I love macaroons, in a very head over heels kind of way. I love airy French macarons in all of their bright fun colors, and I love sweet chewy coconut macaroons. The two couldn't be more different but both are absolutely delicious. I’m going to tackle French macarons at a later time as they take quite a bit more technique and finesse to make and I don’t feel completely confident that I’ve really mastered them just yet. By golly I will this year! That’s my goal anyway. So for this post I decided to dig my heels deep into a good coconut macaroon making afternoon. I’ve tried what seems like a million coconut macaroon recipes over the last several years and all have been good with a few differences, so one day I just got in the kitchen and started experimenting (you will find from future recipes that I love doing that) to create my own perfect macaroon. What resulted from my “add a little bit of this and why not add some of that” philosophy that day was a recipe that I happily stored away in my favorite recipes box.
These little cookies are dense and chewy and the taste of both sweet soft coconut inside and flakes that have become perfectly crisp on top is fantastic. Add to that a dip for these guys into a sinfully smooth chocolate and you have a perfect ending to any meal, a thoughtful goodie bag for a friend, or a wonderfully indulgent afternoon snack. I highly advise a little indulging.
Chocolate Dipped Coconut Macaroons
Makes 33-35 cookies
1 bag (14 ounces) sweetened shredded coconut
1 can (14 ounces) sweetened condensed milk
2 large egg whites (let the eggs sit out at room temp for an hour before cracking open)
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
¼ teaspoon pure almond extract
Pinch of salt
8 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped (use a good quality chocolate –I’ve used Ghiradelli, Scharffen Berger, and Valrhona and all have worked well)
Preheat the oven to 325 °F. Mix the shredded coconut, sweetened condensed milk, and extracts in a bowl. Put the room temperature egg whites in the bowl of a very clean electric mixer (can use a hand mixer –better give that arm of yours a good stretch before starting) and start to whip on medium low speed. After a minute or so it will start to become a bit foamy. Throw in a pinch of salt (I use kosher salt, if you use table salt throw in an even smaller pinch) and increase the mixer speed to medium high (I usually settle somewhere around speed 7 or 8 on my kitchen aide depending on how fast the egg whites are whipping up). Mix until the egg whites form medium firm peaks (when you pull the whisk out the egg white falls back on itself, like a little hook at the top, and it retains its shape). Don’t be afraid to stop the mixer and check the peaks if you are unsure. You do not want to overmix the egg whites. See below for tips to instill confidence.
Take half of the whipped egg whites and gently fold into the coconut mixture, just until combined. Gently fold the rest of the egg whites into the mixture. Line a couple of sheet pans with parchment paper. Using two teaspoons, form and drop the batter onto the parchment paper with a bit of space between each cookie. Flatten the tops slightly with the back of the spoon (when they are too pointy, the coconut tends to burn on top). Bake 22-26 minutes until golden brown. Only let the cookies sit for a minute or two so they can set before removing them from the pan (with macaroons, the longer you let them cool the more likely they are to stick, even to seemingly invincible parchment paper) and cool them on a wire rack.
Chop the semisweet or bittersweet chocolate and put the chopped chocolate in a heatproof bowl (I use a glass bowl which works great).
Place the bowl over a pot of gently simmering water. You only need an inch or two of water in the pot (do not let the water touch the bowl of chocolate). Stir the chocolate a few times as it melts. Remove the bowl from the heat while there are still a couple of lumpy bits of unmelted chocolate and continue stirring until completely smooth. I know you want to just dip your face in the chocolate right now, the aroma is that intoxicating, but resist the urge. It’s that much better ON the cookies. Line a large sheet pan with parchment paper. Dip the base of the macaroons in the chocolate, so those wonderfully golden coconut flakes at the top are still showing, and place them on the parchment paper.
Put the sheet pan in the fridge for an hour, until the chocolate is completely hardened, and enjoy! Store leftover macaroons in the fridge.
Tip about egg white peaks: it took me some time baking to discern the difference between a soft, medium firm, and stiff peak. Here are some tips that might be helpful. A soft peak is when you pull the beater or whisk out and the egg white stands up and then starts to melt back into itself. It isn’t committed to a particular shape yet. A medium firm peak is when you pull the whisk out and the egg white folds back on itself; it's pretty obvious that it’s determined to stay that shape, no melting back into itself like the soft peak. A stiff peak is when the egg white stands straight up and doesn’t like all of this folding back on itself business. With egg whites I find it pays to keep checking the peaks if you are unsure, especially since no one can really tell you exactly how long to mix to get to each stage. Mixers have different wattages and slightly different settings for medium and high speeds, so the time it takes will vary from mixer to mixer. You don’t want to mix too far and if you do for the recipe you have, you may have to start over…or change your plans and make a chiffon cake (loves stiff peaks)! Moral of the story –check the peaks!