As the 2012 holiday season approached, I felt that it was once again time to bake up some of Malika Ameen‘s Chocolate Hazelnut Meringue Clouds. I first encountered the recipe in Food & Wine Magazine in December 2011, made some for Christmas that year, and they were a big hit. And while I couldn’t quite fit them into our Christmas week 2012 festivities with Therese’s family down in Florida, I still had it on my mind to make them as soon as the opportunity arose.
Last week, that day finally came. This recipe is interesting because, first of all, there are three different forms of chocolate included: cocoa powder, chopped dark chocolate (for this I used some of my remaining bittersweet Valrhona) and cocoa nibs.
You have to roast your own hazelnuts and remove the skins before you chop them, which is some work and can be a bit messy – I roll them in a paper towel rather than a dish towel because I fear that once dirtied by those blackened skin shavings, that dish towel would never be clean again.
Of course, the most radical ingredient in these cookies is cardamom. But upon looking through Ms. Ameen’s recipes on her website, By M Desserts, I see that a number of them include cardamom. So I’m betting that while for us, cardamom in sweets seems strange, for her it is natural. And rest assured, that while the cardamom is a nice accent in the taste of the finished product, you might not notice it unless you knew it was in there (or you might mistake it for nutmeg or cinnamon).
So I gathered all my dry ingredients – in addition to what I’ve already mentioned, also corn starch – and mixed them all thoroughly.
Then in a second mixing bowl, I laid in my 3 egg whites with cream of tartar and salt, and started whipping them with my hand mixer. I don’t whip egg whites often enough to remember exactly when they are ready, so I always have to ask my wife – usually I need to go a couple minutes longer after I think they’re ready. Once the peeks are nice and fluffy, then I start adding in my sugar, and keep going for another few minutes until they are so stiff that when I pull the beaters out of the whites, the peek sticks straight up and doesn’t bend over onto itself. Then I add the vanilla and whip just a couple more seconds to get it fully incorporated. And for her expert help, I reward Therese by letting her lick a beater!
Finally I fold in the dry ingredients. Wow, this mixture looks great. So glossy and creamy. I’d love to just stick my finger in like Little Jack Horner, but I will resist that urge.
Now it is just a matter of laying out the mix a tablespoon at a time on parchment paper on two cookie sheets. As I go around a second time, it’s more like a half tablesppon for each – and still I run out of mixture before I get to them all. Oh well, a couple are a little smaller than the rest!
Considering how lumpy they came out, they look to me less like clouds and more like moon rocks or some other extraterrestrial substance, but they taste amazing whatever you’d like to call them. They bake in the oven for 30 minutes, which is a long time compared to how long other cookies take to bake. But it is a perfect amount of time. Since I put my two small cookie sheets next to each other on the same oven rack, I do not do any rotating of racks as the recipe suggests. The clouds still come out great!