Meringues: The Perfect Valentine Treats
By: Patti Cook, BA, MS, Ed.D, Culinary Grad, B&P Student (Photo Credit)
In the last couple weeks, people who know that I’m a health-conscious chef and recently started in the baking and pastry program have been asking me for healthy Valentine treat ideas. I have the perfect suggestion: meringues. In my world, they reign supreme for their airy, sugary crispness. For the record, in addition to being delicious and beautiful, meringues have many culinary virtues: they’re inexpensive, gluten-free, low-calorie, low-fat and easy to make. It’s fun to pipe them into small heart shapes to celebrate the season of love. In my rendition, mini chocolate chips provide a satisfying pop of flavor and texture. I made a batch of meringues recently to test and take pictures of. My boyfriend, who—much to my dismay—is known to occasionally go to the candy machine in the afternoon, told me that they were tasty enough to satisfy even his sweet tooth.
From my kitchen seat, true love is great, and eating healthier doesn’t mean you go without sweets on Valentine’s Day or any day. It does mean finding ways to increase naturally healthy and protein-rich ingredients like egg whites and decrease the not-so-good stuff like sugar and fat. And, most important, share the results with someone you love.
Tricks for perfect meringues:
- The eggs need to be at room temperature to get the best volume.
- You can’t get ANY yolk in the whites—separate each individual egg in a small bowl and then put it in a large mixing bowl. This way, if you do get yolk in one, you haven’t ruined the whole batch.
- Put a dab of the meringue under the corners of the parchment paper to secure it to the pan.
Meringues Recipe: About 40 (2-inch) hearts
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
1/3 cup sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
¼ cup mini chocolate chips
1. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat to 200°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
2.Beat egg whites and cream of tartar with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until soft peaks form. Slowly add sugar and continue to beat until whites are stiff and glossy. Add vanilla; beat for 1 minute more.
3. Gently stir in chocolate chips.
4. Fill a 1-quart sealable plastic bag (or pastry bag with ½-inch+ tip) with the meringue. Seal the bag and snip off a ½-inch-wide opening in one corner.
5. Push the meringue down to the snipped corner and pipe 2-inch hearts onto the prepared baking sheets, spacing them ½ inch apart.
6. Bake until dry and crisp throughout, 1½ to 2 hours. Turn the heat off and leave the cookies in the oven to cool. Carefully remove the cookies from the parchment paper and store in an airtight container with paper between layers. Meringues can be stored for up to 5 days. If they get chewy, you can get them crispy again by cooking in a 200° oven for about 10 minutes.