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very mine and very fine

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February 14th is a doubly momentous date on my calendar. Not only is it that best-loathed love holiday but also the infinitely less-odious day of my birth.

I’ve never been much for Valentine’s Day, but I am very amenable to birthday treats.

Not just any sort of treat though. Context demands that it to be something not-too-cloyingly sweet. Something with quiet bite.

These nibby bittersweet meringues with sea salt, adapted from a recipe I’d long been eyeing in Alice Medrich’s fantastic book Bittersweet, hit the mark. Deep, dark, and delicate, these ethereally light cookies shatter under the tooth and dissolve, giving way to a powerful and pure dose of chocolate and the subtle crunch of cacao nibs. The healthy sprinkle of salt intensifies the chocolate flavor here. These unassuming little cookies pack a wallop.

They were just the thing to share with colleagues to celebrate my 27th. It was good I snuck a few before I took them into the office–when at the end of the day I went to retrieve the container, it held nary a crumb.

Nibby Bittersweet Meringues with Sea Salt

Source: adapted from Alice Medrich’s Bittersweet.

Since there are so few ingredients to compete here, these cookies really benefit from high quality chocolate (I used Callebaut for the chocolate, and Scharffen Berger cacao nibs).

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
2 egg whites (about 1/4 cup) at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup sugar
1/3 cup roasted cacao nibs, chopped
1/4 teaspoon sea salt (such as Maldon) or fleur de sel

Preheat oven to 350° F.

Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Melt the chocolate in the microwave (at half-power, in a glass bowl, stirring at one minute intervals) or over a pan of gently simmering water on the stove top (in a metal bowl, stirring often). Set aside.

In a separate bowl, add the egg whites, cream of tartar, sea salt, and vanilla extract and whip until the eggs are foamy and soft peaks form. Add the sugar and whip until the peaks are stiff. Fold in the chocolate and cacao nibs.

Immediately spoon batter, by rounded teaspoons or half-filled tablespoons, onto cookie sheets.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, until tops look dry and slightly crackled. Rotating the cookie sheet around the 4 minute mark will help to ensure even baking.

Yields about 30 cookies

As an aside: it turned out to be a double day for Medrich’s Bittersweet for me. Dan made me the Tiger Cake, a lovely marble cake made with olive oil and white pepper. Another not-too-sweet but entirely delectable dessert from this great cookbook.

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