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Moving chai from your mug and into a holiday meringue cookie

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We love warming spices around the holidays, which is one of the reasons we love to sip hot chai this time of year.

But chai isn’t just for sipping. The rich, earthy flavours of this Indian spice blend also make great cookies. And that’s what inspired us to stir them into this simple recipe for meringue. You could dollop the meringue into individual portions on the baking sheet, but we love the rustic appeal of doing it as one large sheet that then is broken and cracked into individual portions.

This recipe also is incredibly versatile. If you don’t like chai, substitute a few drops of peppermint extract. And if coconut isn’t your thing, leave it out and top the meringue with chopped nuts.

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COCONUT-CHAI MERINGUE BREAKAWAY

Start to finish: 2 1/2 hours (30 minutes active)

Makes 16 cookies

4 green cardamom pods

2 star anise

2 whole cloves

Pinch of fennel seeds

1/4 teaspoon grated nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

1/4 teaspoon ground dry ginger

2 teaspoons hot water

2 teaspoons honey

Hefty pinch of saffron

4 egg whites

1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Pinch of salt

3/4 cup sugar

2/3 cup unsweetened shredded coconut

Heat the oven to 200 F. Line a baking sheet with kitchen parchment.

Break open the cardamom pods, placing the seeds in a mortar or a spice grinder and discarding the shells. Add the seeds from the star anise, discarding the star shell. Add the cloves and fennel. Pound with a pestle or grind until you have a powder. Stir in the nutmeg, pepper and ginger. Set aside.

In a small bowl or cup, combine the hot water, honey and saffron, smashing the saffron with the back of a spoon. Set aside.

In a large bowl use an electric mixer to beat the egg whites, cream of tartar and salt until very foamy. About 1 tablespoon at a time, add the sugar while continuing to beat, beating until all of the sugar is incorporated. Continue to beat until thick and glossy peaks form, 5 to 7 minutes. Gently stir in the spice mixture and half of the coconut.

Spread the mixture onto the prepared baking sheet. Drop small dribbles of the saffron mixture onto the surface, then swirl with a butter knife or a toothpick to make bright yellow saffron-honey swirls. Sprinkle with the remaining coconut. Bake for 2 hours, or until dry. Allow to cool. Break into pieces and store in an airtight container at room temperature for about 1 week (if kept very dry and away from humidity).

Nutrition information per serving: 50 calories; 20 calories from fat (40 per cent of total calories); 2 g fat (2 g saturated; 0 g trans fats); 0 mg cholesterol; 25 mg sodium; 8 g carbohydrate; 1 g fiber; 8 g sugar; 1 g protein.

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Alison Ladman is a chef, food writer and recipe developer for The Associated Press. She also owns The Crust and Crumb Baking Company in Concord, New Hampshire.

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