Coconut Popsicles

It has gotten too hot to bake. I never thought I’d type those words! I mean, even in this sweltering heat, I am still planning on firing up the oven at least once a week. It’s still too hot to bake but I’m still planning on it! As a sort of apology to my folks for the extra heat, I made popsicles.

We already know about my family’s love for coconut, so this flavor was a no brainer. Another reason why I chose coconut? I’m supposed to be in the Dominican Republic right now and I really miss it. My family and I used to go every two years for a whole month. The last time we went was July 2012, so technically we should be there right now. Things have changed so much that it wasn’t possible this year. It breaks my heart that I wasn’t able to go, and to keep up with tradition (because y’all already know how I am about that) but I will return one day.

As I mentioned in previous coconut themed posts, we get to eat a lot of them during our stays in D.R. It’s one of the top five things I love to do when I’m there, besides actually being there. When we’re not eating fresh coconut or drinking its water, we like buying popsicles. If you think New York City summers are hot, you are wrong. Summers in D.R. are at least five times hotter. It sounds strange but I swear the sun over there is closer than it is here in the city. It gets so hot and humid during the day but the advantage is that it cools down at night; unlike nights in NYC.

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In that humid heat, a popsicle is like a godsend. We don’t make them ourselves because the electricity over there is so ridiculously unstable. Instead, we buy them off fellow Dominicans who are trying to make an honest living. Any flavor popsicle is refreshing in that heat but the popular flavor is obviously coconut. I tried my best to recreate the fresh flavors we’re used to when we go visit my mom’s house but it wasn’t exactly easy. I don’t have access to fresh coconut to make my own shreddies or coconut milk but the canned stuff seemed to work just fine. I don’t know if you have noticed but popsicles are ridiculously hard to photograph! I haven’t figured out how to make them photogenic or how to capture that essence behind a pop, and am planning on figuring it out. Until then, enjoy these gifs of the process!

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My parents and I were pleased with these pops. I’m just not sure if they liked them because they were refreshing or because of the taste! These popsicles are super creamy and slightly sweet. The specks of shredded coconut are a lovely textural surprise; adding to that coconut flavor. The pops took me back for a quick second to two summers ago; when we’d sit with my cousins, neighbors, and my grampa on the front porch to eat popsicles. It’s that moment of silence when everyone is just savoring the ice cream and kind of forgets about the fact that they’re melting (both the person and the pop) that I miss so much; that second where everyone is collectively together enjoying a moment of refreshment. I miss my vacation for sure but at least I can have a small piece of it here.

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Coconut Popsicles – adapted from PureWow

Makes 6-8 popsicles

  • 1 cup of milk
  • 1/2 cup of sugar
  • 3 cups of coconut milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 teaspoons rum (optional)
  • 1/2 cup finely shredded coconut

Directions:

  1. In a medium pot over medium heat, bring the milk and sugar to a simmer, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
  2. Transfer the mixture to a medium bowl and cool slightly. Stir in the coconut milk, vanilla, rum and shredded coconut.
  3. Carefully pour the mixture into ice-pop molds. Press sticks into the center of the pops and freeze until solid, 3 to 4 hours (overnight is best).

Lucy’s Tips:

  • Use your food processor to finely shred the coconut before stirring into the milk for these pops
  • The original recipe calls for coconut water instead of regular milk
  • Amp up the coconut flavor by using a super small amount of coconut extract; a little bit goes a long way!
  • Run the popsicle mold under cold water for a few seconds before attempting to remove from the mold

 

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Coconut Lime Scones

Summer has entered the building. I don’t know, I feel like we skipped a season. Spring was barely here, with all these weird cold fronts that happened when we were supposed to have cool weather. It’s like it went from winter to summer without any notice! While I can’t get spring back, might as well revel in the summer.

To me, summer equals refreshment. Not so much with the weather but with food. It’s the best time to enjoy seasonal offerings like fresh fruits and vegetables when they’re in their prime. While I patiently wait for my seasonal farmer’s market to come back for the season, I thought about making some scones.

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Normal people usually avoid turning on their ovens during the summer. I am (apparently) not normal. I love scones, and more in the summer. I got my first taste of scones at my local farmer’s market. One of the little booths is from a bakery, and they have a ton of freshly baked goods. Anything from fresh bread, muffins, and cookies, to fresh honey and jam. My sister and I used to get their giant peanut butter cookies, courtesy of my mom when she used to do the shopping. When my sister and I started going, we decided to try all the other things up for sale.

One of the first things we tried were her pumpkin scones. They were moist, flaky, and warm. It was weird having a fall offering in the middle of a sweltering July but it was so good! It had that essential scone taste. It’s weird to describe but good scones have this like, signature taste. It’s the one thing that identifies a good scone from a biscuit (because you knew scones and biscuits were related, right?) I spent quite a bit of time trying to figure out what the hell was the product of that ~taste~ and realized the common denominators in scone recipes: cream and butter.

The key to scones (and biscuits) is cold cream and butter. Super simple and super essential. Both of these fats need to be cold when incorporating because they’ll help create those flaky and delicious layers found in scones (and biscuits). Once I figured that out, I thought about what different kinds of flavors I can stuff in a basic recipe. Like a sign from the food blogger heavens, Deb (from Smitten Kitchen) posted this the other day. And just like that, I was making coconut lime scones.

Coconut and lime go SO WELL together. Like, you have no idea. Bonus if the coconut is toasted. Now, think about those flavors; enveloped in a neat package filled with butter and heavy cream, and iced with a coconut lime glaze. Close your eyes and imagine the flaky and buttery layers, hiding a tropical paradise in every bite. Can you taste the vacation in your mouth? Because that was me with these scones. The tart and nutty flavors of this scone made up for the fact that I actually had to turn on my oven to make them. While they may work better with a cup of coffee or something, I would not have minded a lovely cocktail to go with them (piña colada anyone?) I totally won’t judge you if you do 😉

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Coconut Lime Scones – adapted from King Arthur Flour

Makes about 16 scones

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup whole wheat flour
  • 1/3 cup sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) cold, unsalted butter
  • 2 cups shredded sweetened coconut, toasted
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons lime zest
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons freshly squeezed lime juice
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3/4 cup cold heavy cream

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 375°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment.  In a large mixing bowl, whisk together all the dry ingredients. Cut in the butter just until the mixture is unevenly crumbly; it’s OK for some larger chunks of butter to remain unincorporated. Stir in the cooled toasted coconut.
  2. In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, lime zest and juice, vanilla, and cream. Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients and stir until all is moistened and holds together.
  3. Using a muffin scoop or a large spoon, scoop mounds of dough onto the prepped baking sheets. Bake the scones 25-30 minutes, or until lightly browned. Remove them from the oven and let them sit for 4 to 5 minutes to firm before removing them from the pan. Glaze, if desired, once completely cooled.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • Freeze the stick of butter for a couple hours and shred it into the dry ingredients. Super nifty tip that helps keep the butter super cold and requires less handiwork. 
  • For the glaze, I mixed about 1/2 cup of powdered sugar, freshly squeezed lime juice, a touch of heavy cream, about 1/8 teaspoon vanilla extract and three drops of coconut extract. It made enough to glaze about six scones. 
  • If the dough seems too wet or soft, freeze the scooped scones for about 10 minutes before baking; helps them keep their composure and aids in making them super flaky. 

Strawberry Shortcake

My mom is the main reason I got in the kitchen. Since I was a little girl, there was always a permanent seat in the kitchen for me. At first, I would just watch her do her thing. To me, it was magical. I’d ask for a kitchen set for Christmas almost every year, just so I can pretend to cook like her. I grew up hearing the praises of everyone around me because my mom is that much of a fantastic cook. As a teen, I started to help her make dinner; chopping onions and peppers, stirring pots, all while laughing and chatting with her about anything. After my sister and I grew up, she started working as a cook in a deli. We were fortunate to have our mom at home when we were kids, but times got hard and she decided to make money doing what she loved most. Even then, we’d hear customers regularly praising her cooking. Now that my mom is no longer cooking for work, we get together in the kitchen several times a week and pick up where we left off. I hate to brag, but she really is an awesome cook. I can eat the exact same thing made by someone else and it’ll never taste the same. In fact, I’m so picky about home cooking that I rarely eat anyone else’s. It’s just that good! I know kids are supposed to say their mother’s cooking is superior, but I am not lying when I tell you my mom’s is the best.

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She is the quintessential Dominican cook. If you’ve seen my Thanksgiving and Christmas posts, you’d know what I was talking about. Her sazón is like no one else’s; often imitated but never duplicated. Everyone asks my mom how she cooks such good food and all she does is smile. Sitting in the kitchen with my mom all these years, I witnessed her magic and the secret behind her amazing food. It’s simple (and ridiculously cliché) but it’s just love. My mom is passionate about cooking and pours tons of love into every little thing she makes. You can hear her humming, or even singing while she stirs a pot or chops veggies and herbs. It’s in there and you can feel it. She is truly her happiest in the kitchen, making food for the people she loves. Even when she did it for work, she’d sing and laugh and smile.

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That passion and energy is what pushed me into the kitchen. I look up to my mom a lot because not only is she a fantastic cook, but she’s an amazing person. I know, everyone says that about their moms but she really is. She’s my number one cheerleader in life, and has always given me all of her support and love. She’s more than just my mom; she’s my friend, too. We talk about absolutely everything and even give each other advice. Granted, I don’t have much life experience but I like to believe I can be wise sometimes! I’m her shoulder to cry on just like she’s mine. She taught me how to be strong, loving, caring, and thoughtful. I’m not even sure that she knows how much she’s taught me or how much I value what she says.

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Every year, I try to make Mother’s day extra special. I show my mom how much I love her on a daily basis but on days like these, I like to put in a little extra. This year, we were a little tight budgeted so we settled on just me baking her something. I decided on a strawberry shortcake because I had been dying to try my hand at a chiffon cake. The strawberries were perfect, so I went ahead with it. Unfortunately, my oven is still on an angle, so one of my layers came out really lopsided. I messed up royally attempting to even it out so I can tort it into two layers. I did my best to remedy it with the cream and strawberries but it ended up not looking too presentable. I almost didn’t even want to post it! I actually apologized to my mom for its appearance and she just smiled at me and said “it’s the thought that really counts.” I told her that I knew that, and internally rolled my eyes because it’s so cliché but accepted it and realized that was the point. Her whole deal is doing things with love, which is what I aim to do when baking. I made this cake with a ton of love and excitement, and she knew that. This alone was enough of a gift for my mom and I’m glad I was able to give that to her.

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Despite its not so good looks, the cake came out fantastic. The chiffon cake was super light and fluffy. The strawberries went perfect with the coconut whip, against the fluffy and slightly lemony cake. My mom loved it, as well as the rest of my family.

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I’m grateful to have my mommy because without her, I don’t know what I would be doing these days. I’m thankful for her endless support and hope that I can continue to be there for her, like she is for me. Because of her, I will continue to bake with love and happiness and hope that I can make her proud.

Strawberry Chiffon Shortcake – adapted from Smitten Kitchen

Makes 2 9″ round cakes

  • 2 1/4 cups sifted cake flour
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup cold water
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon lemon zest
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5 large egg yolks at room temperature
  • 8 large egg whites at room temperature
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

Coconut Whipped Cream

  • 2 (13.5oz) cans full fat coconut milk, refrigerated at least overnight
  • 1/4-1/3 cup powdered sugar, sifted
  • 1/2 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

Cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom of two 9″ round cake pans with lightly greased parchment paper. Leave the rest of the pans ungreased.

  2. In a large bowl, sift the flour, 1 1/4 cups sugar, baking powder and salt together twice.

  3. In a another bowl, beat the yolks, water, oil, zest and vanilla on high speed until smooth. Stir into the flour mixture until smooth.

  4. In another large bowl, or the bowl of your stand mixer, beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar until soft peaks are formed. Add the remaining 1/4 cup sugar, and beat on high speed until the peaks are stiff but not dry.

  5. Using a rubber spatula, gently  fold one-quarter of the egg whites into the egg yolk mixture. Gently fold in the remaining whites until the egg whites are no longer visible. Do not overmix, as it’ll deflate the whites and result in a shorter, tougher cake.

  6. Pour the batter into the two prepared pans and spread evenly. Bake them until the top springs back when lightly pressed and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean 40 to 50 minutes Please check your cake every five minutes or so from the 30 minute mark on for doneness. Do not overbake!

  7. Let cakes cool on a cooling rack for at least an hour in the pans on a wire rack. When completely cool, run a knife around the sides to release, then flip out onto a plate (or your hand) and then another plate.

Coconut Whipped Cream:

  1. Open both cans of coconut milk. The cream should’ve solidified and risen to the top. Scoop out the cream into a bowl. If there is any liquid at the bottom of the can, discard it.
  2. Using an electric mixer, whip the coconut cream for 2-3 minutes or until it reaches soft peaks. Sift in the powdered sugar and cornstarch, and add the vanilla. Continue whipping until the sugar, cornstarch and vanilla are incorporated.

Assembly:

  • 2 pints of strawberries, hulled and sliced
  1. You can make this a two layer cake but if you’re feeling lucky, tort both of the cakes into four separate layers. If you have a cake cutter, now would be a good time to use it. If not, grab a ruler and several toothpicks. Measure your cake’s height, marking the halfway point with a toothpick. Rotate the cake, continuing to mark the halfway point with a toothpick all around. Use as many toothpicks as you need, just make sure they are consistent all around the cake. Using a serrated knife, gently saw through the middle of the cake, using the toothpicks as a rest/guide. Once split, remove the toothpicks. Repeat with the other cake.
  2. Place one of the four layers on your cake plate or platter. Spoon on about a quarter of your cream, and gently spread it evenly to the edges. Take care not to go over! Arrange a quarter of the sliced strawberries atop the cream. Repeat with the rest of the layers. Refrigerate if desired.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • The floss trick won’t work here! Use the serrated knife
  • When halving the cakes, try to keep your wrists straight to prevent slanted cuts on the layers
  • You can omit the cornstarch in the coconut whip; I only added it for stability and so it wouldn’t solidify in the fridge
  • Alternatively, you can use regular whipped cream; just sub 2 cups of heavy cream for the coconut milk
  • To get the milk to solidify, the cans need to be refrigerated at least overnight. I like to keep mine in there for several days before use; just as security so I’ll know it’ll be solid. You may get lucky (depending on the brand) and have the entire can solidify without any remaining liquid. 

 

Cinnamon Raisin Coconut Bread Pudding

A large bag of sliced white bread recently came into my possession, and I didn’t really know what to do with it. In my house, we eat homemade whole wheat bread (~special snowflake alert~) because it doesn’t make my head hurt, and because it’s easy to make. We stopped buying bread months ago, so eating a slice of processed white bread (or anything highly processed, really) brings an unwanted sugar shock to my body. Since I didn’t want the loaf to go to waste anyway, I decided to make something with it.

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I have never made bread pudding before. It has been on my list for quite a while but I never got around to actually making it. I feel like a bread pudding made with whole wheat bread would be really weird, so that’s why it was still on my list. I’ve always dreamed of eating a challah bread pudding, but that’ll probably be another time. Anyway, with this bag of white bread in hand, I finally took the plunge.

Bread pudding is basically a custard. It actually reminds me of baked French toast; which could probably be a loosely based version of this depending on who you ask. I reckon if you leave the slices whole, it’d be a baked French toast. So, this custard. I am actually really familiar with custards; thanks to my mom, the flan queen. This custard isn’t exactly like my mami’s flan but they are similar. It’s egg and milk based; the two main ingredients in custard. Granted, my mami’s flan has a higher ratio of eggs and milk, but I think I’ll discuss that at a later time 😉

Anyway, this bread pudding is kind of another version of my blondies because I threw a bunch of random things in here that I had lying around my cupboard. I had some coconut milk left over from some caramel sauce, sweetened shredded coconut from a batch of cookies, raisins left over from my breakfasts, and of course the star of the show: the white bread. Technically, you’re supposed to use day old bread but considering we were keeping this loaf in the fridge, I used it as is. I also threw in some cognac because booze makes everything better (and because I ran out of vanilla and wanted some extra flavor in there). I did get a little heavy handed with it, though. Oops! I topped it with some turbinado sugar for crunch before baking and before I knew it, I had bread pudding.

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I gotta be honest. Another one of the reasons I kept putting off making bread pudding was because of something else. One of my neighbors loves bread pudding, so she tried making one. Her final result was a thick and gray blob that had nuggets of dry white bread. How the bread was still dry in there is beyond me, but it turned me off the stuff forever. I was terrified that this bread pudding was going to end up tasting like a regular slice of dry white bread. Thankfully, it didn’t! It was actually kind of amazing. The bread was completely soaked in this boozy and spicy custard; its insides were soft and moist, each bite melting in your mouth. There was a hint of crunch with every bite, thanks to the turbinado sugar topping and toasted coconut shreds. The raisins plumped up, adding some chewiness against the softness of the custardy and crunchy bread pudding.

It was so good; I ate it warm, room temperature, and cold from the fridge! It was delicious every single time. I still got the sugar shock from the bread (and the sugar) but it was so worth it, I’d eat it again in a heartbeat; despite the consequences. I’m glad I actually made this because it really got my gears going. There are so many different variations that I want to try, including a challah bread pudding. I’ll just try and remember to go easy on the alcohol next time 😉

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Cinnamon Raisin Coconut Bread Pudding – adapted from allrecipes.com

Makes one 9″ round pan, or 8×8″ square pan

  • 9 slices of white bread, cubed (crusts included)
  • 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup raisins
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups of coconut milk
  • 1/2 cup of brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup white sugar
  • 2-3 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/2 tablespoon rum (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup sweetened shredded coconut, divided
  • 1-2 tablespoons turbinado sugar, for topping (optional)

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Cube or break bread into small pieces and place in an 8×8 inch square baking pan (or 9 inch round pan). Drizzle the melted butter over bread, and sprinkle with the raisins and half of the shredded coconut.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine eggs, coconut milk, sugar, cinnamon, vanilla, and rum if using. Beat until well mixed. Pour over bread, and lightly press down with a fork/spoon/spatula until bread is covered and soaking up the egg mixture. Sprinkle the remaining coconut and turbinado sugar.
  3. Bake in the preheated oven for 45 minutes, or until the top springs back when lightly tapped. Cool slightly before serving.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • If you’d like a thicker custard, sub one of the whole eggs for one egg yolk. 
  • It took every ounce of my being to not throw chocolate chunks in here. Use whatever toppings you’d like or have on hand; it’s bound to be delicious anyway!
  • If you have a crust aversion, cut them off the slices of bread before cubing. 
  • You can also use milk, half and half, or heavy cream in place of the coconut milk. 

Homemade Samoas

Tis the season — for Girl Scout cookies! It’s that time of year again; when adorable little girls peddle their green boxes of awesome, in exchange for some cash for their troop. Many of you probably grew up with these cookies, or were even a Girl Scout! I did not.

I was born and raised in New York City, in a neighborhood all the way uptown. The Girl Scouts were something I only heard about on TV. I almost thought they were just some made up thing that didn’t exist, as I had never seen a Scout in real life. When I was in high school, I became aware of their existence through teachers, friends and the Internet. All everyone ever mentioned about the Girl Scouts were the cookies; the Thin Mints in particular. The way people talked about Thin Mints, I thought they were the only cookie they sold. After a little bit of my own research; because really, when someone mentions cookies or any kind of popular sweet treat, I NEED TO KNOW MORE. Anyway, I found that there were several different kinds and flavors of cookies. All of them sounded absolutely delicious, but sadness set in when I realized that there were never any being sold near me.

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I didn’t get to taste a Girl Scout cookie until a couple of years ago. One of my mom’s friends somehow got a box of Samoas (or Caramel deLites) and offered us some. OH MY GOD, it was amazing. That was the first and last time I had a Girl Scout cookie. Sad, right? Well, no. I kept hearing about the cookies year after year but it never occurred to me that I could possibly make them myself. I saw a few knock offs online, and just decided to take the plunge. The only caveat was that I had to figure out how to make the cookie as close to dairy free as I possibly could.

I used this recipe as a guide. The shortbread cookie recipe was fantastically easy, so I didn’t change that. The caramel/coconut topping in the recipe was semi-homemade; using packaged caramels. I looked online for a homemade, dairy free replacement and just decided to sub the coconut milk for the heavy cream. This was both a good and bad idea. It was the first time I attempted that caramel candy recipe, as well as a coconut caramel so I had no idea what to expect or if it was even going to turn out. Despite the uncertainty, I think they came out pretty well.

The shortbread was really simple and easy. The dough comes together in a flash, and is easy to roll out; so long as it’s not too soft! The cookies held their shape pretty well after baking and didn’t crumble under the coconut caramel’s pressure. I used a biscuit cutter and the plastic cap off the soy milk container to make my cookies into the doughnut shape. It was fairly easy but a doughnut cutter is even easier if you own one. Once all the cookies were done, I moved on to the caramel.

For the caramel recipe, I went to TheKitchn. I’ve made caramel sauce before but since I needed a chewier consistency that held its shape; I had to get a new recipe. I followed it pretty much verbatim, except that I used full fat coconut milk in place of the heavy cream. Everything was going fabulously until I poured the caramel into a bowl. There was an oily film that rested on the caramel’s surface. I had heard of separation but I thought I’d get lucky. I didn’t but because I didn’t want to waste any ingredients, I tipped the bowl and got rid of the excess oil. It sounds gross but the caramel itself was still tasty!

After that was ready, my sister and I assembled the cookies. I got more cookie bases than anticipated, so I left a few without any topping. My parents were pleased. After topping with coconut, we dipped a few in melted semisweet chocolate, and used the rest of the chocolate for the drizzle. Despite the fact that I forgot to toast the coconut, these cookies came out tasting amazing. The coconut flavor in the caramel gives that deep nutty taste. The cookie wasn’t overwhelmingly sweet and didn’t interfere with the coconut caramel. All together, the cookie is a crispy, chewy and extra coconutty. They may not look like the real Samoas but they are still fantastic. Even though there still aren’t any Girl Scouts near me, it’s good to know that I can still enjoy the season (and the cookies) at home!

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Homemade Samoas – adapted from Just a Taste

Makes about 40 2-1/2″ cookies

For the cookies:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 Tablespoons milk
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Directions:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350ºF. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, or a medium sized bowl with a hand mixer; cream together the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.
  2. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt. In three increments, add the flour mixture to the creamed butter, mixing between each addition and scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Add the milk and vanilla extract, blending until combined and the dough begins to come together in large pieces.
  3. Use your hands to divide the dough in half, pressing it together to compact it into two disks. Wrap the disks securely in plastic wrap and refrigerate them until firm, about 1 hour.
  4. Once the dough has chilled, roll each disk out onto a lightly floured surface until it is 1/8-inch thick. Cut out as many cookies as possible using doughnut-shaped cookie cutter, or a circular cookie/biscuit cutter and a smaller cookie cutter (or the plastic cap off a carton of milk). Place the cut-out cookies on a Silpat or parchment paper-lined baking sheet and repeat with remaining dough.
  5. Bake the cookies for 10 to 12 minutes, rotating the baking sheet half-way through, until the cookies are pale golden brown. Transfer the cookies to a wire wrack to cool completely.

Coconut Caramel Topping – adapted from TheKitchn

  • 1 1/3 cup full fat coconut milk
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 1/2 cup white granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 3 cups shredded coconut, toasted

Directions:

  1. Melt the butter in the coconut milk. Over medium heat, warm the cream, butter, and salt in the 2-quart saucepan until the butter melts. Remove from heat, but keep the pan close by. Make sure your coconut is toasted and set aside before you begin. NO MULTITASKING.
  2. Combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water. In the larger 4-quart saucepan, combine the sugar, corn syrup, and water. Stir until the sugar is evenly moistened and you form a thick grainy paste. Wipe down the sides of the pan with a damp pastry brush so there are no sugar crystals above the surface of the sugar mixture. Clip the instant-read thermometer to the side of the pan so that the heat sensor is immersed in the sugar. Do not stir the sugar after this point.
  3. Cook the sugar syrup. Place the pot with the sugar mixture over medium to medium-high heat. Let the sugar syrup come to a boil without stirring. At first, you will see small bubbles around the edge of the pan, which will eventually move inward. Around 250°F, the sugar syrup will turn transparent and boil rapidly. Around 320°F, the syrup will darken slightly and smell caramel-like. You can proceed to the next step any time after the syrup reaches 250°F and before it reaches 325°F.
  4. Whisk in the cream and butter (WEAR AN OVEN MITT WHILE STIRRING! The steam is REALLY hot). Turn off the heat under the sugar syrup. Slowly pour the warm cream and butter mixture into the sugar syrup while whisking the sugar syrup gently. The sugar syrup will bubble up and triple in size. Stop whisking once all the milk and butter mixture has been added.
  5. Heat the caramel to 245°F – 250°F. Return the pan to medium to medium-high heat. Let the caramel come to a boil without stirring. It will start off as a soft buttery yellow and eventually darken to reddish-brown caramel. Remove from heat when the caramel reaches 245°F to 250°F.
  6. Quickly whisk the vanilla into the caramel. Pour the caramel over the coconut and stir until coconut is completely coated.

Assembling the Samoas:

  • about 8oz dark or semisweet chocolate, melted
  1. Melt the chocolate over a double boiler. Set aside.
  2. Carefully spread on a small amount of the coconut caramel on each cookie, taking care not to press down too hard onto the cookie. Continue until all the cookies are topped or until you run out of coconut caramel. If caramel is getting too hard to spread, you can try to reheat it a bit in the microwave to soften.
  3. Let set for about 15 minutes; the caramel should begin to harden pretty quickly.  Dip each cookie bottom into the melted chocolate; scrape off some of the excess if desired. Place dipped cookies onto a baking sheet lined with wax paper. Repeat with all of the cookies.
  4. Drizzle the remaining chocolate over the cookies in a striped pattern. Original samoas have equally spaced and organized stripes. Feel free to freestyle your drizzle!
  5. Place in the fridge for 30-60 minutes, or until chocolate is set. Alternatively, you can leave them out to set at room temperature. To store the cookies, I’d recommend placing them in an airtight container at room temperature. You can also store them in the fridge but make sure they sit out for a couple minutes to soften before eating!

Lucy’s Tips:

  • For a detailed explanation on how to make the caramel (with pictures!), please visit TheKitchn by clicking the link above. 
  • If you don’t have a lactose intolerant family member, use the packaged caramels or make the caramel using heavy cream. 
  • I also added 1/3 more coconut milk than the recipe asked for because I wanted the caramel to be soft and chewy instead of firm, like the original recipe describes. Up to 1/2 cup more cream/milk can be added to the caramel (1 1/2 cups of liquid total) but any more and it’ll become a caramel sauce. Not what you’re aiming for!
  • Just to reiterate, please wear an oven mitt to stir in the milk (or cream) into the sugar syrup. The steam that comes off of the pot is ridiculously hot and you may burn yourself. PLEASE BE CAREFUL!
  • I made over 40 cookies using a 2 1/2″ biscuit cutter. Sizes obviously vary, depending on the size of your cutter. 
  • USE WAX PAPER! For the love of God, use wax paper. I only had parchment and a few of the ones I dipped in chocolate got stuck to the parchment. When I finally lifted the cookie, almost all the chocolate stayed on the paper. 
  • Also, don’t forget to toast the darn coconut. 

Coconut Macaroons

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.

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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.

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Coconut Macaroons – barely adapted from Food and Wine

Makes about 30-40 cookies, depending on size

Ingredients

  • 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)

Directions:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.

Lucy’s Tips:

  • 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….