Aunt Jeanette's Chocolate Meringues

Thesechocolate meringue biscuits are undoubtedly the dessert that I make most often.  My quick as a flash go to pudding.  Likelihood is, if you have eaten at my house, you have tried these rich, crunchy, fudgey treats. They really take a maximum of 20 minutes to make from start to finish, which makes this sweet finale to any meal all the more irresistible. In my fantasy life, I like to think this family secret will one day be my most famous recipe.  That, however, is up to you. But let me be clear.  These are NOT macaroons. These meringues should not be piped into a perfect round.  They bake like a cookie (and not slowly at low temperature).  They are free form, crunchy on the outside,  soft on the inside.  And completely delicious.

The recipe for these delectable treats found its way into my life via my Great Great Aunt Jeanette, who lived until she was 97 years old.  As a child, I spent many holidays at her wonderful Manhattan apartment, with a large balcony and views across the East River.  She had exquisite taste, and beautiful furniture, some of which I was lucky enough to inherit and schlep across the Pond, keeping her memory alive.  However, even in my younger years, I found it strange that her kitchen table had only four chairs.  Where did everyone eat?  Who only made meals for four people? But that is New York for you.

Given that I am sure she catered for fewer people than me, or was simply less greedy, I have increased the quantities in the original recipe.  It only really made 10 at a stretch, and that is really never enough.  Her recipe also included 1/2 cup unspecified roughly chopped nuts (as family recipes often do), and while I have made them with hazelnuts and walnuts, I really do prefer them unadulterated.

Please do not be alarmed by the amount of chocolate.  It works.  And please do not lower the oven temperature - it ensures a crispy outside edge.  And please do not be tempted to fuss and pipe the mix, it will deflate.  Just dollop spoonfuls on a lined baking sheet, or if you want to be more exacting, use a small ice cream scoop.  But follow the instructions.  Especially the cooling time.  They work.  This is probably my most tested recipe.

Aunt Jeanette’s Chocolate Meringues

Makes 16-18 meringues depending on their size

3 egg whites pinch of salt 170g (3/4 cup) sugar 170g (9oz) dark chocolate melted and cooled 1 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 180C (350F) Line 2 baking sheets with liners or parchment paper Melt chocolate in a bowl over simmering water and allow to cool While chocolate is cooling, beat egg whites with a pinch of salt until almost stiff Slowly add sugar and beat until smooth, silky, shiny and meringue like Add vanilla extract Carefully stir in cooled chocolate with a metal spoon until no egg whites show Drop by soup spoon size dollops onto baking sheet (I use a small ice cream scoop for this) Bake for 10 minutes until crispy on the outside.  Do not open the oven part way through Cool for 1 minute exactly on sheet before removing to rack to cool. This final step is very important as the meringues need to cool enough to move without breaking too much, but cannot take more heat as the inside will be too firm.  Allowing them to cool for 1 minute makes sure you will be left with a crunchy outside and chewy inside

Enjoy!