Cacao Nib Meringues with Lilikoi Curd
The first week back from Hawaii is the hardest. I crave avocados and pineapple and poke, but more than anything I crave lilikoi (passionfruit). It's so hard to get here in Seattle that I've always got to turn to Perfect Puree or some other frozen packaged fruit mash. This time I happened to have a container of Perfect Puree in the freezer, and I wanted to make something a little reminescent of our time on the island. My first instinct was to pull macadamia nuts from the freezer (we brought back a few pounds) and make a tart, but that just felt too heavy. I knew I was going to make curd, so I threw caution to the wind and made it up along the way.
Curd is one of my weaknesses, and it really doesn't matter what kind of curd we're talking about. I'm a bowl-licker for lemon, lime, blood orange...you name it. But my favorite kind of curd of all is lilikoi. It's got the zesty citrus body with that unmistakeable passionfruit bite. And let me tell you - it's good on biscuits, toast, a spoon - heck, there's not much it's not good on. Aside from the trouble you're likely to tackle finding passionfruit, I think you'll be happy you took the time.
So there I was having made a nice big bowl of passionfruit curd, and I was staring at a bowl of leftover egg whites. I'm sure meringues occur to most people (or angel food cake), but more often than not I'll just cook the egg whites and eat them on the spot. Not this time. I headed to the pantry and pulled out a couple of magic ingredients: cacao nibs and cocoa powder, both from Askinosie Chocolate, and Fiori di Sicilia from King Arthur Flour.
I've made meringues many times before, usually with chocolate chips and nuts or even little bits of dried fruit. But I was still in a Hawaii mood, and one of our stops was at a cacao plantation where we bought some crunchy cacao nibs. Drawing from that inspiration, I added cacao nibs and a touch of the Fiori di Sicilia to the beaten egg whites and baked them long and slow in the oven. A few hours later, the house smelled of roasting cocoa and orange, and I knew it was time.
The meringues were crunchy and fragrant, the cacao nibs lending toothiness and a roasted flavor like coffee beans. The Fiori di Sicilia let off an orange cream perfume, sweet against the cocoa smell, but neither were sweet unto themselves. I took out my precious lilikoi curd and tentatively waved the meringue past the pool. Thinking about those early days of Reece's Peanut Butter Cup commercials, I dove in. Unbelievable. The tartness of the curd was immediately cut by the nibs, and the meringues themselves were a perfect foil to the silky cream. I couldn't have planned a better combination, and even after eating more than I should have, I didn't feel like I'd gone overboard. Even today, as I ran my fingers around the bowl-of-what-was, I didn't feel like I'd had enough. Now that isn't something I can say everyday.
Passionfruit Curd (adapted from The Cake Bible)
4 egg yolks
1/2 c sugar
4 ounces passionfruit puree
4 T unsalted butter, softened
- In a heatproof glass bowl, beat the yolks and sugar until they are light in color.
- Stir in the puree, the butter and the salt.
- Place the bowl over a barely simmering pot of water (double-boiler) and stir constantly until thickened.
Note: I started with a whisk until all the butter was melted, and then I moved to a wooden spoon.
- When the sauce is thick enough to coat the back of a spoon, remove it from the heat and pour it into another bowl.
Note: If you think you've let it get too hot and some of the yolks scrambled, pour the sauce through a strainer into a new bowl.
- Lay plastic wrap directly on the surface of the sauce (to prevent a skin forming) and place in the refrigerator until it cools completely.
Cacao Nib Meringues (adapted from Cookies and Brownies)
4 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/8 tsp cream of tartar
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 c sugar, preferably superfine
Splash of Fiori di Sicilia
1 c cacao nibs
Cocoa powder, for dusting
- Preheat the oven to 200F. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.
- Beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar, vanilla and Fiori di Sicilia with a
mixer at high speed until soft peaks form when the beaters are lifted.
- Add the sugar gradually, about 1 T at a time, continuing to beat until the egg whites are stiff and glossy.
- Use a large rubber spatula to fold the cacao nibs into the egg whites.
- Drop tablespoons of batter 1 1/2" apart on the cookie sheets. Use the back of the spoon or a fork to create peaks.
- Just before placing in the oven dust lightly with cocoa powder.
- Bake for about 3 hours, reversing the cookie sheets from top to bottom and front to back after 1.5 hours.
- Turn the oven off and let the cookies cool in the oven.
- Remove the cookies from the oven and store them in an airtight container.