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“The Skiny” on Valentine’s Day

Someone recently asked me where I come up with the ideas for the recipes I develop.  It’s a great question, but my answer, “it depends…”   didn’t really tell the whole story. While inspiration can come from anywhere, my natural curiosity is generally what drives a recipe. It inspires me to tweak my techniques, to combine new flavours, and hopefully, to achieve a better result.

Recently I had the opportunity to work on a Valentine’s recipe for theskiny.com – a fantastic website dedicated to bringing you the latest info on keeping your skin looking its best.   The editor, whom I have had  the distinct  pleasure of working with in her former position as Nutrition Editor at Oxygen Magazine, gave me the instructions for the recipe:  “A treat for Valentine’s Day that  includes the colour red. “  I love these kinds of instructions because I can do virtually anything.  Now you see, treats -especially so-called “clean” treats, are something I have a bit of experience with folks. I have been a regular contributor to Clean Eating Magazine’s “Happy Ending” column for many years. So with the colour red in mind, I began to let my imagination run wild.  I knew the recipe had to incorporate chocolate in some way – it was for Valentine’s Day after all – but it also had to include ingredients that would be healthy for your skin.  I’ve always loved the combination of raspberries and chocolate, so I settled on raspberries as my “colour red” item, and since they are packed with antioxidants I got to check off the second box – skin friendly…yes!!   So now that I had the ingredients I wanted to highlight, I just needed to combine them into a dessert. 

I set to work combining these ingredients in different ways in my head, eventually settling on a play on the classic dessert “Floating Islands”.  Why you ask?   It’s a bit of a puzzle but I’ll try to explain. First off, I must state – and those who know me well will attest to this – I am definitely not a meringue person.  Oh I like it on my lemon pie alright, but other than that I have no use for it in my diet.  If I’m going to indulge in a dessert, it’s got to be decedent, and frankly meringue, with it’s lighter than air quality simply doesn’t make the cut.  But one of my friends from high school, well she loves it, and when we recently dined together, guess what she ordered for dessert?  Now traditionally, crème analgise is the “pool” that the meringues will ‘float” on, but remember, I needed the colour red.  Hello… raspberries!  Long story short and a lot of testing later, Chocolate Studded Meringues with Raspberry Coulis was the result. You can link to the recipe here :  Chocolate Studded Meringues

You would think that would be the end of the story.  Well…here is a little peak into my curious brain. Hang on, it’s a bit of a bumpy ride…  After the recipe was completed and tested many times, and after I had cleaned my kitchen of all the whipped egg white mess, I had a thought a “what if” moment.  What if I added some more chocolate flavour to the meringues?  What if I took this a step further?  Would the chemistry still hold up?  Meringues are a tricky thing sometimes….but back to the kitchen I went, just to test the theory that had sprung up in my brain. Damn curiosity.  The result?  See for yourself ….

Even More Chocolaty Meringues with Raspberry Coulis

Makes 12 servings plus one bonus meringue to eat

4 egg large egg whites

½ tsp (2.5ml) cream of tartar

¼ tsp (1ml) salt

½ cup (125ml) plus 2 tbsp (30ml) granulated sugar

2 ounces (56g) dark chocolate 70-85% cocoa, finely chopped

2 tbsp (30ml) cocoa powder

2 cups (500ml) fresh or frozen raspberries

Preheat oven to 275F (135C).  Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper and spray lightly with non- stick cooking spray.

In the metal bowl of a stand mixer combine egg whites, cream of tartar and salt.  Beat on medium speed using the whisk attachment until foamy, about 2-3 minutes.   Turn the mixer on high speed and slowly add ½ cup granulated sugar, one tablespoon at a time.  Continue beating until egg whites are thick and glossy, 7-10 minutes. Add chopped chocolate and cocoa powder, beating 30 seconds longer to combine.

Place egg whites in a piping bag fitted with a ½ inch (1.27) plain piping tip.  Pipe 20 hearts, about 2 inches high onto each cookie sheet. (Alternatively, drop egg whites by rounded teaspoonful onto baking sheets)  Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until you can easily lift the meringues with a thin spatula.  Remove from oven and allow to cool completely on the cookie sheets.

Meanwhile, place the raspberries, ¼ cup (60ml) water and the remaining 2 tbsp (30ml) of sugar in a medium saucepan, stirring to combine.  Set the saucepan over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until berries have completely broken down, about 5-7 minutes.  Remove from heat and blend with an immersion blender until completely smooth. Cool to room temperature.

To serve, divide sauce evenly between 12 plates, spreading sauce with the back of a spoon.   Place 3 meringues on each plate. 

Meringues will keep for several days in an air tight container on your counter.

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