but like so many meringues they were very sweet. This version, Cacao Nib Meringues, was developed to take the edge off the sugary sweetness. The cocoa and cacao nibs add color, texture and flavor, while also tempering the sugar level. The technique for preparing the meringue is one I learned from The Meringue Girls. Hey, with a name like that, you gotta believe they know there way around a meringue!
- 3 cups superfine sugar
- 10 large egg whites, at room temperature
- ½ cup sifted Dutch-processed cocoa
- ⅓ cup cacao nibs
- Position rack in center of oven. Preheat the oven to 400°F.
- Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper. Pour the sugar in a thin, even layer onto one of the sheets (the other will be for the meringues themselves). Bake the sugar (yes, bake the sugar!) for about 5 minutes or until the edges of the sugar are just beginning to melt.
- Meanwhile, beat egg whites on low speed in stand mixer fitted with balloon whisk, allowing bubbles to form. Increase the speed to high and continue beating until the egg whites form stiff peaks and the bowl can be tipped upside down without the whites falling out. Do not over beat (in which case the whites would look cotton-y).
- Remove sugar from oven and turn down temperature to 200°F. Add the hot sugar about a tablespoon at a time to the egg whites with the machine running. Add slowly and gradually allowing the whites to absorb the sugar before adding more. If there are some tiny clumps of sugar, that's okay. Avoid any large clumps or any burnt sugar from around the edges.
- Once you have added the sugar, continue to beat on high speed for about 5 minutes. Rub a bit of the mixture between your fingers, and if you can still feel gritty sugar, keep whipping at high speed until the sugar has dissolved. The meringue should be stiff, glossy and cool to the touch.
- Use two large spoons to dollop the meringues out into 6 large rounds, evenly spaced apart on prepared pan. Sift cocoa over the meringues and sprinkle nibs evenly over the tops as well.
- Bake for about 2½ to 3 hours or until meringues are firm and dry to the touch and remove easily - in one piece without breaking - from the pan. Cool pan on rack. Meringues are ready to eat and will last for up to a week if stored away from any humidity in an airtight container at room temperature.