One of my favorite desserts is a light and airy meringue cookie topped with chocolate glaze and walnuts. In the springtime, it can be adapted into an elegant dessert when shaped as a meringue shell and served with fresh, ripe strawberries.
This spring, Easter and Passover coincide on the same weekend. LaVerle’s Chocolate Meringue Cookies can be used for both holidays. My mother-in-law makes a meringue nest with fresh fruit for a Passover dessert. The meringues don’t have leavening agents or flour so fit into a traditional Passover menu. The chocolate meringue shells are tasty, elegant and lite, they can easily be used for dessert at Easter, too.
In Louisiana, strawberries are in season in April. The local ones are juicy, sweet and huge. Sliced, fresh strawberries make a good complement to the chocolate meringue shells.
LaVerle’s Chocolate Meringue Cookies
LaVerle Hosteler Sappington was a neighbor when we were growing up and this recipe came from my old, old recipe file. The shape of meringues remind me of Hershey’s kisses candy. The meringues are perhaps a little tricky to make; I remember my neighbor–with her jolly, animated voice and laugh–describing how to make a meringue. The cookies were placed on brown paper grocery bag pieces which we cut to fit the baking sheet and baked in a low heat oven for 45 -50 minutes so they would puff. As a little girl, I thought it was fascinating to bake something on a paper bag.
Nevertheless, the chocolate meringue cookies are delicious. I often make them as a Christmas and Hanakah cookie (we celebrate both holidays at our house).
Making the meringue cookies
This recipe requires some preparation, so, it’s wise to get all the ingredients prepped before starting to make the meringue. There really aren’t many ingredients, here they are (plus a little milk for making the glaze).
I store unused walnuts in the freezer. To use, I toast the walnuts in the oven at 350 degrees for 5 minutes until they become aromatic and then chop them to fine pieces with a food chopper.
Grate the unsweetened chocolate squares with a fine grater.
Meringues are made of egg whites and sugar (with vanilla extract and the grated chocolate for flavor). The egg whites are beaten on high speed of an electric mixer until stiff. However, it will not work to beat air into egg whites if any egg yolk is accidentally mixed with the whites. I used an inexpensive egg separator to separate the yolks from the whites. It works every time.
Beat the egg whites on high speed in a very clean, dry mixing bowl with electric mixer until stiff but not dry.
Gradually and slowly add the sugar while continuing to beat until the egg whites are stiff –I had trouble with this–my egg whites became glossy. Do not over beat or all the volume will disappear.
Very gently fold in the grated chocolate and remaining sugar using a lifting motion. Again, avoid stirring the meringue, or all the volume of the egg whites will disappear along with your work!
The original recipe calls for the meringue to be dropped onto paper-covered baking sheet in small spoonfuls. I dropped 3 spoonfuls together making a “shell”. And I used parchment paper to line the baking sheets rather than brown paper bags.
For some of the shells; I gently swirled the the edges together to make a circular shell.
The meringues are baked at 275 degrees for 45 to 50 minutes. Cool on the baking sheet and lift them off with a spatula. For the chocolate glaze, melt semi-sweet chocolate chips with a little milk over very low heat, stirring constantly until chocolate melts. Spoon some chocolate over each shell.
Sprinkle with the walnut bits before the chocolate glaze hardens.
My original intent was to serve sliced strawberries inside each meringue “shell”. However, my shells weren’t large enough for this. Instead, it works to serve sliced and whole strawberries as an accompaniment on the plate with mint for garnish.
LaVerle's Chocolate Meringue Cookies with Fresh Strawberries
- 4 egg whites (from large eggs)
- 1 cup sugar, divided
- 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2 squares unsweetened chocolate, finely grated
- 1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
- 3 Tbsp milk
- 2/3 cup toasted walnuts, chopped finely
- 1 quart fresh strawberries, sliced and whole
- mint for garnish (optional)
Instructions and Steps
- Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
- Beat egg whites until stiff (not dry).
- Gradually add 2/3 cup sugar and vanilla extract while continuing to beat until they form stiff peaks.
- Fold in remaining sugar mixed with the grated chocolate.
- Drop from teaspoons onto baking sheet covered with parchment paper. (For this dessert; drop three spoonfuls together and smoothed the edges to make a circular shell.)
- Cool and remove from paper using spatula.
- For decorative topping, melt together the semi-sweet chocolate chips and milk. Spoon the melted chocolate over the meringues and sprinkle with walnut bits. (If making individual cookies, dip each cookie into the chocolate and then into the nuts.)
- Let chocolate harden before storing.
- To serve, place a shell on serving plate along with fresh sliced and whole strawberries and garnish with mint leaves (optional).
After an large meal; this dessert is lite and just the right touch of sweetness to make a memorable ending. Enjoy!