I don’t feel guilty about dessert. Do you? Lately I’ve been trying to prioritize joy in my life-both creating and finding it. Among other things, this includes preparing and eating a variety of delicious foods for myself and the family. Dessert, in moderation, is far too enjoyable to feel guilty about if you ask me. I’m also pretty sure that I love dessert too much to feel any guilt about it. So let’s talk about one of my favorite desserts: chocolate meringues. Everything about meringue is delightful. Who doesn’t want a dessert that is sweet and cloud-like? The entire process of whipping egg whites and sugar into a beautiful, thick, fluffy whip is always so satisfying. The beautiful swirl of cocoa powder makes these meringues decadently beautiful, and gooey on the inside. The scent of vanilla and sugar that wafts up from my mixing bowl is something I will never tire of. Meringue in itself is a beautiful thing, and adding a beautiful swirl of chocolate truly takes it up a notch.
To be perfectly honest, I didn’t even know what a meringue was as a child. My mom made lemon meringue pie every Christmas, but that was the extent that my meringue expertise went. I didn’t know about meringues as a standalone dessert until I was well into my mid-20’s, and it was a delightful revelation. Meringues are not a common thing in New England. You won’t find them in even the largest of cookbooks for New England recipes, or on many Maine dessert menus. I’ve read that meringues are traditionally Swiss, though I associate them with France or Italy. I suppose each culture has their own variation, each as a good as the next. Maine recipes and New England recipes place a lot more focus on heartier, comfort style desserts, like blueberry pies and apple crisps and such.
My chocolate meringues recipe is fairly simple, and doesn’t have a lot of sugar compared to other meringue recipes. I find that with some chocolate meringues the recipe can call for more sugar than necessary and they are almost too sweet to truly enjoy. Meringues do need a fair amount of sugar to get that perfect crispy outside and gooey inside, without falling into a flat sticky mess. However, I’ve tried to keep my sugar ratio just right. Additionally, these chocolate meringues use unsweetened cocoa powder, so the bitterness does even out the sugar a little bit more. They’re just sweet enough without being over the top. In addition to sugar, meringues don’t require a lot of ingredients -just five to be exact- but you do have to mindful about how you cook them. Chocolate meringues (okay, any type of meringues) are temperature sensitive, which I discovered the hard way during my first few failed attempts. I’ve tried this recipe for chocolate meringues several times and it’s come out perfect every time, so you should have no trouble with it.
How to Make Chocolate Meringues
I have had a few people ask me about my chocolate meringues: How do you get the swirls so nice? How do you stop them from collapsing? How long to whip the egg whites for? Meringues can be a little finicky-my first few batches were terrible. Once you know the little tricks then you, too, can have perfect meringues every time.
Step 1 First preheat the oven. These chocolate meringues are meant to have a crispy shell on the outside with a softer, almost chewy texture on the inside, so I cook them at a very low temperature: 200˚F.
Step 2 Chocolate Meringues start with egg whites, so the first step is separating your eggs. I always try to save the egg yolks for a separate cooking project- usually some type of pudding or custard. If you have the time a dollop of chocolate pudding goes very nicely on top of these meringues! Next you’ll whip your eggs until they reach “soft peaks”. This means that if you dip the whisk into the bowl of fluffy whites, that the egg whites should make a point that flops/curls over, not quite holding its shape.
Step 3 Add the sugar. Once the egg whites have reached soft peaks stage, continue whisking and add in the sugar, 1/2 cup at a time. Allow about 1 minute of mixing between each addition.
Step 4 After you’ve added the sugar, you’ll add the vanilla and cornstarch.
Step 5 The eggs whites should look a bit like marshmallow fluff, and you want to whip them for a total of 8-10 mins on medium speed. Once you’ve added the vanilla and cornstarch, allow the meringue to whip for another 5-6 minutes. You’ll know it’s done when it reaches “Stiff peaks”. This means that pulling out the whisk will result in a nice pointed tip of meringue that doesn’t flop over, or only curls over a little bit.
Step 6 Dust in the cocoa powder and fold it in gently, in just 3-4 folds.
Step 7 Scoop a generous spoonful of meringue onto a baking pan lined with parchment paper. Don’t fuss with the shape too much, but I generally aim for round with a few fun little peaks on the top. I can usually fit 9 chocolate meringues or so onto one pan.
Step 8 Bake the meringues. Set them in your preheated oven for 1 hour. After one hour is done, turn off the oven but leave the meringues in for another hour to cool of gradually inside the oven.
Step 9 Serve with a dollop of whipped cream, chocolate pudding or mousse, or a drizzle of caramel syrup!
Quick tips for making chocolate meringues
- A lot of recipes I read about say that the eggs should be room temperature. This does allow the whites to get a bit fluffier, however, I’ve also made meringues with eggs right out of the fridge and they were still fluffy and delicious. Refrigerated eggs are not a deal breaker if you’ve forgotten to take them out ahead of time!
- Be sure that when you fold in the cocoa powder you only fold 3-4 times. Over mixing will cause the cocoa powder to fully mix into the meringue and the you won’t have those pretty swirls on your chocolate meringues (though don’t worry, they’ll still taste just as good!)
- Baking at the right temp and for the right time is key to making good meringues. It’s easy to overcook meringues- they dry out and then burn- so baking at a low temperature like 200˚F is for an hour is pretty much perfect. It’s also incredibly important to let them cool off in the oven. Exposing them to a drastic change in temperature will make them collapse and you’ll have flat, sticky chocolate meringues instead of crispy, gooey, fluffy meringues.
- 4 Egg Whites
- 1 1/2 Cups Sugar
- 1 Tsp Vanilla
- 1 Tbsp Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
- 1 Tsp Cornstarch
- Preheat the oven to 200˚F.
- In a large mixing bowl, or stand mixer with whisk attachment, begin whipping your egg whites on medium speed.
- Once the egg whites reach "soft peaks" add in the sugar half a cup at a time, leaving about 1 minute between each addition.
- Allow the sugar to whip into the egg whites about 3-4 minutes and then add the cornstarch and vanilla.
- Whip another 4-5 minutes, until the meringue reaches the "stiff peaks" stage. You should be able to dip the whisk in and when you pull it out the meringue creates a nice, pointed tip that doesn't flop over too much.
- Sift in the cocoa powder and fold it in with a rubber spatula or large spoon only 3-4 times. Try not to fold or mix too much if you want to keep the beautiful "swirl" look.
- Line a sheet pan with parchment paper and spoon large dollops, about 2-2 1/2" around, onto the sheet pan. Use the spoon to create fun "peaks" or manipulate the cocoa powder swirls for aesthetic if you desire, but remember not to work with it too much. Depending on how large your pans on you may need to use two pans.
- Bake the meringues for 1 hour at 200˚F. If you tap them they should feel like a hard, crispy shell. (If they feel sticky, give them another 5-10 minutes and check them again)
- After 1 hour turn off the oven, but leave the meringues in the oven so they can cool off very gradually. Pulling them out immediately and exposing them to cooler temperature can cause them to deflate and implode into themselves.
- Serve with fresh whipped cream or a drizzle of caramel syrup, or you can eat them as-is!
- Store them in an airtight container for up to one week.
My name is Amber Rogals! I’m a food photographer, food stylist and recipe developer in Maine. I also work throughout the New England area and beyond! I am the writer behind this food blog, Downeats, and I’m incredibly passionate about cooking, seasonal foods, and gathering with loved ones to enjoy it all. I live near the coast of Maine with my (gorgeous, amazing, hardworking) high school sweetheart and our (hilarious, talented and wonderful) three children. My goal is inspiring others to live slow, and enjoy life. You can read more about me here. If you are looking for a food photographer, food stylist or recipe developer please contact me here.