Saturday, March 13, 2010

Macaroons, American-Style

I was very excited to receive a copy of my friend Lori Longbotham’s latest book, Luscious Coconut Desserts (Chronicle Books, 2009) in the mail last week. I had recently been out to dinner with Lori, and she told me about this tribute to coconut. I’m a coconut fanatic, so I naturally wanted to make every recipe in the book immediately. Since this didn’t seem like a practical idea, I painstakingly narrowed my choice to the chocolate-dipped Big Coconut Macaroons. These cookies are really, really easy to make (almost disarmingly so), and practically foolproof. I used a ½-ounce scoop to form the cookies, which turned out perfectly-shaped little domes of batter. After baking and cooling the cookies, I dipped them in chocolate. Though they are delicious undipped, a little chocolate turns these macaroons into something exceptional. For dipping, I used TCHO Proline conventional-blend 68% block couverture. Though Lori’s recipe doesn’t instruct you to temper the chocolate, I did so, because I wanted the chocolate to be shiny and streak-free. TCHO tempers easily and has become one of my favorite chocolates because of its workability and complex, full flavor. The finished macaroons were big, beautiful and utterly delicious, as billed. Luscious Coconut Desserts is full of my kind of flavorful, accessible recipes, with beautiful photos that will inspire you to crack a coconut or two. You’re the best, Lori. 

Big Coconut Macaroons

Adapted from Lori Longbotham’s Luscious Coconut Desserts (Chronicle Books, 2009)

Makes about 4 dozen cookies

1 ½ cups granulated sugar
5 large egg whites
¾ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon salt
4 cups shredded unsweetened dried coconut
6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped, plus one 2-inch chunk of shiny, well-tempered chocolate

Make the cookies:
1. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two large heavy baking sheets with silicone baking mats or parchment paper.
2. Whisk together the sugar, egg whites, vanilla, and salt in a large bowl until well combined. Add the coconut and stir until well combined. Drop the batter by packed level tablespoons onto the baking sheets (I used a ½-ounce scoop so that I could form perfect little mounds); the cookies can be placed close together because they will not spread. Smooth the cookies with damp fingers.
3. Bake the cookies, switching the pans from top to bottom and from front to back about halfway through, for 20 to 25 minutes, or until an even golden brown and dry looking. Let cool completely on the baking sheets on wire racks.

Dip the cookies:
4. Melt the chopped chocolate in a bowl set over barely simmering water and stirring frequently (do not let the chocolate go above 120°F.) Add the chunk of well-tempered chocolate. Place the bowl in a cool place and let cool, stirring frequently, to 84°F. Return the bowl to its position over the hot water and stir until it thins slightly and reaches 90°F (but not higher—watch the chocolate carefully at this point).
5. Dip the bottoms of the cooled macaroons into the tempered chocolate, shake off the excess, and place the macaroons chocolate-side down on parchment-lined sheets. Let stand until chocolate sets.