If you know me and/or my blog, you know I am always happy to take special requests from friends and family. So when my best friend’s mom requested chocolate chai meringues for her birthday, I was more than happy to oblige and the gears in my head started turning immediately.
Though I like the way chocolate-dipped meringues look, I think chocolate plus meringues would just be too sweet and might mask the delicate blend of spices and tea in the chai. So I used (what else) cacao nibs!
These took two batches to get right – partly because of the weather and partly because of the spice blend. I originally wrote out a recipe using the blend I made for my stupidly wonderful chai custard, but between the small quantities required for a recipe like this and the fact that the spices are consumed directly and not steeped in something, some of the flavors were overpowering. Just a tiny bit of star anise and two too many peppercorns turned the meringues astringent and overly-spicy. Not what I was going for.
It was also still very wet out when I made the first batch and they ended up a little runny in the oven, with caramelized bottoms and a collapsible texture. Wrong, wrong, wrong.
So I tried again, leaving out the anise entirely, upping the allspice, reducing the pepper to one tiny white peppercorn for just a bit of spiciness, and baking them on the first of a stretch of drier, more summer-like days. Perfection ensued.
Chocolate Chai Meringues
- 1 pod green cardamom
- 1 clove
- 5 allspice berries
- 1 white peppercorn
- 1 tsp English breakfast tea (or other plain black tea)
- 1/8 tsp cinnamon (freshly grated, if you have cinnamon sticks)
- 3/4 cup sugar (I used 1/4 cup vanilla sugar but I don’t think it made a difference)
- 3 egg whites, room temperature (preferably aged at least a day, too)
- Handful or two of cacao nibs, for sprinkling
Preheat the oven to 175 (or 200 if your oven doesn’t go that low). Smash open the cardamom pod and place the seeds in a mortar and pestle. Add the clove, allspice, peppercorn and tea and grind until roughly broken up but not pulverized. Combine the sugar, tea and all spices in a food processor or heavy-duty blender and grind until the sugar is a fine powder and the spices and tea are also powdered and fully incorporated. Wait for the powdered sugar dust to settle before you remove the lid – it’ll settle all over your kitchen in a thin sticky layer if you don’t (not to mention breathing sugar dust is not as delicious an idea as it sounds). Whip the egg whites into a foam and, while continuing to whip, gradually add the sugar mixture until fully incorporated, then continue to whip to stiff peaks. Transfer the meringue to a piping bag fitted with a star or round tip (I like star tips for meringues but round also makes for precious kisses). Pipe kisses onto a baking sheet lined with parchment or a Silpat. You may need to use two sheets. Sprinkle a few cacao nibs onto each kiss and allow to sit for 5-10 minutes before baking to allow a skin to develop on the meringue. Bake for one hour, or until the meringues are dry on top and somewhat hollow-feeling. Turn off the oven and let the meringues sit inside for another hour or two. If they seem like they might get overdone when you turn the oven off, prop the door open while the oven cools to allow the heat to dissipate faster. Once the meringues are set and cool you can just pop them off the baking sheet and seal in an airtight container for a couple weeks – just keep away from humidity lest they become sticky (though the nibs will help keep them from sticking to one another).
These were received as well as they possibly could be. I put them in a big brown box (meant for candy and other edibles) and tied it with a lovely ribbon. I love meringues because they are pretty much the only thing I make (besides sorbets) that I can honestly answer “yes!” to when people inevitably ask “these are low-calorie, right?” (And fat free, aside from whatever’s in the nibs…which are ALSO quite healthy if you think about it!)