Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Fairy Fingers

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Remember in the 90's when the craze was low fat? It was happening everywhere with abandon to good taste. Well in the frenzy of fat free everything, I got my hands on one of my favorite cookbooks. Chocolate and the Art of Low-Fat Desserts by Alice Medrich. Do not be a skeptic. Granted, the recipes are low in butter which yields more biscotti type cookies, no complaints here. But even more importantly, when you bake with a deep cocoa like Pernigotti, the flavor is so intense, you don't miss the fat. But there are recipes for cakes, tortes, mousse, and dozens more delicious chocolate offerings.

I am all about ingredients, so Nielsen-Massey vanilla, Pernigotti Cocoa and Trader Joe's almond meal. The almond meal is a great short cut for baking. I could never get my almonds this fine in my Cuisinart, there are no additives and you'll find lots of places to sprinkle them into!

Today, the mercury is dropping, it is nice and dry out (a rarity in the Mississippi Delta) and meringues are on the menu. Doigts de fee, to be exact, which literally means fairy fingers. They are piped meringues, but could be made as mounds, stars, whatever floats your boat. I piped logs to break up. The batter is divine, I am crazy about egg whites and could have eaten the bowl full. Yea, I've heard of salmonella, it is very low on my list of worries, just past rattlesnake bites and meteors. The first batch I piped with a large open star. They held their shape well in baking and turned out great, but I really wanted to see if I could make them more delicate.

I made a second batch, trying the recipe with powdered egg whites. They actually whipped up beautifully, but seriously fell apart when I folded in the other dry ingredients and spread pretty flat when I piped them with a small round tip. They ended up in the trash, and I found myself going at it a third time. I was really curious if these powdered whites could stand up to the fresh whites. I decided they are more stable when it comes to whipping them, so I really let the KitchenAid at them. I caught them just before they were too dry, and then folded in the final ingredients. I decided that was the key, the batter taste much better than batch 2, and my fairy fingers baked to look like fingers, not blobs like batch 2.

Plan ahead, your oven will be cranked for 1 1/2 hours which is wonderful on a chilly day, but the fingers need another hour in the oven turned off to continue to dry. So give them a try, you'll love the light ethereal crunch, the deep flavor of the cocoa and the hint of almond. Go ahead, Get In There and Cook!

Alice Medrich Chocolate and the Art of Low-Fat Desserts

Fairy Fingers

3/4 cup superfine sugar

3 ounces almonds (I use Trader Joe's Almond Meal)

3 Tablespoons cocoa

4 Tablespoons Cornstarch

1/2 cup egg whites at room temperature

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 teaspoon vanilla

1/8 teaspoon almond extract

*Preheat oven to 200. Line 2 sheets with parchment paper.

*Combine 1/4 cup of the sugar with the cocoa, almonds and corn starch in food processor. Process until you have fine meal. Set aside.

Combine egg whites, cream of tartar and extracts in bowl of mixer. Mix until soft peaks form, then slowly add the remaining sugar and whip on high until stiff peaks form.

*Fold in remaining dry ingredients with rubber spatula. Scrape mixture into pastry bag with an open star or round tip. Pipe logs onto parchment with an inch between the logs.

*Bake for 1 1/2 hours. Turn the oven off and leave in the oven for another hour. Break the logs into 3"-4" fingers.

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