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Chocolate-dipped meringue drops are like little candy bars, but without the high fat and calories

Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed. The Associated Press
Tuesday, November 20, 2012 - 12:01 am

Even if you avoid baking all year long, there's a very good chance the allure of the holidays will seduce you into having a go at a batch of cookies.

And why not? It's sweet food for a sweet season. Of course, the cookie season can be hazardous to your waistline.

Each of these chocolate-dipped meringue drops is like a candy bar in a cookie suit. The hero of this story? Egg whites. They bind together the other ingredients — the coconut and dried cranberries — and provide a nice chewy texture, all without adding any fat.

Yes, there's fat in the coconut and the chocolate, but the overall fat and calorie content is lower here than in butter-based cookies.

This is one of those recipes for which the fresher the egg, the better. Fresh egg whites boast more body than older ones, adding greater volume and stability to your cookies. The whites and yolks should be separated when the eggs are cold. But wait until the whites reach room temperature before beating them.

If you don't already own an oven thermometer, you might consider getting one. These cookies need to be baked at 275 degrees, and some ovens just don't work well at such a low temp. Though my own oven needed to be fiddled with again and again, my thermometer kept the job on track.

By the way, those of you who regularly bake up meringues as white as snow should know that this isn't that type of meringue. It is meant to be beige and chewy, not white and crispy.

Chocolate-dipped coconut meringue drops

Start to finish: 55 minutes (30 minutes active)

Makes 5 dozen

1 cup dried cranberries

2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut

4 large egg whites, room temperature

Pinch of salt

Pinch of cream of tartar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup sugar

6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or spray with cooking spray and dust with flour, shaking off the excess.

In a food processor, pulse the cranberries until finely chopped. Set aside.

Spread the coconut on a third baking sheet or in a roasting pan. Bake on the oven's middle shelf until golden, about 5 minutes. Let cool. Reduce the oven to 275 degrees.

Once the coconut has cooled, in a medium bowl combine it with the cranberries.

In a large bowl, use an electric mixer to beat the egg whites with the salt, cream of tartar and vanilla until they form soft peaks. Add the sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, beating until stiff peaks form. Fold in the coconut cranberry mixture. Drop rounded tablespoons of the batter, 1 inch apart, on the prepared baking sheets.

Bake for 25 minutes, or until the meringue drops are beige (they will be soft at the center). Put the sheet pans on cooling racks and let the meringue drops cool completely.

Bring a small saucepan of water to a gentle simmer. Set a larger stainless bowl over the saucepan, then add the chocolate. Heat the chocolate, stirring occasionally, until melted. One at a time, dip the bottoms of the cookies into the chocolate, then set chocolate side up on parchment to cool. To set the chocolate faster, the cookies can be refrigerated.

Store the cookies in an airtight container and refrigerate for up to 1 week.

Per cookie: 50 calories; 25 calories from fat (50 percent of total calories); 3 g fat (2 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 7 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 5 g sugar; 1 g protein; and 10 mg sodium.

Sara Moulton stars in public television’s “Sara’s Weeknight Meals” and has written three cookbooks, including “Sara Moulton’s Everyday Family Dinners.”