This week I've acquired two new obsessions: hula hooping and meringue cookies.
The former is thanks to Jeff's daughter Melissa, a fellow hula hoop enthusiast and our regular Thursday night dinner guest. A few Thursdays ago, she brought her hoop--which she had made herself--and we had fun hula hooping out on our deck. "This would be a great gift idea for me, next time you want to get me something," I told her, thinking Christmas or my birthday in January. So I was surprised and delighted when she arrived the following Thursday with an armful of hula hoop ingredients: blue PVC pipe, a connector thingy, and colorful electrical tape. Within minutes I had a giant hula hoop of my own. It's much more substantial than my childhood hoop, and since then it has become part of my daily routine (get up, eat a spoonful of peanut butter, paint, lunch, paint, hula hoop). I like to watch various recorded Bravo offerings while hooping because it eases the guilt that comes with this visual junk food. I am not sure what kind of workout I am getting with this, but it's got to be good for my abs, right? Right? I mean, how could it not be? Anyway, I can keep that thing moving nonstop for the duration of a Bravo show (fast forwarding through commercials via the remote, which I hold while hooping, thus giving my arms one hell of a weight training workout).
The latter obsession, meringues, came about thanks to this recipe by Joy the Baker. I made her lemon meringue cookies and lemon curd earlier this week, and so should you if you want a mostly-guilt-free lemon meringue pie experience. They were fun to make and satisfying, too, because I have been hoarding egg whites in my freezer lately. Jeff and I gobbled them up quickly and I was eager to make more meringues. I love the simplicity of the recipe: whip egg whites and add sugar and possibly some flavorings. THAT'S IT. Egg whites and sugar, and not even very much sugar! Also: excuse to get out the piping bag!
I remembered that Nigella Lawson (pictured above, from the back cover of How to Be a Domestic Goddess) had a jumbo chocolate meringue recipe called "Gooey Chocolate Stack" that my sister and I attempted to make many summers ago. The meringue layers of this sort-of cake failed to crisp up because of the high humidity that day. Apparently we did not get the memo that said you should only make meringues on low humidity days, and our Sloppy Chocolate Stack, while tasty, was nowhere near as pretty as Nigella's.
Today I decided to alter that recipe to make mini meringue sandwich cookies, using Nutella as glue. Total win. The meringues are a light dusky brown that disguises their mighty chocolate heft, and you can't go wrong with Nutella, ever.
Plus: no butter. Plus: crunchy. Plus: CUTE.
Let's look at them again.
- 3 large egg whites
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1.5 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 1/2 teaspoon red wine vinegar
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and preheat oven to 200 degrees.
Whisk (stand mixer) the egg whites until stiff, then add the sugar a spoonful at a time, beating in well after each addition. GO SLOWLY. You'll have a thick, beautiful, glossy meringue.
Sprinkle over the cocoa and vinegar and fold in gently but firmly.
Stuff this into a piping bag fitted with a star tip. Large star is best, but small star (what I have) does the job, too. Pipe approximately 25 stars per baking sheet. I am a total amateur when it comes to piping. Give it your best shot, but don't worry about it too much.
Bake for two hours--yes, two hours--until hardened and no longer sticky.
Let them cool completely, and this will take no time at all. Assemble into sandwich cookies only as needed. The moisture of the Nutella will make the cookies gummy if you do not eat them immediately. Keep the meringues in an airtight container with a jar of Nutella and a knife nearby.