Meringue creates a lighter take on holiday cookies

SARA MOULTON
The Associated Press
Modified: November 16, 2012 at 6:31 pm •  Published: November 16, 2012
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photo - In this image taken on Monday, Nov. 5, 2012, chocolate-dipped coconut meringue drops are shown in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)
In this image taken on Monday, Nov. 5, 2012, chocolate-dipped coconut meringue drops are shown in Concord, N.H. (AP Photo/Matthew Mead)

Even if you avoid baking all year long, there's a very good chance the allure of the holidays will seduce you into having a go at a batch of cookies.

And why not? It's sweet food for a sweet season. Of course, the cookie season can be hazardous to your waistline. If possible, it's best to keep in mind Julia Child's motto: Everything in moderation. Go ahead and savor those cookies, just don't be a monster about it.

Of course, if you do happen to overdo it, you'll be better off if you snub the usual dough boys in favor of a lean and luscious gem like these chocolate-dipped meringue drops.

Each one is like a candy bar in a cookie suit. The hero of this story? Egg whites. They bind together the other ingredients — the coconut and dried cranberries — and provide a nice chewy texture, all without adding any fat. Yes, there's fat in the coconut and the chocolate, but the overall fat and calorie content is lower here than in butter-based cookies.

This is one of those recipes for which the fresher the egg, the better. Fresh egg whites boast more body than older ones, adding greater volume and stability to your cookies. The whites and yolks should be separated when the eggs are cold. But wait until the whites reach room temperature before beating them.

Though many of us separate egg whites from yolks using the cracked egg shell halves as little cups, it's safer to employ those even more basic tools — your hands. Your hands, unlike those egg shells, don't have sharp edges, which dramatically reduces the possibility of breaking the yokes. The quickest way to warm your whites to room temperature is to put them in a clean bowl, then put that bowl into a larger bowl of hot water.

If you don't already own an oven thermometer, you might consider getting one. These cookies need to be baked at 275 F, and some ovens just don't work well at such a low temp. Though my own oven needed to be fiddled with again and again, my thermometer kept the job on track.

By the way, those of you who regularly bake up meringues as white as snow should know that this isn't that type of meringue. It is meant to be beige and chewy, not white and crispy. Likewise, the note of tangy bitterness provided by the dark chocolate is meant to offset this confection's overall sweetness. The proof, of course, is in the cookie. My daughter, who is no fan of coconut, dogged these chocolate-dipped meringue drops.

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