Eating Right-ish: A Healthy Take on a Valentine’s Dessert

A chef explains how to make a strawberry-chocolate shortbread that’ll linger more on the lips than the hips.


As Valentine’s Day approaches,you may be planning some extravagant chocolate creation for your significant other. But does romance have to equal a sugar/butter bomb? We asked Drew Coleman, Executive Chef at Mohawk Bend in Los Angeles, to give us a healthier option for fireside sweetness. Over to you, Drew.

Healthier Strawberry Shortbread

Strawberries and chocolate are synonymous with Valentine’s Day, so this recipe combines both delicious ingredients in a play on two desserts: a Strawberry Shortcake and a Fool (stewed fruit, folded into a sweet custard or whipped cream).

Strawberry shortcakes usually have strawberries and whipped cream sandwiched between sweet cake or biscuit, but here, we’re substituting the cake and biscuits with a shortbread cookie and the heavy cream with coconut cream. This will give you 40% less saturated fat and calories, all while giving your immune system a boost. To top it off, chocolate meringues are added to provide a nice chocolaty crunch. This mix of different textures, complimentary flavors and techniques will definitely impress anyone lucky enough to have this prepared for them.

Chocolate Meringues:

  • 3 egg whites, left out to reach room temperature (make sure there are no yolks in the whites)
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar (a stabilizer that can be found in the spice or baking section of most grocery stores)
  • ½ cup fine granulated sugar
  • 4 teaspoons dark cocoa powder

A note about the meringues: It’s best to use a Kitchen Aid mixer or hand held electric mixer for the meringues (and the whipped coconut cream). If you don’t have one, both can be made using a whisk, but be prepared to test your forearm strength.

Step 1 – The Eggs

Preheat your oven to 200 degrees. Place your room temperature egg whites in a mixer or large bowl and beat them until they’re frothy. At this point, add the cream of tartar and the sugar slowly, a spoonful at a time, and beat on high—you want the egg whites to be shiny and form stiff peaks. You also want to make sure the sugar is incorporated to the point that you cannot feel the granules in the egg whites.

Step 2 – The Chocolate

Once you get stiff peaks, place the mixer on low, add the cocoa and mix until combined. If you have a piping bag, place the meringue inside and pipe quarter-sized kisses onto a lined baking sheet. If you don’t have a piping bag, just use a spoon to place dollops, taking care to make them the same size.

Step 3 – The Baking

Bake the meringues in the middle of the oven for two hours, then turn off the oven and leave them in there for at least another two hours (if you make these in the evening, you can just leave them in the oven overnight once you turn it off). Store in an airtight container for later use.

Shortbread Cookies:

  • 9 oz unsalted butter
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 9 oz all purpose flour
  • 2 ½ oz almond meal or flour (rice flour is a great (and cheaper!) alternative)
  • 2 ½ oz granulated sugar

Step 1 – The Butter

Soften the butter to room temperature, to the point where the consistency is like dense mayonnaise. Place it in a mixer or large bowl and add the salt and sugar, then mix so it is completely incorporated.

Step 2 – The Dough

Mix both flours together, then add them to the butter and mix until a dough is formed—it’s important to do this quickly so the butter doesn’t continue to melt. Place the dough on plastic wrap or wax paper, then form a log with a 2 ½ inch diameter. Roll it in the paper or plastic and place it in the freezer until it hardens.

Step 3 – The Baking

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Once the dough is frozen, cut it into rounds and place them on a lined cookie sheet. Place it in the oven and bake until the outside of the cookie is golden brown, but the center is still light. Set them aside and let them cool.

Strawberry Shortbread:

  • 1 cup strawberries, cut in quarters
  • 1 14oz can of coconut cream or full fat coconut milk
  • 1 lemon, zested with the smallest side of a box grater
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • 3 shortbread cookies (from above recipe) per portion
  • 5 chocolate meringues (from above recipe) per portion, crumbled into large pieces

A note about the strawberries: Since it’s February, it may be difficult to find strawberries where you live. Don’t worry: Any berry or ready-to-eat fruit can be substituted. Frozen berries that are defrosted can be used as well, but it’s best to use the freshest and ripest product you can find to maximize flavor and color.

Step 1 – The Cream

Take your can of coconut cream or milk and place it in the refrigerator overnight, taking care not to shake or tip the can, as this may cause separation of the cream and liquid. When you’re ready to prepare, place you mixing bowl in the freezer for 10 minutes. Remove the can of coconut cream/milk from the fridge and remove the lid, again being careful not to shake or tip the can. Take out the thickened cream from the top, and leave the rest of the liquid in the can.

Step 2 – The Whipping

Place this thickened cream into your cold mixing bowl and beat until creamy, about one minute. At this point, add half of the powdered sugar and continue to mix until it is stiff and resembles whipped cream. Place the whipped coconut mixture in the refrigerator.

Step 3 – The Strawberries

Place the strawberries in another bowl and add the granulated sugar and lemon zest, then let it sit at room temperature for 10 minutes. After this, grab the chilled coconut cream and gently fold the strawberries into it (if the cream has lost some of its body, you can whisk it again to bring it back before adding the berries).

Step 4 – The Finished Dessert (At Last!)

Add the crumbled meringue and fold it again to combine. Arrange the shortbread cookies on a plate and top them with the berry cream mixture, then top with another cookie and repeat, creating a stack. Place the third cookie a little askew to better show off the berry cream feeling. Garnish the dessert with more crumbled meringues, powdered sugar and a little lemon zest.