It has come to my attention that I have an addiction. This week mocha-cacao nib meringues have peppered every nook and cranny of my kitchen and I’ve snagged one (or three) nearly every time I’ve passed by — like a toll whose receipt is a buzzing sugar high.
It wouldn’t be that big of a surprise except that I don’t have a big sweet tooth and meringues have never really been my thing. But they’re definitely my mother’s thing. She is an equal-opportunity sweet lover but has a special place for meringues, white cake, macaroons, and all things coconut. So, this mother’s day, I’m sweetening up Mom’s day with this Mocha-Cacao Nib Meringue Smash.
Meringues can be a funny thing because, if you haven’t made them in a while, it can take a while to get back in the routine. That’s because meringues can be finicky buggers. So, when I get impatient and crank the oven heat a touch too high, they quickly overcook. Or when I start adding sugar to the eggs too early, they just don’t rise to the occasion. But with a few tips and more patience than I apparently have, meringues can be quite easy.
And very pretty, which Mom deserves, don’t you think? Surely it’s not a coincidence that Mother’s Day falls in the height of spring when everything’s blooming and the trees are painted with pops of bright colors. In the frilly, floral spirit of the time of, it only seems right to make her something beautiful, classic, and romantic. Like, say, pillows of meringues so ethereal and fem you would imagine Jane Austen waxing on about them in Sense & Sensibility.
These mocha meringues require a bit of attention but once they’re in the oven, they really couldn’t be simpler. As written, they yield a crisp cookie with a slight chewiness — the sort of thing that’s begging to be served with a dollop of whipped cream and a good smattering of berries. The result is part meringue cookie, part Eton mess, and, most importantly, infinitely malleable — you could shape it into nests and fill them with chocolate sauce and ice cream, make them bite-sized and sandwich them around lemon curd, or just make pillowy clouds of sweetness, as I have here.
Oh, and if these meringues turn out to be less than pure perfection? Serve them anyways because Moms love unconditionally and really truly count the thought.
Mocha-Cacao Nib Meringue Smash Recipe
You’ll need to keep a few specifics in mind and a couple of particular ingredients for meringue-making success. Because it’s a bit more info than my other recipes, I’m listing it all down below.
- Makes: 20 meringues, 10 servings
- Total Time: 1 hour 50 minutes plus cooling time
- Hands-On Time: 20 minutes
- 1/2 cup (about 4 large) egg whites, room temperature
- 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
- 1 cup superfine sugar
- 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
- 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
- 1 vanilla bean, halved and seeds scraped (or 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract)
- 2/3 cup roasted cacao nibs
- 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
- 1 pound mixed berries, set about 30 aside for garnish
Heat oven to 250°F and arrange racks in the upper and lower third. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
Place egg whites in an impeccably clean bowl and beat on low speed until frothy, and little white uniform bubbles appear, about 2 minutes. Add cream of tartar and increase speed to medium, continuing to beat until the mixture doubles in volume and there are soft peaks when you remove the whisk from the bowl, about 1 minute more.
Add the sugar 1 tablespoon at a time, until firm, glossy peaks form, about 2 to 3 minutes. Add cocoa powder, espresso, and vanilla and allow mixer to turn a few more times just until the ingredients are incorporated and no white remains. Test if the meringue is adequately whipped by pulling the whisk out of the bowl and turning the whisk upside down. If the meringue leaves a peak that stands up but gently folds back on itself at the end, it’s ready.
Gently fold in cocoa nibs and drop meringue by heaping tablespoons onto the baking sheets. Make the meringues as big or little as you please and make them into any shape at this point, knowing that the baking time will be shorter or longer for smaller or larger meringues, respectively. For the meringue clouds in the photo, I used my Zeroll ice cream scoop to get puff ball (about 2 inches in diameter) then used a second spoon to push it on the baking sheet.
Place meringues in oven and bake, rotating the sheets halfway through, until the meringues feel firm on the outside, hollow, and are dry enough they can be lifted from the parchment paper, at least 1 hour 20 minutes to 1 hour 30 minutes. Turn oven heat off and let meringues completely cool in the oven.
Meanwhile, put a the heavy cream, a large clean glass or stainless steel mixing bowl, and a whisk in the freezer until chilled, at least 5 minutes. Whip the cream until the cream just holds onto the whisk. Take the berries that aren’t set aside for garnish and smash with the back of a fork until roughly broken up. Add to the whipped cream and crumble half of the meringues into bite-sized pieces. Fold the mixture together until just combined.
To serve, evenly divide the cream and berry mixture among 10 small plate or tea cups, top each with 3 berries about, place a meringue on top, and serve.
Separate the eggs when they are cold and then let them warm to room temperature before using.
Make sure the equipment you use to whip the egg whites is seriously clean. I rinse everything with a splash of white wine vinegar before using them (no, you won’t taste the vinegar).
Cream of tartar is the byproduct of wine making and it’s helpful here to stabilize the whipped eggs. If you can’t find it, you can use lemon juice instead.
Superfine sugar (aka bakers sugar or caster sugar) makes for meringues with a really great (as in not gritty) texture. If you can’t find it you can use granulated sugar.
Instant espresso powder can be found in the baking aisle of most grocery stores; you can use ground coffee in a pinch.
Cacao nibs seriously make these meringues so hunt them down — you’ll want the roasted kind because they have a more complex, less bitter flavor than the raw kind.