Impress with homemade sweets
While heart-shaped boxes of chocolate might be ubiquitous in February, those who want to truly impress that special someone can try their hand at baking up their own batch of decadent treats.
This recipe for “Chocolate Coconut Meringues,” courtesy of EatingWell. com, makes for a perfect indulgence. Loaded with flavor but not too heavy, these sweet treats can be enjoyed after a Valentine’s Day dinner or even as a snack the day after.
CHOCOLATE COCONUT MERINGUES
Yields: 30 cookies
• 4 large egg whites
• 1⁄4 teaspoon cream of tartar
• 1⁄4 teaspoon coconut extract or imitation coconut extract
• 1⁄4 teaspoon almond extract
• 1⁄4 teaspoon vanilla extract
• 1⁄8 teaspoon salt
• 1 cup sugar
• 1⁄4 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
• 2 tablespoons semisweet chocolate chips or finely chopped chocolate
• 2 tablespoons trans-fat-free white chocolate chips or finely chopped white chocolate, such as Sunspire.
1. Position racks in upper and lower thirds of oven; preheat to 250 F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats.
2. Beat egg whites, cream of tartar, coconut, almond and vanilla extracts, and salt in a large bowl with an electric mixer on medium-high speed until combined. Gradually beat in sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, until stiff, shiny peaks form, 6 to 8 minutes.
3. Sift cocoa over the mixture and gently fold together with a rubber spatula until combined.
4. Spoon the meringue into a gallon-size sealable bag (or pastry bag fitted with a 1⁄2-inch tip). Seal the bag, pressing out as much air as possible. Cut a 1⁄2-inch hole in one corner of the bag. Pipe the meringue into 2-inch circles, about 1 inch apart, on the prepared baking sheets.
5. Bake on the upper and lower racks for 50 minutes. Turn off the heat and let the meringues stand in the oven with the door closed until completely dry, about 11⁄2 hours.
6. Melt semisweet and white chocolate (see below) and drizzle or pipe onto the cooled meringues. Let stand until it sets.
Tips & techniques: To melt the chocolate, place it in a bowl and microwave on medium for 45 seconds. Stir; continue microwaving on medium in 20-second intervals until almost melted, stirring after each interval. Continue stirring until completely melted. Or place in the top of a double boiler over hot, but not boiling, water. Stir until melted. To decorate cookies with melted chocolate, use a pastry bag fitted with a fine writing tip to pipe the melted chocolate or dip tines of a fork in chocolate and drizzle. You can improvise a pastry bag with a small plastic bag. Add melted chocolate to the bag, cut a tiny hole in one corner and squeeze the chocolate out.