Saturday, May 10, 2008

Making Macaroons

The Easter Bunny (my mom) tucked Martha’s new “Cookies” book in my basket this year. This week, I decided it was high time I crack it open and try one of the recipes. Except that I couldn’t decide which one I wanted. They all look so luscious, and I was mesmerized by the pictorial table of contents.

All of the cookies are organized in the book by texture (e.g. Light and Delicate, Rich and Dense, and Cakey and Tender). This only complicated matters. Everything sounded good – I couldn’t even narrow it down to a texture.

Enter my husband, who quickly flipped through the book and declared Martha’s coconut macaroons (in both plain and chocolate varieties) the easy winner.

Hmmm ... I’m not much of a macaroon fan, but I do enjoy coconut. And the chocolate ones seem a bit Mounds-ish, which can’t be bad. Macaroons it is!

Here’s what you’ll need:

3/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
2 large egg whites
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
(Makes 1-1/2 dozen)

The recipe calls for unsweetened shredded coconut, which it indicates you can find at health food stores. Well, I made a visit to my local health food store, and it didn’t have ANY type of coconut. I was able to track down the sweetened variety at a chain grocery store. The recipe says that is OK, you just need to change the sugar in the recipe from 3/4 cup to 1 tablespoon.

I was pleasantly surprised by how easy this recipe is and how few ingredients were involved. You just add the coconut, sugar, egg whites, vanilla and salt in a bowl, and mix it together with your hands.

The recipe then says to use your hands to form mounds of the mixture, but I used my trusty cookie dough scooper. I recommend really packing the dough tightly no matter which method you use. Otherwise, the macaroons kind of crumble apart when baked.

Also, the recipe recommends covering the cookie sheets with parchment paper ahead of time, but I used my Silpats instead. What a baking rebel! Put these in an oven preheated to 325 degrees F.

The book says the cookies should bake until golden brown, about 17 minutes. They took about 20 in my oven. But most things do take a little longer to cook in there. I’ll be sure to put oven calibration on the top of my to-do list!

For the chocolate variety, you follow the same instructions, except you add 4 ounces of semisweet chocolate and 1/4 cup of sifted unsweetened cocoa powder. And instead of 2 1/2 cups of the coconut, use 2 2/3 cups.

Martha says you should melt the semisweet chocolate in a double boiler. I didn’t want to wash that many dishes, so I broke the chocolate up into small pieces, put them in a bowl, and stuck it in the microwave for 30-second increments, stirring between each one. Below is my chocolate at the one-minute mark. It took 90 seconds to melt completely.

Then you just add it to the other ingredients in the bowl and mix it up with your hands, following the identical baking instructions as the plain coconut batch.

I was kind of surprised with the texture of these (though I shouldn’t have been, as they’re appropriately filed in the Soft and Chewy section of the book). They’re just sort of like gooey piles of coconut with a little crunch on the outside. All of the macaroons I’ve had before have been more cakey. A quick Wikipedia search indicates that those were not true macaroons, as they likely contained flour.

My husband and I both agreed that the plain coconut ones were better than the chocolate, which were a bit rich (and not really Mounds-ish at all). Perhaps they could do with a bit more sugar. But overall, they were pretty good.

I’m not sure which recipes in the “Cookies” book I’ll try next. I definitely have my eye on the rum raisin shortbread and the carrot cake cookies.

Have you tried any of the recipes in this book? Did you find any keepers? Has a cookie recipe of Martha’s become a favorite in your home? Let me know!


Anonymous said...

yum! I am craving coconut hardcore now. :) Great post!

K-Nut said...

Thank you for sharing. I quite enjoyed your writing-style. Very fun! I'm excited to give these a try, though I am terribly intrigued how sweetened coconut to unsweetened can alter the amount of sugar so much (3/4 c to only 1 tablespoon). Thanks!

SimplePleasures said...

i'm so in love with this book