One of my favorite cookies in winter, or anytime really, are these divinely light, seriously sweet, and satisfyingly filled meringue cookies that my mother used to make. They are easily whipped up from items almost everyone has on hand. Two egg whites, some sugar and a splash of vanilla form the medium that embraces a handful of nuts and a cup full of chocolate chips while adding a dreamy light crunch.
This year as I began to think about Valentine's Day I wondered what recipe I should try. It seems that everyone is watching their weight and many, even my son, is likely to decline the richly chocolate treats I love to bake. But then what is Valentine's Day without at least a little chocolate?
In these cookies a little chocolate goes a long way. Here the synergy of a spare handful of ingredients marries the flavors of a few nuts and chocolate chips to produce a wonderfully delicious Valentine's Day treat. Piped onto parchment in the shape of small hearts they are also pretty and when dipped in chocolate, garnished with a chocolate flourish or packaged with a Chocolate Filigree Heart or two they make a lovely little homemade gift.
For heart shaped cookies I varied the recipe slightly from the original by adding almonds instead of walnuts and grinding them first in a food processor until they are in small bits so that the nuts will not plug up the opening of the piping bag. This recipe also uses mini chocolate chips for the same reason.
Valentine Meringue Cookies
2 egg whites, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1 teaspoon vanilla
¾ cup sugar
6 ounces semi-sweet mini chocolate chips
¼ cup almonds, chopped fine
½ cup chocolate chips, melted
Beat together egg whites, salt, cream of tartar and vanilla until soft peaks form. Add sugar gradually beating until peaks are stiff. Fold in the 6 ounces of mini chocolate chips and the almonds.
Scoop the meringue into a gallon sized Ziploc freezer bag. Seal it, then cut a 1/2 inch opening across a lower corner of the bag. Use it like a pastry bag to pipe meringue hearts onto parchment paper lined baking sheets.
To form the hearts, hold the pastry bag from the top with one hand. Position the open tip of the bag near the parchment paper, but not touching it. Gently squeeze the bag with the other hand forming a round dollop of the meringue on the parchment. Now relax the pressure on the bag as you draw it toward yourself forming the first half of the heart.
Lift the pastry bag away from the parchment paper and reposition the tip a small distance away from the first dollop of meringue. Form another dollop and draw the bag toward the bottom of the first dollop while relaxing the pressure on the bag. The meringue should form into a rough heart shape or a sort of V.
Repeat until heart shaped dollops of meringue cover the cookie sheet.
Bake at 300 degrees for about 20 minutes or until set and beginning to brown slightly.
Remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.
When cool, dip the lower half of each cookie in melted chocolate allowing the excess to drip back into the pan before placing the dipped cookie on a parchment lined cookie sheet to set. When the cookie sheet is full place it in the refrigerator for a few minutes until the chocolate is firm.
Or, place the melted chocolate in a small Ziploc freezer bag and snip ¼ inch from a lower corner of the bag. Drizzle the chocolate over each cookie in a zigzag or other design. Place cookies in the refrigerator until the chocolate is firm.
If you have melted chocolate left over after drizzling the cookies you might want to pipe filigree hearts to dress up a Valentine dessert or to tuck into a small box of valentine meringues you are sharing with a friend.
similar to those in the February 2010 issue of Martha Stewart Living
½ chocolate chips, melted
Place the melted chocolate in a small Ziploc bag and snip ¼ inch from a lower corner of the bag.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
Beginning at one corner of the pan carefully pipe the outline of a small heart, one or two inches wide, in one continuous motion. As you keep moving gently swirl the piped chocolate in a random design filing in as much of the area inside the heart as desired. Make the swirls touch the outline of the heart in at least several places. Lift the point of the bag and then begin another heart close beside the first.
Continue piping until the pan is covered or you run out of chocolate. Place the pan in the refrigerator briefly to set the chocolate. Once firm, carefully peel the hearts away from the parchment and store them in an airtight container until ready to use.