Featherlight meringue produces deliciously elegant, fat-free cookies. Making meringue, however, can be intimidating to many cooks. This one is very forgiving. The cocoa, which delivers a rich flavor, also eliminates concern that your meringue may turn beige during baking. These meringues are even delicious when the centers are still slightly chewy, which may happen if you bake on a humid day. If you do not want to pipe this thick meringue into shapes, omit the pastry bag and spoon dollops of the stiff batter onto baking sheets, shaping them into plump kisses.
- 1/4 cup Dutch process cocoa powder
- 1 1/4 cups sugar
- 3/4 cup egg whites (about 6 large), at room temperature
- Kosher salt, to taste
Position 2 racks in the center of an oven and preheat to 250°F. Line 2 baking sheets, preferably insulated sheets, with parchment paper.
Combine the cocoa and 1/2 cup of the sugar in a sifter or a fine-mesh sieve and sift them into a bowl. Set aside.
In a bowl, using a stand mixer fitted with the whip attachment or a handheld mixer, beat the egg whites on medium speed until very frothy, about 1 minute. Add a pinch of salt and continue beating until soft peaks form, 2 to 3 minutes. Increase the speed to high and begin gradually adding the remaining 3/4 cup sugar, 1 Tbs. at a time, always beating for about 10 seconds to dissolve the addition before adding the next spoonful. Continue beating until the whites form stiff peaks, about 2 minutes.
Sprinkle one-third of the cocoa-sugar mixture over the egg whites. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the cocoa-sugar mixture into the whites until it is about two-thirds blended. Fold in the remaining cocoa-sugar mixture, in 2 additions, taking care to deflate the whites as little as possible.
Spoon the meringue into a medium-sized pastry bag fitted with a number 4 star tip. Grasping the bag firmly at the top with one hand and guiding it at the tip with the other hand, pipe the meringue onto the prepared baking sheets, making 3-inch-long ladyfingers or figure-eights 2 inches round and 4 inches long. You can also pipe two 3-inch lengths side by side to make double-wide cookies. Space the cookies 2 inches apart.
Bake the meringues until they are completely dry, about 2 1/2 hours. Transfer the pans to wire racks and let the meringues cool completely.
Carefully lift the meringues off the parchment paper and serve, or store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days. Makes 40 to 48 cookies.
Adapted from Williams-Sonoma, Essentials of Healthful Cooking, by Mary Abbott Hess, Dana Jacobi & Marie Simmons (Oxmoor House, 2003).