"It smells wonderful in here!"
This simple phrase always makes my day. Especially when uttered about a recipe braving its maiden voyage in my oven. Could there be a more heartening declaration of support than these five little words? They say, "I trust in what comes next. I haven't yet laid eyes on it, but something in the air tells me that it's going to be good."
Last week, when my neighbor Elisha knocked on my door, my first-ever batch of coconut macaroons was browning in the oven. I was hopeful, but uncertain. There are few ingredients as divisive as coconut - so dearly beloved by some, but even more dearly despised by others. Nonetheless, when Elisha ooohed over the smell of toasty coconut hanging in the air, I had a hunch that everything was going to be okay.
A few minutes later, a small brigade of bronzed and beautiful macaroons came sliding out of the oven. They reminded me of tiny bald heads, rosy from too much sun. Capped with shaggy chocolate toupees, they looked dashing. And they tasted delicious - every bit as decadent as their enticing aroma foretold. Elisha's father put it best: "You should need a license to eat one of these!"
I'm beginning to think that maybe I should stop worrying about what comes next, and learn to follow my nose.
Chocolate-Covered Coconut Macaroons
Adapted from Molly Wizenberg's A Homemade Life
I have now made these macaroons twice. The first time I used 1 T. of coconut mixture per cookie, and the second time I used a 1/8 c. measuring cup. (The second batch of larger macaroons is pictured here.) The first time around, I covered the macaroons in chocolate by spooning the ganache over top, and the second time I dunked them into the chocolate. Next time, I'll go with a little bit of each of these techniques: I prefer the 1 T. closer-to-bite-sized versions, since the coconut is so darn rich. But instead of using a spoon to cap them off with chocolate, I'll dunk them, one by one. The dunking provides a thinner, more even coat - looks a little less like a lopsided toupee and more like a chocolate bowl haircut!
For the macaroons:
3 cups lightly packed unsweetened shredded coconut
1 1/2 c. granulated sugar
3/4 c. egg whites (about 5 or 6 large)
1 1/2 t. vanilla
1 t. almond extract
For the ganache:
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped (as usual, I prefer 70% Scharffen-Berger chocolate)
1/2 c. heavy cream
Make the macaroons:
Place the coconut, sugar, and egg whites in a medium heavy saucepan and stir to combine. Cook over a medium-low flame, stirring frequently, for 10-12 minutes. It is done when the mixture is still sticky and moist, but no longer creamy. (The mixture will look creamy at first, and will become drier and pastier as it cooks.) Remove from the heat, and mix in the vanilla and almond extracts. Spread out the mixture on a baking sheet, and refrigerate until cold, approximately 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Once the coconut mixture has been chilled, use a 1-tablespoon measuring spoon to scoop into small domes. Place the coconut domes on the baking sheet. Bake until golden, 25-30 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
Make the ganache:
Place the chopped chocolate in a medium boil. Heat the cream in a small saucepan until hot and steamy, but not boiling. Pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir together until smooth. Holding the macaroons upside down by their flat bottoms, dunk them, one by one, in the chocolate ganache. Return the chocolate-covered macaroons to a baking pan or the cooling rack and refrigerate until the ganache sets, at least 2 hours. Transfer the macaroons to an airtight container, and refrigerate or freeze.
Makes 14 to 18 macaroons.