Toasting is the way to go for tastier macaroons


POSTED: Wednesday, November 04, 2009

A coconut macaroon is almost pure shredded coconut, held together by sheer force of will - OK, and maybe some egg whites.

This cookie is basic-ally a meringue, ideally a light cloud of sweetness that's crisp on the outside and chewy on the inside. Bobby Stone is looking for a good recipe.

I compared several and found they fell into two categories: those made with sweetened condensed milk (Martha Stewart advocates that approach) and those made with frothy egg whites (more traditional). They usually don't include any flour or leavening, making the end product seem rather magical.

Variations do exist, made with biscuit mixes, potato flakes, cornflakes, cookie or cake mixes, ground nuts, even small amounts of flour. One popular alternative is to dip the macaroons in chocolate.

I opted to experiment with two simpler basic versions and got better results with egg whites as opposed to condensed milk (those cookies tasted too distinctly of the super-sweet milk).

This recipe borrows from the formulas of Alton Brown, prepared on his Food Network show “;Good Eats,”; and Mark Bittman, the New York Times columnist whose pieces run weekly in this section (see Page 30). From Brown comes the suggestion to toast the coconut, which mellows the flavor and helps provide outer crunch, and from Bittman the use of powdered sugar, which seems to produce the softest meringue on the inside.

Note that these macaroons are a toasty brown all over, not the virgin white you might be used to. If pure white is the effect you want, don't toast. You'll get a more direct coconut flavor that way as well.

Toasted Coconut Macaroons

4 egg whites
Pinch salt
1-1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla or almond extract
4 cups shredded sweetened coconut, toasted (see note)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line 2 cookies sheets with baker's parchment.

Whisk egg whites and salt until foamy. Gradually add sugar, whisking rapidly until mixture is smooth and thick (use a mixer if you like, but I've found it's just as fast to whip it by hand and saves on dishes).

Fold in vanilla, then coconut. Stir well to moisten all the coconut.

Using wet hands, form the mixture into tablespoon-size mounds and place on cookie sheets, an inch or so apart. Bake 15 to 20 minutes. Cookies should be firm but still yield to the touch. Slip parchment onto rack to cool, then peel cookies off paper. Makes 2 dozen.

Nutritional information unavailable.

Note: To toast coconut, place in a dry skillet over medium-high heat. Stir until coconut is light brown all over. It's a good idea to toast a little extra, in case your batter seems thin. Any leftovers can be mixed into breakfast cereal or sprinkled on other baked goods.

Can you help?

While we're on the subject of cookies, Pamela Johnson is looking for a recipe she cut from the newspaper somewhere around December 1982, for an award-winning Melting Moments cookie. My search of the Star-Bulletin on microfilm didn't turn it up, and while I have found many other Melting Moments recipes, if anyone saved this particular one, we'd both love to have it.