Sometimes, just as I am about to drift off to sleep, I lie in bed thinking about food.
In that ether-like space, a liminal state between sleep and wakefulness, my mind is loose and relaxed and food fantasies become as pink-tinged and dreamy as these meringues, the thought of which fluttered into my mind one night not long ago.
Dreamy and sweet, that's what these meringues are, a good stand in for those buoyant feelings that suggest the particular instant when we are somewhere in between being the person we once were and becoming someone else altogether. All because of the way we feel for another person.
Love. Why not celebrate that moment of transformation? We should, at least once a year, if not more.
These meringues are an ideal sweet to make for that person who causes your heart to beat a little faster. Whipped into dramatic billows and stained with drops of beet juice swirled in at the last moment, these treats are earthy yet ethereal.
Then, with the first bite, the meringue shatters into pieces. Not unlike love, at times, I suppose.
Beets and dark chocolate may seem like an odd coupling, but they are a surprisingly good match, with the beet's terrestrial flavor and the slight bitterness of the chocolate coming together to temper the meringue's otherwise straightforward sweetness.
I found inspiration for this combination from Nigel Slater's fantastic chocolate beet cake recipe. Heating the sugar before adding it to the egg white is a technique borrowed from Ottolenghi and lends a slight caramel flavor.
I hope you enjoy these dreamy sweets this Valentine's Day.
Beet-Stained Meringues with Bittersweet Chocolate
1 1/2 c granulated sugar
5 egg whites
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup bittersweet chocolate (use the best you can find, hopefully 60-72% cacao), finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
1-2 teaspoons beet juice
Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
Using a juicing machine, juice one beet and set juice aside.
Distribute the sugar in an even layer onto a baking sheet and bake for 8 minutes. While sugar is in the oven, place egg whites into the bowl of a stand mixer.
Once the sugar has been in the oven for 7 minutes, begin beating the whites on high. They should become foamy after a minute. With the mixer still running, gradually sprinkle in the warm sugar. Once all of the sugar has been added, add the van. Beat on high for 10 minutes, until the meringue has cooled. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the salt and all but 2 tablespoons of the chocolate.
Reduce the oven temperature to 225 degrees.
Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper. Use a large spoon to place 3 1/-inch mounds of meringues on the sheet. Add a drop or two of beet juice and swirl it into the meringue using a knife or small spoon to create a pretty "stain." Garnish with reserved chocolate.
Bake for two hours, until the meringues are firm to the touch. The insides will still be slightly soft. If you prefer them fully crisped, turn off the oven and leave the meringues in the oven for at least 6 hours.
These can be stored in an airtight container for 1 week.
Additional suggestions: Put extra juice into a smoothie! Use egg yolks to make my favorite ice cream.