Tuesday, December 19, 2006

Not Perfect Mocha Meringues

Sometimes a great sounding recipe turns out to be a flop.

Well, maybe not a flop in the taste category (although...see my note about salt), but certainly in the shape, size and beauty categories. Such was the case with these meringues.

I had such high hopes that my meringues would turn out to be not only the fat and cholesterol-free, almost sugar-free, treats I aspired to, but truly beautiful to behold. In this case, one out of two is a pretty bad result.

Maybe it's the coastal humidity. Maybe Splenda doesn't work very well for meringues (although George assures me it does.) Or maybe I just didn't do it right.

Whichever the reason, I'm posting this anyway because it SHOULD work and it COULD be a recipe worth trying, especially if you have a knack for making meringues. Which evidently I don't.

Besides, flops keep me humble. And that's a good thing. There's nothing worse than a cocky cook in the kitchen.

Mocha Meringues
Adapted from Weight Watchers New Complete Cookbook (which I don't own and don't want to own)
2 teapoons pure vanilla extract (no sugar or corn syrup added)
1 1/4 teaspoons instant coffee crystals (I used decaf)
4 egg whites at room temperature (very important)
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon salt (note to self: next time use just a pinch!)
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup Splenda granular
2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (I used Ghirardelli's but Scharfenberger would be really good)

First, line two baking sheets with parchment and set your oven to 250 degrees.
Then, combine the coffee crystals and vanilla, stirring well to dissolve the crystals. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites, along with the cream of tartar and the salt (remember, just a pinch next time, if any) on medium speed until frothy, about 1 minute.
Increase the mixer speed to high and add the sugar and Splenda in a slow stream. When the sugar is fully incorporated, beat the whites until they hold stiff peaks, about 6 minutes, adding the coffee-vanilla mixture during this time.
Decrease the speed to low and add the cocoa powder, mixing until just combined.
Transfer your meringue mixture to a plastic bag with a 1/2-inch opening cut off of one corner and pipe small mounds onto the baking sheets about 1-inch in diameter and 1 1/2-inches apart. Alternatively, use a pastry bag with a 1/2-inch tip.
Bake for 30 minutes then switch the baking sheets and bake another 25 minutes, or until the meringues are dry to the touch.
Turn the oven off, crack the door just a bit, and allow the meringues to sit there for about 1 hour. Store in an airtight container at room temperature.
The recipe says this will make 84 1-inch diameter meringues. I only got about 60.

*Now Then. Here are my notes:
First, as I've said twice, the use of salt in this recipe is a dubious addition. I don't think it works well, but that's me. If it's a food chemistry thing (Alton, where are you when I need you?), use just a pinch.

Second, I would try this using just Splenda and no sugar. You, however, could use all sugar if you like.

Next, I looked at other meringue recipes and didn't see so many different speeds and times used to whip these whites to stiff peaks, so I think I would just whip them all at once, adding the cocoa powder at the last minute.

Also, I think I would use more egg whites next time. Maybe 6 instead of 4. Just a hunch.

Additionally, besides leaving out all or most of the salt, I think I would leave out. or greatly reduce the amount of coffee crystals, say to 1/2 teaspoon, if any. They just didn't do much for me. I'd rather have the chocolate shine all on its own.

And lastly, if you'd like to see how beautiful perfect meringues SHOULD look, go see how Tartelette does it.