SEVEN THOUGHTS ABOUT MACAROONS*
1. Until I tried these macaroons a year ago, I thought I disliked coconut in desserts. Savory applications, yes. Desserts, no. These macaroons converted me. (I did once have a kind of savory macaroon, though, and it blew my mind. I have since searched in vain for a recipe.)
2. Macaroons are, I have learned, not the same thing as macarons. Macarons are suddenly trendy—I’d never heard of them a year ago—almond paste cookies with fillings, and they are notoriously tricky to make. Macaroons are coconut-egg white-sugar confections that come together with no effort at all.
3. This fabulous article about the White House seder tells the story of the Macaroon Security Standoff: a guest was bringing macaroons (which the article calls “flourless cookies”) from Chicago, but the Secret Service doesn’t allow food into the building. Drama ensued. Having made macaroons, however, I can tell you that that whole kerfuffle was just silly, because those Chicago macaroons can’t possibly be as good as these, which could be easily made in the White House kitchen by Sasha and Malia.
4. As a matter of semantics, I don’t think it’s accurate to call macaroons “cookies.” They’re more like homemade Mounds bars. And they’re actually little mounds, unlike Mounds bars.
5. These macaroons disappeared faster than any baked good I have ever before brought into my office.
6. How did macaroons become traditional for Passover among Jews of Eastern European descent? It’s not like coconut was widely available in the shtetl.
7. I’m pretty sure the macaroons are supposed to be more evenly coated in chocolate, but I like them with little chocolate caps like this. They remind me of Lego people.
* In the style of mimi smartypants.
3 cups (lightly packed) sweetened shredded coconut [I found this to be just under the amount in a 14-oz bag]
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup egg whites (about 5 large)
1 ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
4 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
Place the first three ingredients in a large, heavy saucepan, and stir to combine well. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring regularly, about 10-12 minutes, until the mixture is pasty but not dry. (The uncooked mixture will look sort of granular at first, then creamy as it heats, and then it will slowly get drier and drier. You want to stop cooking when it no longer looks creamy but is still quite gluey and sticky, not dry.) Remove from heat. Mix in vanilla. Spread out the coconut mixture on a large baking sheet. Refrigerate until cold, about 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 300°F. Line another baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat baking mat. Using a ¼-cup measuring scoop, scoop and pack the coconut mixture into domes, and place them on the baking sheet [I like mine a little smaller, around 2 tablespoons]. You should wind up with about a dozen. Bake the macaroons until golden, about 30 minutes. Transfer to a rack and cool.
Set cookies on rack over a rimmed baking sheet. Place the chopped chocolate in a medium bowl. Heat the heavy cream in a small saucepan until it is very hot and steamy (not boiling), remove from the heat, and pour it over the chocolate. Wait one minute. Whisk until the mixture is smooth and the chocolate is thoroughly melted. Spoon the glaze over the macaroons, covering them almost completely and allowing the chocolate to drip down the sides. Refrigerate the macaroons until the glaze sets, at least 2 hours. Transfer the macaroons to an airtight container, and refrigerate or freeze.
Makes 12-18 macaroons.