Recipe: chocolate cinnamon hazelnut cacao nib meringues
Well, I finally overcame my issues with square photos, took the plunge, and got an Instagram account. You can find me and my random shenanigans over at @jenyuphoto. Rather than bore you with stories of skiing slush and trouble shooting our broken washing machine, let’s talk about meringues. I’m specifically referring to giant palm-sized clouds of sugar. While the huckleberry meringues were beautiful to look at, it felt like I was just biting into a big puffball of sugar with a veneer of huckleberry sauce. So I got to thinking about and researching other flavors and textures.
superfine sugar, cacao nibs, toasted hazelnuts, egg whites, cocoa powder, ground cinnamon, salt
I found a recipe on Leite’s Culinaria for chocolate cinnamon meringues as big as the ones I made based on Ottolenghi’s recipe. It’s a similar technique, too – pouring hot sugar into the egg whites. This is what creates the chewy interior of the meringue (which I love). The bitter, earthy, and spicy flavors of unsweetened cocoa powder and ground cinnamon would temper the sugary sweetness of the meringue. Then, taking a cue from another Ottolenghi recipe (the pistachio-rose meringues), I decided to coat the base of each meringue with a combination of chopped toasted hazelnuts and cacao nibs. It sounded like a good combination in my brain.
ready to bake the sugar
whisk the cocoa powder and cinnamon together
chop the hazelnuts
toss the hazelnuts and cacao nibs in a bowl
Giant meringues have become my obsession of late. It all started because I had so many leftover egg whites hanging out in my refrigerator that I needed to find a way to use them up. You can also purchase egg whites in cartons if you don’t want a ton of leftover yolks (or make ice cream… I’m sure someone will vote for making ice cream). To me, meringues are such pretty and delightful treats to hand to someone as a gift. I wanted to practice and build a repertoire of different flavors. I consider this version to be a somewhat more substantial snack with the nuts and cacao nibs. They add a nice crunch to the already crisp and delicate outer shell of the meringue. I’m also getting better at taking the sugar out of the oven before it liquifies. Practice practice practice.
add a pinch of salt to the egg whites
start whipping the egg whites when you take the sugar out of the oven
whipped into meringue after adding the hot sugar
What I like about swirling ingredients into the meringue has to do with both aesthetics – swirls are pretty – and distribution of the flavor throughout the confection. It may be tempting to mix the cocoa powder and cinnamon into the meringue more than you should, but just give it two gentle folds. When you go to scoop and shape the individual meringues, there will be more swirling and mixing. Spread the chopped hazelnuts and cacao nibs on a flat plate and gather them in the center in an even layer. Drop your newly scooped meringue right onto that delicious landing pad so the bottom of the meringue gets a nice base. Use a flat, wide spatula to pick the meringue up from the bed of goodies and settle it onto a parchment-lined baking sheet. Expect debris to fall from the bottom of the meringue. Any leftover nuts and nibs should be sprinkled atop the meringues where they will hopefully stick to the gooey tops.
fold the cocoa and cinnamon into the meringue
drop a spoonful onto the hazelnuts and cacao nibs
gently settle the meringues onto a baking sheet
sprinkle extra nuts and nibs on the tops
I adore these meringues – more than the huckleberry meringues. Knowing what you know about my feelings for huckleberries (they are my favorite) and my feelings about chocolate (not a huge fan), that is saying quite a lot. There is just so much going on with each bite. It had different kinds of crunch from the nibs, the nuts, the meringue. And don’t forget the chewy center. The non-sweet components took the edge off the overpowering sugar of the meringue, balancing sweet with bitter, nutty, earthy. Jeremy really enjoyed these with a cup of good black coffee. I took some to our neighbors who also sampled the huckleberry meringues. When I asked which one they liked better, Herb grinned and said, “I’m not sure – I think I need to sample them both again!”
i really love the addition of the cacao nibs and hazelnuts
Chocolate Cinnamon Hazelnut Cacao Nib Meringues
based on this recipe from Leite’s Culinaria
300g (1 1/2 cups) superfine sugar
150g (about 5) egg whites, room temperature
2 tbsps cocoa powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 cup toasted hazelnuts, chopped fine
1/4 cup cacao nibs
Preheat oven to 400°F. Sprinkle the sugar on a parchment-lined baking sheet and shake to even out the distribution. Place the egg whites and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer with balloon whip attachment. Bake the sugar for 6-7 minutes until the edges just begin to melt (keep checking, it happens faster than you think). As soon as the sugar grains at the edge start to liquify, turn the mixer on high speed. Remove the sugar from the oven and (using oven mitts) carefully lift the parchment paper at the edges and pour the hot (but still dry) sugar into the egg whites along the side of the bowl. Don’t worry if some of it doesn’t go in because it melted – it’ll be fine without it.
Whisk the meringue until the bowl is cool to the touch, about 10 minutes. Reduce the oven temperature to between 140°F and 160°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. While the meringue is whipping, mix the cocoa powder and ground cinnamon together in a small bowl. Set aside. In another bowl, mix the hazelnuts and cacao nibs together. Spread the nuts and nibs in a layer on a flat plate.
When the meringue is cooled, remove the bowl from the mixer and sprinkle the cocoa-cinnamon mixture over the top of the meringue. Use a large spatula or spoon to gently fold the mixture into the meringue, 2 strokes maximum. Don’t overmix it – you want big streaks. Scoop a large spoonful of meringue onto the hazelnuts and cacao nibs. Using a flat spatula, lift the meringue from the plate and place it on the baking sheet. Repeat with remaining meringue. Sprinkle any extra nuts and nibs over the meringues. Bake 3-4 hours until the meringues sound hollow when tapped. Remove from oven and allow to cool completely on the baking sheet. Store in an airtight container for 3-4 days. Makes 6-8 meringues (about 4-inch diameter and 2 1/2 inches high).
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