Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Coconut Macaroons with Dark Chocolate

I'm going to be honest here - most recipes I try for the first time end up going on here, since they usually turn out well the first time I try them, or they are a tried and true dish that I've been riffing on for years and decided to finally write it down. These macaroons are the first thing I've made at least a dozen times before I've found what I think is as close to a perfect coconut macaroon you're going to get. It took pounds of shredded coconut and sugar before I got these right. 

Although I knew what I wanted in these, I didn't know how to get there. Kind of like starting off with what you don't like about something, and going from there. I don't like the texture of shredded coconut in a macaroon - I wanted a creamier, smoother take on it, similar to the first one I ever had nearly 20 (gasp) years ago. They were large and wonderfully round, with a crisp golden brown exterior with a creamy just-right-amount of sweetness interior, with a pleasant chew. 

Lots of research in various cookbooks and online led me down pretty much the same path. There aren't too many variations out there, which was a bit disappointing. Then I found what I was missing... sweetened condensed milk! I felt like a complete dumb dumb when I stumbled across Ina Garten's version and realized that was what was missing! The glue that holds 7 layer bars together (one of my fav desserts, with coconut no less!) was the magic ingredient I was missing. 
This recipe is an adaptation of Ina's. I processed the coconut for quite a bit in the food processor to achieve the smaller crumb that I was after, but feel free to skip this step if you prefer the straight up shredded coconut texture.

INGREDIENTS

14 ounces sweetened shredded coconut,

   pulsed in a food processor for about 1 minute
14 ounce can sweetened condensed milk 
   (not to be confused with evaporated milk)
1/4 cup almond flour
1/2 tsp good vanilla extract plus
   1/2 tsp almond extract, or 1 full 
   tsp of either
3 large egg whites
pinch of kosher salt 
pinch of cream of tarter
6 ounces good quality dark chocolate,
   melted and slightly cooled (optional... sorta)

Preheat oven to 325*, ensuring there are racks placed on the upper and lower middles of the oven. Fully combine the processed coconut, sweetened condensed milk, almond flour, and extracts in a large bowl. In a smaller  bowl, use an electric hand mixer to whisk the whites, salt, and cream of tarter to firm peaks. Gently fold the beaten egg whites into the coconut mixture. Set aside. 

Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. Do not be tempted to break out your silpat here - they will surprisingly stick like crazy to this. Scoop out scant tablespoons of batter and drop them onto the sheets, leaving a roomy inch or so between each cookie. Pop both sheets in the oven onto each rack and bake for 35 minutes or till golden brown, swapping their places in the oven about halfway through.

Remove from oven and let cool for a minute before placing on a wire rack to cool completely. Meanwhile, chop up the chocolate using a serrated knife and empty into an oven safe glass bowl. You can either use a double boiler type method (which I prefer, since you're more in control and less likely to scorch the chocolate) or the microwave. For the stove top, place a medium sauce pan filled with an inch of water and bring to a gentle simmer. Place the bowl on top and melt the chocolate, stirring often, till nearly all of it is melted. Remove from heat and stir continuously till all the chocolate has melted. If using the microwave, heat the chocolate in 30 second intervals, stirring well between each one, till most of the chocolate has melted. 

Flip the parchment paper over on one of the cookie sheets, which should now be fully cooled. Dunk, dip, drizzle or drown each macaroon in the melted chocolate, and place them on the parchment. Pop into the fridge and chill till the chocolate has completely set, about 30 minutes. Remove and place into an airtight container. These cookies will keep for 2 days on the counter top, or a week in the fridge.

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