Lately it seems that the French version of the classic macaron/macaroon cookie is getting all the love. Don’t get me wrong: les macarons are crazy delicious– delicately flavored, tender, chewy, and light-as-air confections. That’s all well and good, but those suckers can be super finicky to make at home. There’s nothing especially complicated about them– egg whites and sugar and almond flour, and no super-fancy technique, but they can be fussy as regards temperature and climate and oven rack position, and, well, my oven and I are still in the midst of a come-to-Jesus over them. I will triumph in the end, I’m sure.
While that’s happening, what about poor, neglected, amazing, coconut macaroons? Sure, they don’t seem quite as sophisticated or polished as their chic French sisters, but they’re sweet and chewy and slightly crispy at the edges and satisfying and toothsome and lovely. They’re also wheat-free and dairy-free, which is possibly a first for Sweet Nothings– sorry about that, my dairy-and-wheat-free brethren. This recipe comes by way of Alice Medrich, one of my chocolate and baking idols, and she (and I) strongly recommend seeking out large flakes of unsweetened coconut, sometimes called coconut chips (I’ve found them at Whole Foods and Trader Joe’s). They’re less cloying than the regular sweetened shredded coconut you find in the baking aisle, and they make the texture so much more decadent and interesting. I also strongly recommend topping each fresh-out-of-the-oven macaroon with a disk of dark or milk chocolate and letting it melt while the macaroon cools. Luscious.
Adapted not even a little bit from Alice Medrich’s New Classic Macaroon recipe
4 large egg whites
3 1/2 c. unsweetened dried flaked coconut (also known as coconut chips) OR 3 c. sweetened, dried shredded coconut
3/4 c. sugar
2 tsps. pure vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. salt
Dark or milk chocolate disks or fèves (optional)
Whisk the egg whites, sugar, salt, and vanilla together in a metal mixing bowl, then fold in the coconut. Place the mixing bowl directly into a skillet full of simmering water (medium-low heat). Cook the coconut goop (technical term), stirring with a silicone spatula so the mixture doesn’t burn. Once the mixture is hot to the touch and the egg whites have become slightly more opaque (about ten minutes or so), remove the bowl from the skillet. Let the mixture sit at room temperature for about thirty minutes, so that the coconut has time to soak up the goop.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.
Portion gobs of the coconut mixture in tidy heaps on the parchment-lined baking sheets, about one heaping tablespoon per cookie (or you can use two tablespoons for larger treats, just increase the baking times a bit). Bake the cookies for 5 minutes in the top and bottom racks of the oven, rotating the sheets and switching them on their racks halfway through the baking time. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees Fahrenheit and bake for an additional 10-15 minutes, rotating and switching the pans again halfway through, until the macaroons are cream-colored in the center with golden, crisped edges and coconut tips that are dark brown. Remove from the oven and top with chocolate immediately, if using.
Allow the macaroons to cool completely before removing from the sheets. Makes about 25-30 macaroons.
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