Saturday, February 28, 2015

Month-of-Mini-Desserts: Mini-Chocolate Soufflés

Well, here we are again at the end of the shortest month and me left with more recipes to share than the number of days left. Why does that happen each year? Sigh! Oh, well, moving on…

Initially, I thought I would have a very hard time choosing among the list of remaining desserts to end this month. But, you know DH! Chocolate is always popular, and since today is also National Chocolate Soufflé Day, the list got really short, really fast! I am sharing today my modification of a chocolate soufflé recipe that is really easy to pull off.

Lots of people are scared of soufflés, and there is reason for some concern. They are delicate. You need to have all ingredients (especially the eggs) at room temp. Opening the oven during baking can deflate them. Not serving immediately deflates them. But, they aren’t really hard to do. You just need to pay attention. Soufflés are not slap together foods. The first soufflé I ever made was a cheese one, and I have very fond memories of how well it turned out!

Everything you will read about soufflés says NOT to open the oven during baking but to remove them when the center is still jiggly. See the conundrum? I address this in my note below.

I adapted this recipe for Chocolate Soufflé from Food52.

My adaptation consisted of halving the recipe so I could make four 6-ounce mini-soufflés rather than six of them in 8-ounce ramekins. The directions are as in the original recipe, mostly. If changed, I used brackets.

Mini-Chocolate Soufflés (makes four 6-ounce ramekins)   
¼ cup sugar, plus more to coat the soufflé dishes
3 ounces semisweet chocolate [I used 70% cacao]
Pinch salt
1 ½ teaspoons instant coffee or espresso granules [I used coffee; next time espresso]
1 ½ teaspoons vanilla extract
2 large egg yolks, beaten
3 large egg whites

Powdered sugar, chocolate sauce, and whipped cream or vanilla ice cream, for serving. [I used cream cheese with fruit.]

Preheat oven to 375°.     

Generously butter four 6-ounce ramekins and sprinkle them with sugar. Place the dishes on a baking sheet.

Chop the chocolate and melt it in a double boiler set over a pan of simmering water.

When the chocolate is melted, whisk in the salt, instant coffee, vanilla, and egg yolks.

While the chocolate is melting, whip the egg whites with a mixer until foamy.

With the mixer running, slowly stream in the sugar and beat until stiff peaks form. Stir 1/3 of the egg whites into the chocolate mixture to lighten. Then gently fold in the rest of the egg whites — a few streaks are okay.

Neatly divide the mixture between the prepared ramekins. If any soufflé batter gets on the rims of the dishes, wipe it away with your finger.

Bake until the tops are set and beginning to brown, but the centers jiggle slightly, 15 to 20 minutes. Resist the urge to open the oven!

Dust your soufflés with powdered sugar and serve immediately with chocolate sauce and vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

NOTE: I served my soufflés with a blueberry-strawberry cream cheese topping. You can put anything you want on them. Of course, two of the soufflés were flattened since we didn’t eat them immediately, but they tasted okay the next day. I baked mine for 20 minutes by gauging how much they had risen. They were great, but perhaps could have come out a minute of two earlier.

DH’s RATING: 5 Tongues Up
He was surprised how light this was given how rich it looked and tasted. His collapsed before he ate it despite me telling him to hie himself to the kitchen right away. He loved the fruit and chocolate combo but asked me to put ice cream on it next time.

If you have enjoyed this month of mini-desserts, I hope you will continue to hang out here, even when I am not posting recipes but am sharing what I am learning about mysteries.

Friday, February 27, 2015

Month-of-Desserts: Mini Oatmeal Cranberry-Pecan Ice Cream Cookie Sandwiches

Back in the day, when we were both working outside the home (because of course there is always work inside the home!), DH packed his own lunch. THE.SAME.LUNCH.EVERY.DAY.

That is beyond boring to me, but he said he liked it because he didn’t have to think about it. Lunch prep had become automatic after decades of doing it. Okay, I get that, but I love the range of tastes and textures too much to enjoy the same lunch every day. He bought healthful cookies, even, that were a small size so he could eat three of them. EVERY.DAY.THE.SAME.COOKIE.

When I transitioned from my paying job to the job of occasionally-paying full-time writer, I offered to make him a new cookie, a better-for-him cookie than the ones he purchased which were full of unpronounceables.

This cookie is the result. I’ve been making it for him a long time now. He can’t even stand cookies from the store anymore. Wahoo!

I use a 1” cookie scoop so that I can give him the little cookies he likes so much. This recipe as written makes just about 7 dozen cookies. I just drop the balls on the cookie sheet so little cookie mounds form, not flat cookies. There are always some ready in the freezer when his cookie jar gets empty.

So what the heck does that have to do with today’s recipe? Wellllll…we like ice cream sandwiches for the occasional dessert and his cookies make perfect little ice cream sandwiches.

I flattened this small cookie sheet of twelve 1” balls of cookie dough so I could make six mini-ice cream sandwiches. They look bigger than they are because you don’t have perspective. Trust me. Two bites and they’re gone.

I filled each cookie half with 4 teaspoons of my homemade ice cream, wrapped most of them tightly (well, he had to test one), and popped them into the freezer for a future dessert.

So having given the directions for making your mini ice cream sandwiches, here are the two recipes for the components.  

David’s Oatmeal Cranberry-Pecan Cookies (about 7 dozen)   

1½ cups butter, softened                          
¾ c packed brown sugar                                   
½ c granulated sugar                                   
2 large eggs                                                     
3 teaspoons vanilla extract                                            
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1¾ cups flour
2½ cups Old-Fashion oats
6 ounce package dried cranberries
1 cup pecans, toasted and chopped

Heat oven to 375°.

Beat butter and sugars in a bowl with mixer on med speed until fluffy.

Beat in eggs, vanilla, baking soda, and salt until blended.

With mixer on low speed, beat in flour and oats a small amount at a time to blend.

When well-blended, stir in cranberries and nuts.

Drop 1” balls of dough about 2” apart on ungreased baking sheet.

Bake 10-12 minutes until golden brown. Cool 1 min on cookie sheet, then put on cookie rack to finish cooling.

Easiest-Ever Vanilla Ice Cream (makes a little more than one quart)
1 can sweetened condensed milk
2 cups heavy whipping cream
3 teaspoons best quality vanilla (I use vanilla paste)

Whisk together the three ingredients until thoroughly blended.

Pour into your ice cream maker and process for 20-30 minutes. The ice cream will easily come off the sides when done and probably will be slightly above the freezer bowl.

Store in an airtight container in the freezer. This is a very creamy ice cream.

NOTE: I have a whole passle of variations for this ice cream basic. Chocolate. Dulce de Leche with Pecans. Chocolate Chip and Walnuts. Candy Bar Ice Cream. Play with it!

DH’s RATING: 10 Tongues Up
Honestly, this man cannot follow rules. He says it’s because he gets to rate each component, the cookie and the ice cream. And he loves each of them. Sigh!

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Month-of-Mini-Desserts: Gluten-Free Chocolate Mini Dome Cake

Have you had P.F. Chang’s flourless chocolate dome cake with raspberries? A friend and I split the dessert when we are lunching there. It is worth the splurge money-wise and calorie-wise ‘cause we all deserve a treat now and again!

In trying to replicate the recipe, I have read many recipes on the Internet and from them created my own version. This one seems to replicate the taste close enough for me, but the texture is still off.

I wanted a deep, deep chocolate so I used dark chocolate chips and black cocoa. Black cocoa is new to me, and I love it! Such a deep layer of flavor. Black cocoa has half the calories of regular cocoa powder and has 10% of the RDA for iron compared to 4% for regular cocoa.

Gluten-Free Chocolate Dome Cake (14-16 mini-domes)  

For the cake:
½ cup dark chocolate chips (60% or more cacao)
4 tablespoons butter, cut into chunks
¾ cup sugar
3 eggs
½ cup black cocoa powder (can use Hershey’s Special Dark Cocoa)
3 teaspoons vanilla

For the sauce:
1½ cup raspberries (fresh or frozen)
3 tablespoons sugar
2-4 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon raspberry extract

Preheat oven to 375°.

Prepare silicone pans by coating with non-stick cooking spray. If you only have one pan, wash thoroughly before using again.

Over simmering water, in a double boiler, melt the chocolate chips. Add butter. Whisk to incorporate. Set aside to cool somewhat.

In a small bowl, whisk the sugar, eggs, and cocoa powder. When smooth, add vanilla.

Add a small amount of cocoa mixture to the egg mixture to temper the eggs. Mix thoroughly. Repeat with another small amount of the chocolate mixture.

Add remaining chocolate mixture to the egg mixture and whisk thoroughly to blend all ingredients.

Spoon chocolate batter into the dome mold. Bake for 20 minutes or until inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Let sit 5 minutes. Turn over onto plate and gently press the bottom of the mold to push domes out so they can cool.

While the chocolate cake is baking, make the raspberry sauce.

Start with thawed berries (if using frozen). In the mini-food processor, puree the berries with 2 tablespoons of water. Add more if the berry mixture is too thick.

Over medium heat, bring berry mixture to a boil after adding the sugar.

Remove from heat. Stir in raspberry extract. Cool to serve with dome cakes as a flavorful garnish and decoration.

Note: I didn’t have two dome pans, so I tried baking the rest of the batter in my mini-muffin pan. DO NOT DO THIS! Even with the baking spray, the cakes would not release easily. I ran a butter knife around the edge, and of the twelve mini-muffins, only four were intact. I will wash my silicone dome mold next time and use it for the remaining batter.

My dome mold is for 8 domes (2” across). Each dome holds about ¼ cup. Do not fill domes to the top. This batter rises because of the eggs.

DH’s RATING: 4 Tongues Up
He liked the deep chocolate flavor and that it was not overly sweet. But he thought it was a brownie cooked in a round form. This one is more for presentation, I guess, as the flavor and texture don’t distinguish it. Still on the lookout for one that is closer to P.F. Chang’s.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Month-of-Desserts: Mini-PUD Cakes

Growing up, Pineapple Upside Down (PUD) cake was a coveted dessert. Mother didn’t make it often, but when she did, we ate until gone. I still remember her huge cast iron skillet in which she melted butter and brown sugar, set in place pineapple rings, dotted the centers with maraschino cherries, and then poured a rich yellow cake batter over it all.

We kids all gathered for the turning over of the skillet onto a large platter and watched this delectable dessert land on the plate ready for whipped cream once it cooled down. The pineapple upside down cake was almost a miracle of transformation for us. No surprise then that Li’l Bro always requested this for his birthday cake.

Fast forward a couple decades (okay more than a couple), and Li’l Bro is visiting us over his birthday. I decided to surprise him with a PUD cake. But, now with his diabetes, this isn’t the best dessert option.

Fortunately for me, Betty Crocker, my partner in baking for many moons, had a solution. Mini-PUD cakes. If you follow the recipe as given, you end up with 24 PUD cakes. Only eating 1/24 of the total cake allowed him to have his sweet treat by planning his carbs carefully that day. (The rest went into the freezer to avoid temptation.) Portion control is a major key with diabetes.

I make this cake just as described EXCEPT I only make 12 mini PUD cakes. I use the rest of the pineapple slices and batter in mini-loaf pans. I freeze them for later. When thawed, I upend them and they are cute, too.

So here’s Betty’s recipe. Enjoy!   

1 can (20 oz) sliced pineapple, drained, juice reserved
1 box Betty Crocker® SuperMoist® yellow cake mix
½ cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
1/3 cup butter, melted
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
12 maraschino cherries, cut in half

Heat oven to 350°F. Spray 24 regular-size muffin cups with cooking spray.

Cut each pineapple slice into 4 pieces; set aside. In large bowl, beat cake mix, oil, eggs and reserved pineapple juice with electric mixer on low speed 30 seconds. Beat on medium speed 2 minutes, scraping bowl occasionally.

In small bowl, stir together melted butter and brown sugar. Spoon 1½  teaspoons butter mixture into each muffin cup. Top each with 2 pineapple pieces. Place cherry half, cut side up, in center of pineapple pieces. Spoon 1/4 cup batter into each cup.

Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean. Cool 5 minutes. Run knife around edge of cupcakes to loosen; invert onto cookie sheet. Serve warm.

NOTE: I drain the pineapple juice into the cake mix bowl and cut the pineapple rings into four equal segments while still in the can. Easy peasy.

DH’s RATING: 5+ Tongues Up
The fruit and cake and brown sugar butter make this a different kind of cake recipe from what I usually make. And with little effort he can have a mini-dessert of it whenever I pull some from the freezer.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Mini-Cream Puffs Three+ Ways

Long before DH, I was making cream puffs for dinner guests. They are always so impressed with cream puffs, as if they are a super complicated French recipe. Unh unh. Cream puffs are super easy as well as being quick to put together. In fact the hardest part of cream puffs is cutting off the tops. Honest!

So go ahead. Keep this to yourself and let them think you are Julia Child reincarnated or spill the beans about how easy it is to make this favorite dessert.

There are many cream puff recipes on line. Give some of the others a try along with this one. At the end I suggest three ways to fill the puffs to give some variety to the same base--the puff itself.

Mini-Cream Puffs Three+ Ways (makes 12 mini-puffs)
½ cup water
3 tablespoons butter
1/8 teaspoon salt
½ cup flour

Preheat oven to 400°. Prepare baking sheet with non-stick spray. Sprinkle on flour and then bang pan in sink to shake off the excess.

In a small saucepan, bring water, butter and salt to a boil. Remove from heat and add the flour. Beat vigorously. The dough will form a ball that comes off the side of the pan.

Add one egg and beat well until fully incorporated. Then add second egg, beating again until the batter looks smooth and shiny.

Put about about 2 tablespoons per puff on the prepared pan. You should have 12 puffs. They will rise so allow at least two inches between puff. 

Moisten a finger and smooth the top of each puff.

Bake about 25 minutes until the puffs are golden and then remove them from the oven. Turn off oven but leave door closed.

Immediately puncture the side of each puff to allow the moisture out. Put puffs back in the oven for 12-15 minutes so they will dry out more.

Remove puffs and put on cookie rack to cool. Once cool, cut off the top of each puff with a serrated knife. Handle carefully as they are delicate.

After all the tops are cut off, with a small fork twirl around the inside of the top and bottom of the puff to remove the remaining wet dough. Discard the dough.

Fill puffs right before serving as they get soggy. Refrigerate leftovers or freeze the ice cream ones. You can use a single filling or a variety of fillings. Notice the beautiful plate fellow writer and fused glass artist, Caryn McGill, made for me!

3 Ways to Fill:
Fill with whipped cream (traditional) and dust with powdered sugar (optional)
Fill with ice cream of choice and drizzle on chocolate and/or caramel sauce
Fill with a lightly sweetened cream cheese-fruit combo

I’ll bet you have your own take on the classic cream puff. I'm thinking lemon curd would be tasty. Please give me more filling ideas in “comments” below!

NOTE: I keep flour in a plastic shaker top container to put on baking pans or add thickening to a gravy. I’ve never tried to do anything with the doughy centers I discard. I’ve thought about tossing with a cinnamon sugar mixture and baking to make crumbs for ice cream or fruit, but I’ve never done it.

DH’s RATING: 4.5 Tongues Up
I served him three puffs: whipped cream, ice cream with chocolate and caramel, and cream cheese with strawberries and blueberries. His least favorite was the whipped cream, but the others were 5 Tongues Up, so I averaged them. His #1 choice? The caramel and chocolate ice cream one!

Monday, February 23, 2015

Month-of-Mini-Desserts: Blue Cheese Citrus Mousse with Roasted Blueberries

Sometimes we like sweet desserts and other times one that's tart or even slightly savory. Today’s dessert is unlike any you have tasted, I’ll bet. The lightly sweetened whipped cream combines with blue cheese, orange, and roasted blueberries not only to challenge the taste buds but also create smooth, crunchy, and chewy textures in each bite.

If you are interested in the original recipe, I greatly adapted this recipe for Goat Cheese Mousse with Roasted Blueberries.

Blue Cheese Citrus Mousse with Roasted Blueberries (3 half-pint jars) 

1 cup blueberries
4.4 ounce package of blue cheese
1 cup heavy cream
4 tablespoons confectioner’s sugar, divided
1 tablespoon orange juice
zest of one orange, divided
3 tablespoons sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 400° degrees.

Place blue cheese in a medium size bowl so it warms to room temperature.

Line a baking pan with sides with parchment paper.

Spread blueberries on baking sheet and roast for four minutes. Shake the pan to turn blueberries. Return to oven for four more minutes. Repeat until blueberries are roasted (about 12-16 minutes). Let cool on pan. Once they burst, they don't roll, so turn with a tool.

With electric mixer, beat cream and sugar until stiff peaks form.

Fold the orange juice and half the orange zest into the whipped cream mixture.

Put remaining sugar in with the blue cheese and mix to combine.

Put half of whipped cream mixture in with blue cheese and mix until smooth.

Gently fold the remaining whipped cream into the blue cheese mixture.

Refrigerate for at least one hour. Put one cup of the whipped cream and cheese mixture in each of the three jars. Top with ½ tablespoon almonds and 1/6 of the blueberries per jar.

Repeat layers. Top with remaining orange zest. Refrigerate with cap and ring until ready to serve.

NOTE: I'm not at all sure why you roast the blueberries as it didn't seem to make any difference in taste or texture of any cooked blueberry. AND it was a mess. Next time I would just use fresh, not roasted, blueberries.

DH’s RATING: 3.5 Tongues Up

He didn’t like the tart-savory flavor so much. He agreed it was savory, salty, and slightly sweet and had a variety of textures, but it wasn’t his favorite dessert this month. He would have liked it sweeter. Maybe I should have put a chocolate sauce on it. He won’t be asking me to make this one again.

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Month-of-Mini-Desserts: Cupcakes--Two for Two

No, this isn’t a sports statistic! The post for the recipe for a single chocolate chip cookie was very popular! So, I dropped a post to make space for this one. Okay, it’s not just one cupcake, but use some self-restraint and freeze one of them for later if you only want/need one.

DH likes cake but he hates it when I bake one. There is soooo much cake for the two of us. I usually cut it in half and freeze it, but the remaining cake is still more cake than we can eat in a reasonable time.

So imagine how happy he was when I found these recipes (and there are many more out there on the Internet. Go hunting!)

We have vanilla cupcakes and chocolate cupcakes here that I’m printing pretty much as they were published. I did make some modifications, such as spraying the liners with baking spray so they’d release better and to make the recipe formats consistent with mine. I also used the pictures from their sites.

Each recipe makes two cupcakes. Perfect for an evening’s dessert.

I’ve served mug cakes made in the microwave for years, but this gives us some variety with a different texture with little more effort. Interestingly, both these recipes are adaptations of others’ cupcakes.

Vanilla Cupcakes for Two (makes two cupcakes)  

1 egg white
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 ½ tablespoons milk 
¼ cup all-purpose flour 
¼ teaspoon baking powder

Preheat oven to 350°. Line a muffin pan with 2 liners. Spray with non-stick cooking spray so they release better.

In a small mixing bowl, whisk together the egg white and sugar until combined.

Stir in the vanilla, melted butter, and milk. Add flour and baking powder and mix everything together well.

Divide the batter between two cupcake liners and bake for 10-12 minutes. Let cool completely and frost/decorate as desired.

NOTE: While the author used store bought frosting (I had leftover icing in the freezer), she did provide a homemade frosting recipe. 

One Bowl Chocolate Cupcakes for Two (makes two cupcakes)

For the Chocolate Cupcakes:
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 tablespoon unsweetened cocoa powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoons milk
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
½ teaspoon vanilla

For the Nutella Frosting:
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
¼ cup Nutella
¼ cup powdered sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
½-1 teaspoon milk

For the Chocolate Cupcakes:
Preheat oven to 350°.

Line 2 cups of a muffin tin with paper liners. Spray with nonstick cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, sugar, cocoa powder, baking soda and salt.

Whisk in milk, oil and vanilla until just combined. Divide batter evenly between cups.

Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Let cool completely before frosting.

For the Nutella Frosting:
With an electric mixer in a medium bowl, beat butter and Nutella until smooth.

Mix in powdered sugar until well blended.

Add vanilla and 1/2 teaspoon milk; mix until incorporated. Add additional milk if necessary to achieve desired consistency.

Spread or pipe onto cooled cupcakes.

DH’s RATING: 4 ½ Tongues Up
The cakes, while tasty, were no better than my regular cakes, but he did like that they were manageable portions. He wondered if I could make them more distinctive by adding in other ingredients. Yeah, I can do that! A little liqueur in the chocolate cake. A plug of Nutella in the vanilla. Nuts are always good.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Month-of-Mini-Desserts: Toasted Angelfood Cake with Banana-Chocolate Pudding

You’ve been there, too. Disparate ingredients and the urge to make dessert. Or leftovers you wanted to use up.

I had some leftover angelfood loaf cake (served originally with fresh fruits) and was pondering another way to use it up. Some bananas were on their way out, and there was some leftover chocolate pudding in the fridge.

What to do, what to do? Sort of like my "Chopped" post I stared at the ingredients for a couple of minutes (just like on the TV show!). I came up with this idea for Toasted Angelfood Cake with Banana-Chocolate Pudding. Again, there is no real recipe today, just some ideas for assembly.

You can do this putting stuff together in new ways with anything! Don’t have preconceived notions. Imagine new combinations. That’s the same advice the clothing stylists give you, right?

I began with the bananas. A regular dessert for us is crusted bananas I freeze and serve when I have
nothing else to offer. I cut the very ripe banana into sections and coat with mini-chocolate chips, ground nuts, and chia seeds. I wrap the segments tightly in foil and freeze. These are nice little, good for you frozen treats when you just want a small sweet.

I did that, but I didn’t freeze the segments. I could have, but I didn’t have time.

Next I sliced the angelfood cake into one-inch cubes. I tossed some of the cubes into a skillet with butter and cinnamon-sugar to coat each side. I quickly removed them to a baking pan.

I baked the coated angelfood cubes at 400° for 3½  minutes. I turned them over to roast for another 3 minutes.

I put the bit of leftover chocolate pudding in two serving dishes. I topped that with three banana segments and then three cake cubes. It tasted better than it looked. This won't make the cover of a food magazine.

NOTE: I also put some plain angelfood cubes into the oven to toast at the same time. You can do either way, but the cinnamon-sugar is a nice layer of flavor you don’t get with just the toasted cake.

DH’s RATING: 5 Tongues Up
DH really liked this better than I thought he would, but I am beginning to see the pattern. He likes best desserts that have layers of flavors and textures. Good to know. His only complaint was the size of the cake cubes. He wanted them smaller.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Month-of-Mini-Desserts: Cherry Pie Shots

Here’s a mini-dessert to celebrate National Cherry Pie Day. It’s an easy one for you today. No real recipe, but you can assemble this dessert pretty quickly. Get out those cute shot glasses with spoons I showed you earlier this month or you can use liqueur glasses.

Cherry Pie Shots (makes 8-10 shots)        
1 pie crust, homemade or store bought
cinnamon sugar mixture
¼ cup cherry pie filling per shot glass
dollop of whipped cream for the top (optional)

Tear or cut a pie crust into several large irregular pieces. Sprinkle with cinnamon-sugar mixture.

Bake at 375° for 20-25 minutes until the crust is crispy and lightly browned.

Let cool, then crumble into chunks. 

Layer some pie filling into the shot glass, top with cinnamon-sugar crumbles. Repeat until the glass is full. 

Top with whipped cream if desired.

NOTE: There are best assembled right before serving so they aren’t soggy. I served some right away and put some in the refrigerator until the next day to test that. Immediate was best.

DH’s RATING: 5 Tongues Up
He does like cherry pie in all its iterations, and so I wasn’t surprised he liked it.
The crunch and the gooey were a nice combo for him. And the cinnamon-flavored crumbles were a nice surprise.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Chocolate Nutella Nests with Strawberries

Meringues are one of my dessert tray staples. I make them with peppermint at Christmas. I add lemon juice and lemon zest for a treat after a heavy meal. I make vanilla meringue nests to put fruit in (like Pavlova, named for the dancer).

You probably have your own favorite recipe, but if not the Internet abounds with versions. You want to use one with cream of tartar (or use citrus juice). It has to do with the chemistry of egg whites and chemical bonds and stuff like that.

I created this version just for this month since DH is my chocolate monster. You could just drop these onto the baking sheet in dollops of chocolate meringues or you could take it the extra step I did with Nutella and strawberries. This recipe makes about 12 meringue drops or 6-8 meringue nests for filling. The recipe is for the nests.
Chocolate Nutella Nests with Strawberries (makes 6-8)
2 egg whites      
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 pinch of cream of tartar
2 tablespoons cocoa
1 heaping tablespoon Nutella for each nest
1 strawberry, sliced to fan for each nest

Preheat oven to 225°.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Allow enough paper to separate the meringues since they spread a bit while baking.

In medium bowl, beat egg whites until stiff peaks form.

Whisk together the sugar, cream of tartar, and cocoa.

Add a tablespoon of sugar mixture at a time and beat until dissolved then add more. Gradual works best.

Drop two heaping spoonfuls of meringue onto the baking sheet. Use the spoon to create the nest. Repeat with remaining mixture until you have 6 to 8 nests.

Bake 35 minutes (but check after 20 minutes since ovens vary) until they are dry but crispy.

Turn off oven and leave meringue nests to cool inside.

When cool, fill with Nutella and place the strawberry fan on top. Serve as soon as possible. Diners pick up the nest to eat in three or four bites.

NOTE: You can bake the meringues and store them in an airtight container for several days until needed.

DH’s RATING: 5+ Tongues Up
He told me he loved the combination of flavors and textures. There was crunchy, chewy, and gooey! This was one of his favorites this month.