During my December cookie planning, I knew I had to make something that included coconut. My family is basically made up of coconut fiends. We’re Dominican, so we love us some coconut however we can get it. When my family and I travel to the Dominican Republic, one of my favorite places, we eat it regularly. There actually used to be a few coconut trees next to my Mami’s house, but they have dried up over the years. Now, we enjoy them either through the generosity of our neighbors or we buy them.
The most common way we eat it when we’re there is from a young coconut. The top gets hacked off with a machete, and the water is harvested to drink (SO GOOD). Then, they break it open into two halves, where the soft and gelatinous meat can easily be scraped out with a spoon. My Mami used to scrape out the young coconut and put it in a pitcher with the water, ice, and sugar. It is the most delicious, refreshing drink you can have! Of course, the water doesn’t really need the sugar but it’s still yummy.
Another way we enjoy coconut is when it’s dried. The dried coconut is actually what’s most commonly found here in the States; the little brown, hairy orb that is impossible to open without a little hardware. In D.R., you have to break off the green outer shell, with the aforementioned machete to get to the brown shell, to finally get to the actual fruit. At this point, the coconut is completely developed and has a thick white flesh, and is also impossible to break out of it’s shell. I swear, for all the trouble you have to go through just to even eat this thing, it better be delicious. From this dried coconut, you can shred it (or scrape with a spoon, like we do back at Mami’s) using a box grater and dry it out to make desiccated coconut. Toss the shredded stuff with powdered sugar, and possibly small amounts of cornstarch and/or preservatives, and you’ve got the sweetened shredded coconut flakes you see in stores.
With a house full of coconut fiends, this was a given. We have enjoyed many different kinds of coconut desserts but I hadn’t made any real, traditional coconut macaroons. These were fun, and easy to make. Can pouring a can of sweetened condensed milk over a bag of sweetened shredded coconut, and then folding stiffly beaten egg whites, be any easier?! Seriously, if you have the necessary four ingredients, you can pull these together in less than an hour. Now, these babies actually require a chocolate layer. My folks aren’t fans of chocolate (blasphemy, I say!) so I left it out. Either way, these macaroons were exactly what I wanted. They weren’t overly sweet, despite the sweetened coconut and the addition of the sweetened condensed milk, and were amazingly chewy. The slight toasting of the coconut on top provided the perfect caramelized crunch. My Mami loved them, so I bet you will too.
Coconut Macaroons – barely adapted from Food and Wine
Makes about 30-40 cookies, depending on size
- One 14-ounce bag sweetened shredded coconut
- One 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 2 large egg whites
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
- 4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 350°F and line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, combine the coconut with the sweetened condensed milk and vanilla. In another bowl, using an electric mixer, beat the egg whites with the salt until firm peaks form. Fold the beaten whites into the coconut mixture.
- Scoop tablespoon-size mounds of the mixture onto the baking sheets, about 1 inch apart. Bake in the upper and middle thirds of the oven for about 25 minutes, until golden; shift the sheets from top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking. Transfer the baking sheets to racks and let the cookies cool completely.
- If using the chocolate: dip the bottoms of the macaroons into the melted chocolate, letting any excess drip back into the bowl. Return the cookies to the lined baking sheets. Drizzle any remaining chocolate on top and refrigerate for about 5 minutes, until set.
- You should use large egg whites in this recipe, as it’s the standard for baking. I only had extra large eggs and used the two, when I probably could’ve gotten away with one.
- I’m thinking some booze would work well in this recipe, like a splash of brandy or something. Hmm….