- Associated Press - Thursday, November 29, 2012

Even if you avoid baking all year long, there’s a very good chance the allure of the holidays will seduce you into having a go at a batch of cookies.

And why not? It’s sweet food for a sweet season. Of course, the cookie season can be hazardous to your waistline. If possible, it’s best to keep in mind Julia Child’s motto: Everything in moderation. Go ahead and savor those cookies, but just don’t be a monster about it.

Of course, if you do happen to overdo it, you’ll be better off if you snub the usual doughboys in favor of a lean and luscious gem like these chocolate-dipped meringue drops.

Each one is like a candy bar in a cookie suit. The hero of this story? Egg whites. They bind together the other ingredients — the coconut and dried cranberries — and provide a nice chewy texture, all without adding any fat. Yes, there’s fat in the coconut and the chocolate, but the overall fat and calorie content is lower here than in butter-based cookies.

By the way, those of you who regularly bake up meringues as white as snow should know this isn’t that type of meringue. It is meant to be beige and chewy, not white and crispy. Likewise, the note of tangy bitterness provided by the dark chocolate is meant to offset this confection’s overall sweetness.

CHOCOLATE-DIPPED COCONUT MERINGUE DROPS

Start to finish: 55 minutes (30 minutes active)

Makes 5 dozen

1 cup dried cranberries

2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut

4 large egg whites, room temperature

Pinch of salt

Pinch of cream of tartar

½ teaspoon vanilla extract

1 cup sugar

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