Vanilla Bean Cocoa Nib Meringues

These are my new favorite cookies, which is fortunate considering the amount of effort I had to put into just being able to bake them.  You see, I saw this recipe on Joy the Baker months ago.  It’s been in the back of my mind this whole time.  I would have made them the moment I saw the recipe, but I did not have cocoa nibs, nor did I even know where to find them.  Sarasota = not the best place ever when it comes to specialty baking items.  I called every whole foods type store in the area and found the one. single. store. that carries cocoa nibs (thank you, Whole Foods).  Of course, this store is the farthest away from anywhere I frequent.  Whole Foods is a good twenty minutes from where I work, and closer to 45 minutes from where I live.  Yes.  I drove that far just to be able to make cookies.  WORTH IT.

Meringues are light, airy cookies with a slightly crispy outside… beautiful textures fill up your mouth.  These meringues are especially special because of the fragrant vanilla and the unexpected crunch and chocolatey bitterness of the cocoa nibs.  Cocoa nibs, by the way, are basically broken up bits of roasted cocoa beans.

For the record, I’ve made these three times now and each time they haven’t lasted more than an hour amongst my staff at the restaurant.

Here’s what you need: (Adapted from Joy the Baker)

  • 3 large egg whites at room temperature
  • A pinch of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • 3/4 cups sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean, split & seeds scraped
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa nibs

To prep: place rack in the upper third of your oven and preheat to 275.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Parchment paper is a must for meringues.

Never scraped vanilla seeds before?  I know that vanilla beans are expensive, but the fragrance and flavor is unparalleled.  Tip: don’t buy vanilla beans from your regular grocery store.  A single bean is like $8 at Publix.  Whole foods stores are the way to go.  I can get good beans from my local whole foods store (Richard’s) for $2.99.  Slice the bean down the middle and open it up.  Hold it down at the top and scrape with the back, flat side of your knife.  You might need to do this two or three times to get all of the super tiny seeds out.  They’ll be all bunch together and your fingers will smell delicious.  Put the sugar and the vanilla into a bowl.  Press the vanilla into the sugar with the back of a spoon until it is distributed and fragrant.

There is some stigma that meringues are difficult to make.  This is incorrect.  They just take a watchful eye and the ability to follow directions.  I understand how that last part might make it difficult for some.  Make sure the bowl of your mixer is clean and dry.  Put in the egg whites and beat on medium until foamy… just about a minute.  Add the salt & cream of tartar and increase the speed to medium high.  Beat until soft peaks form… there will be lots of tight bubbles.  Then, gradually add the vanilla sugar.  Increase the speed to high as you are adding the sugar.  Continue to beat until glossy, stiff peaks form… about 3 minutes or so.

Add the cocoa nibs and gently fold them in with a spatula.

Dollop the batter onto a parchment lined baking sheet by the tablespoonful about an inch apart.  The will expand a little when they bake, but for the most part they will retain their size and shape.

Bake on 275 for 60-70 minutes, until slightly browned.  You want the shells to be hard and hollow feeling to the touch.  Cool completely on baking sheet.  Try not to eat all of them.

These babies will last in an airtight container at room temperature for about 3 days, but really are best the day they’re made.

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