Tartine. The storied bake shop in San Francisco. Everyone has a Tartine story, almost all begin with the length of the line and include a remark on the size of their gougeres (softball). Even my own review includes both.
During my just under three-year-stint living in the Bay Area, I only visited Tartine the one time. I lived in Oakland and there were so many cakes to see and pastries to try. But their Cacao Nib Rocher is a sweet for the ages. Unforgettable. A mini-Matterhorn of vanilla scented meringue studded with cacao nibs. Such simple ingredients, it’s hard to imagine just why these are so spectacular. But they are.As it happens, I own the Tartine cookbook. It includes a Rocher recipe but for their Almond version. However, since I am Nib obsessed, I decided to adapt the almond recipe to see if I could approximate the deliciousness of the originals.
Turns out, I could! Almost: I used to help my mom make meringues for some 1970s showstopper of a dessert so I used her instructions (a holiday nostalgia moment), which call for three egg whites, cornstarch, and granulated sugar. (Tartine’s Almond Rocher recipe calls for 2 egg whites and powdered sugar.) And yes, both recipes call for one cup of sugar. Friends, I just can’t. So I reduced to 3/4 cup and these are plenty sweet. They are crunchy on the outside and a bit marshmallowy on the inside. These are perfectly lovely for the holidays what with their snow white color and dark specks.
The meringues are delicious on their own, but I suggest balancing the sweetness by serving two on a plate with a small puddle of bitter orange marmalade (warmed and strained) to round out the flavor.
Cacao Nib Meringues a la Tartine
Adapted from the Tartine Cookbook
Whites from 3 large eggs (about 1/2 cup), room temperature
¼ tsp cream of tartar
Pinch of salt
3/4 tsp vanilla
1 Tbs cornstarch
3/4 c granulated sugar
½ cup cocoa nibs (I use Valrhona)
Preheat oven to 250° F. Line two baking sheets with parchment.
Whisk the cornstarch into the sugar in a small bowl. Set aside.
Fit your mixer with the whisk attachment and combine the egg whites, cream of tartar, and salt in the bowl. Starting at low speed and gradually increasing to medium, whip until soft frothy peaks form.
Increase the speed to medium-high and gradually add the sugar/cornstarch mixture. Continue to beat until stiff peaks form when the whisk is lifted. Add the vanilla.
Continue beating until the mixture is glossy and very thick. Remove the bowl and, using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the cocoa nibs.
Using a #40 ice cream scoop, drop dollops of meringue on the prepared baking sheets. You should get about 10 on each sheet. Use a small spoon to drop any remaining meringue on the tops of the dollops on the sheet.
Bake for about 30-45 minutes, rotating and switching the sheets halfway through, until the meringues are crisp, dry to the touch on the outside (not sticky at all), and still white. When done, let cool on the pan on wire racks for 20 minutes or until completely cool.
Serve plain, or with two on a dessert plate alongside a teaspoon of bitter orange marmalade (1/4 cup heated in the microwave and strained).