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Cocoa-swirled meringues.

Liam Mogan/The Globe and Mail

Big, crunchy meringues with soft middles make stunning holiday sweets – you can make them large or small, and swirling with a spoon or spatula negates the need for decorating. A bit of vinegar beaten in at the end gives them a more marshmallowy interior, but isn't necessary.

Servings: 12 large meringues

Ingredients

3 large egg whites

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar (optional)

3/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cornstarch

Pinch salt

1/2 teaspoon white vinegar (optional)

1/2 teaspoon vanilla or peppermint extract (optional)

2-3 tablespoons cocoa

Method

Preheat the oven to 200 F.

In a large, clean glass or stainless-steel bowl, beat the egg whites until foamy; add the cream of tartar, if you have it, and continue to beat until the beaters start leaving a trail through the whites. In a small bowl, stir together the sugar, cornstarch and salt. Slowly pour the sugar mixture into the egg whites, beating until they hold stiff, glossy peaks and have the texture of shaving foam. If you like, beat in the vinegar and vanilla or peppermint extract.

Sift the cocoa over the meringue and fold once or twice with a spatula to create a swirled effect. Drop large spoonfuls onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, swirling the tops and bake for 1 1/2-2 hours, until dry. If you like, turn off the oven, open the oven door slightly and leave them inside as the oven cools. Peel the meringues off the parchment and store in an airtight container for up to a few days.

How to dress them up (instead of the cocoa):

- Swirl crushed candy canes and/or finely chopped dark chocolate into the meringue.

- Spoon large spoonfuls of meringue onto a shallow dish of finely chopped almonds or pistachios and gently roll to coat one side before transferring to the baking sheet.

- Flavour the meringues with 1-2 teaspoons rosewater or other extract in place of the vanilla.

- Drizzle the meringue with raspberry purée and swirl/spoon/bake.

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