Meringues are very sensitive to humidity in the air, so do not attempt to make these on a very humid or stormy day.
- 2 egg whites, at room temperature
- 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
- 1/4 tsp salt
- 1/2 cup toasted, skinned hazelnuts
- zest of 1/2 orange, finely chopped
- 1/2 tsp orange extract
- 1 package (12 oz) semi-sweet chocolate chips (optional)
- 2 tbsp shortening (optional)
1. Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper. Spray the parchment with nonstick cooking spray and dust it with a very fine layer of flour. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.
2. Place the room temperature egg whites into a very clean bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Begin to beat the whites on medium-high speed
3. Once the whites have started to froth, add the cream of tartar and turn the mixer on to high. Whip the whites until they start to hold stiff peaks.
4. While the whites are whipping, place the nuts in a food processor and pulse them until they are very finely chopped. Reserve two teaspoons of the nuts for later, and add the finely chopped zest of 1/2 of an orange and the salt to the remaining nuts and set aside for now.
5. Once the whites start to hold stiff peaks, add the sugar very gradually, a tablespoon at a time. Continue to whip the whites until they are very white and glossy and hold very stiff peaks.
6. Turn the mixer off and remove the bowl from the stand. Add the nut mixture and the orange extract, and gently fold in with a spatula just until incorporated--do not overwork the meringue mixture or it will deflate.
7. Scoop the meringue into a pastry bag fitted with a star tip and pipe out meringue fingers, approximately 1/2 inch wide and 3 inches long. If you do not have this equipment, you can place the mixture in a large Ziploc bag and snip off a corner to use as a makeshift piping bag, or you can scoop spoonfuls of meringue onto the baking sheet and create meringue “kisses” instead.
8. As soon as the meringues are piped, place them in the oven and bake them for approximately 70 minutes, until they are crisp on the outside but still retain a little softness in the middle. Remove them from the oven and allow them to cool completely.
9. If you want to dip your meringues in chocolate, place the chocolate chips and the shortening in a microwave-safe bowl and microwave until melted, stirring after every 45 seconds to prevent overheating.
10. Once the chocolate is smooth and melted, dip the cooled meringues halfway into the chocolate. Allow the excess to drip off the meringue back into the bowl of chocolate, and then place the dipped meringue on a baking sheet covered with parchment or waxed paper. Repeat for remaining meringues. Sprinkle the still-wet chocolate with the reserved chopped nuts.
11. Allow the chocolate to set completely before serving meringues. They should be eaten soon after they are made, as they will begin to get soft when exposed to moisture in the air. If you live in a dry climate, they will last longer, and can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to two weeks.