It's estimated Americans will purchase 58 million pounds of chocolate in honor of Valentine's Day this year.

And close to 200 million roses (the vast majority red) will join those millions of pounds of chocolate in the homes of lucky Valentine gift recipients around the nation.

Chocolate and red roses, the classic pairing.

Or, for the true foodies among you, chocolate and red cherries – an equally unbeatable combination.

Perhaps you've made meringues before. This whipped egg white and sugar confection, baked until dry and incredibly crunchy, is the doughty old lady of Candyland – think Cousin Violet, the Dowager Countess of Grantham, during whose era meringues were considered quite elegant.

But if you've made meringues in the past, I'll bet it hasn't been very recently. They're just SO simple that, like that mother of all butter cookies, shortbread, they sometimes get lost among their more aggressively flavored peers. Like mocha brownies. Or salty caramel pecan pie.

Then again, maybe you've never made meringues. Well, guess what? You're about to see just how easy it is.

And to realize that meringues, when holding a hidden "treasure" of cherries or chocolate, are a perfect complement to the usual Valentine's Day flowers and candy.

Preheat the oven to 200°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment (first choice), or lightly grease it.

Click anywhere on this block of pictures to enlarge them to full size - this will work for any of the photos you see in this blog post.

Place the following in a large bowl:

2 large egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
dash of salt

Beat, preferably with a whisk attachment, until soft peaks form. At first the whites will be foamy, with lots of bubbles (upper left); but gradually the bubbles will shrink and the whites will stiffen (upper right).

With the mixer going, sprinkle in 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon (4 ounces) granulated sugar, continuing to beat until the meringue is thick and glossy.

When you lift the whisk, the meringue will form a fairly stiff (but not dry) peak.

Pipe a base of meringue onto the prepared baking sheet, using a pastry bag and star tip.

Place a candied cherry, or a couple of chunks of chocolate, atop the base. I like Peter's Burgundy chunks; to me, their flavor strikes a tasty balance between semisweet and bittersweet chocolate.

Pipe meringue to cover the cherry or chocolate.

If you don't want to pipe meringues, simply drop by tablespoonfuls onto the baking sheet. A tablespoon cookie scoop works well here.

Place a cherry or chocolate in the center of each meringue; cover or leave exposed, your choice.

Bake the meringues for 1 1/2 hours. They'll expand VERY slightly, and will lose their wet look, taking on a dry, satiny sheen.

Turn the oven off, and leave them in the turned-off oven until they're completely cool, 3 hours or more. This is a good cookie to make in the evening; they can be left in the oven (with the heat turned off) overnight

Here are the meringues after 12 hours (overnight) in the turned-off oven. They're not brown; but their matte finish has a slight sheen, making them quite handsome.

Store airtight at room temperature; don't refrigerate or freeze. As long as the weather's dry, they'll stay nice and crisp fairly indefinitely (within reason).

Final note: What to do with those two leftover egg yolks?

•Add to the dog’s or cat’s food; they’ll be happy. (Note to pet owners worried about high cholesterol, fat, bacterial contamination, or any other possible downside to feeding your pet raw egg yolks: don’t do it.)
•Enjoy at breakfast: add along with whole eggs to a scramble; or pancake, waffle, or French toast batter.
•Add to most any baked good calling for eggs; yolks are high in fat, so they’ll add tenderness to whatever you’re making.

And remember: bookmark this blog for your Valentine's Day baking!

Read, bake, and review (please) our recipe for Buried Treasure Meringues.

Print just the recipe.

PJ Hamel
The Author

About PJ Hamel

PJ Hamel grew up in New England, graduated from Brown University, and was a Maine journalist before joining King Arthur Flour in 1990. PJ bakes and writes from her home on Cape Cod, where she enjoys beach-walking, her husband, two dogs, and really good food!