Chocolate Meringue Nests with Whipped Cream, Salted Caramel Sauce and Cacoa Nibs are a delicious, restaurant worthy dessert that is perfect for special occasions and much easier than you think! Affiliate links have been used in this post to link to items I am discussing.
The first dessert I made for Sammy’s birthday was also the best. Well… tied for the best, with the Mint Chocolate Chip Cupcakes. Those were also awesome. But I was prouder of these Chocolate Meringue Nests, just because the final result was more unique and therefore exciting to me. I thought maybe it would be over the top–I don’t usually like too many flavors going on in one dessert. But these were amazing. And if you are a texture person–meaning you like interesting, contrasting textures in your food, like I do–they are doubly amazing.
Just ask Alex!
And yes, it is a dessert better enjoyed with a fork and a plate, even though the chocolate meringue nests are sturdy and can hold the toppings just fine. They are also crispy enough to shatter a bit when you bite into them, and between that and dripping caramel sauce, the resulting mess might be more than you want to deal with!
Be sure to use the very best cream you can find for whipping. As organic, local and fresh as you can get. For dishes like this–and any special occasion–my first choice is always Snowville Creamery, a regional Ohio dairy that produces amazing milk and cream. How much you sweeten it is, of course, up to you, but do remember that the meringues and the caramel sauce are already pretty sweet. I definitely sweetened it less than I would, for example, for serving with a bittersweet chocolate cake.
If you cannot find cacao nibs (sometimes called cocoa nibs), you can always substitute nuts or even not use anything, but I do recommend making an effort to find some nibs. They add a delicious bitter chocolate note that works well with the sweetness of the dish, as well as a pleasing crunch. I use Scharffen Berger Cacao Nibs (Roasted & Shelled Cacao Beans), which are available online (that is an Amazon link).
Note this recipe starts the night before, as the best results are achieved for meringues when you let them cool overnight in the closed oven. This is a great recipe for Salted Caramel Sauce if you need one.
- 10 oz (284 g) bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped, prefer minimum 70% cacao
- 1 1/3 cup (262 g) sugar
- 1/2 t fine sea salt
- 6 large egg whites
- 1/4 t cream of tartar
- whipped cream--for this recipe use only homemade, made with preferably un-homogenized heavy cream
- salted caramel sauce
- cacoa nibs
Preheat the oven to 275 F. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Place parchment paper or silicone mats on 2 cookie sheets.
Place the chocolate with 1/3 of the sugar and all of the salt in a food processor. Pulse until the chocolate looks like fine crumbs. Set aside.
Place the egg whites in the clean mixer bowl. Using a whip attachment, beat until foamy, and then add the cream of tartar. Beat at medium high speed (or high speed with a hand mixer) until the egg whites are creamy white and hold a soft peak. Continue to beat, adding a little of the remaining sugar at a time, until you've used all (of the remaining) sugar. This should take 2-3 minutes, until the whites are very stiff.
Sprinkle the chocolate-sugar mixture over the stiff egg whites. Gently fold the chocolate into the egg whites. Do your best not to deflate, but do get all of the chocolate evenly incorporated.
Scoop the egg white mixture into a large plastic bag. Snip one of the corners off to use the bag as a pastry bag. No fancy tip needed (although you can if you want your results to be even prettier--just make sure you choose a tip that the chocolate crumbs will fit through).
Pipe the chocolate meringue nests onto each cookie sheet, making sure they are an inch apart. Start in the center and make circles working your way out until each nest is as large as you want it.
Bake for about 1 hour, and then turn the oven off. Leave them overnight--DO NOT open the oven.
The next morning you will have perfectly crisp chocolate meringue nests.
Top them with a generous portion of homemade, lightly sweetened whipped cream. Drizzle salted caramel sauce--preferably homemade, I still need to get my recipe up!--over the whipped cream. Do not go crazy--you do not want the overall dessert to be too sweet. Then sprinkle with cacoa nibs.
Note: My original intent was to share a selection of toppings, kind of a make your own chocolate meringue nest bar. However, we all fell in love so strongly with this exact creation that I have chosen to share it with you. But consider trying other toppings, like chopped nuts instead of cocoa nibs, for example.
For the collage fans….