Lean, luscious holiday treat

Associated PressNovember 28, 2012 

Even if you avoid baking all year long, there’s a very good chance that 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.

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 such as Chocolate-Dipped Meringue Drops.

Each one is like a candy bar in a cookie suit. Egg whites bind together the other ingredients – coconut and dried cranberries – to provide a chewy texture, all without adding fat. Yes, there’s fat in coconut and chocolate, but the overall fat and calorie content is lower 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, adding volume and stability to your cookies. The whites and yolks should be separated when eggs are cold. But wait until whites reach room temperature before beating them.

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 degrees, and some ovens just don’t work well at such a low temp. Though my own oven needed to be fiddled with, my thermometer kept the job on track.

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 offsets this confection’s overall sweetness. The proof is in the cookie. My daughter, who is no fan of coconut, dug these drops.

CHOCOLATE-DIPPED COCONUT MERINGUE DROPS 1 cup dried cranberries

2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut

4 large egg whites, room temperature

Pinch of salt

Pinch of cream of tartar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup sugar

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Heat oven to 350 F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or spray with cooking spray and dust with flour, removing excess.

In a food processor, pulse the cranberries until finely chopped. Set aside.

Spread the coconut on a third baking sheet. Bake about 5 minutes. Let cool. Reduce the oven to 275 F.

Once the coconut has cooled, in a medium bowl combine it with the cranberries.

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the egg whites with the salt, cream of tartar and vanilla until they form soft peaks. Add the sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, beating until stiff peaks form. Fold in the coconut cranberry mixture. Drop rounded tablespoons of the batter, 1 inch apart, on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 25 minutes, or until the meringue drops are beige (they will be soft at the center). Put the sheet pans on cooling racks and let the meringue drops cool completely.

Bring a small saucepan of water to a gentle simmer. Set a larger stainless bowl over the saucepan, then add the chocolate. Heat the chocolate, stirring occasionally, until melted. One at a time, dip the bottoms of the cookies into the chocolate, then set chocolate side up on parchment to cool. To set the chocolate faster, the cookies can be refrigerated.

Store the cookies in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 1 week.

Nutrition per cookie: 50 calories; 25 calories from fat; 3 g fat (2 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 7 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 5 g sugar; 1 g protein; 10 mg sodium.

Start to finish: 55 minutes (30 minutes active) Makes 5 dozen

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