chocolate macaroons

June 13, 2008


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There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle. -Al E.

These evolved as the center of a ball of time. My evening of baking was like recreating the Earth in edible layers: at the inner core were the double chocolate chip cookies that were to be the base of a chocolate piecrust, the outer core. Surrounding that, the lower mantle, made of chocolate piecrust and strawberries with orange-zested compote. Around those, the lemon squares–the upper mantle. And atop the upper mantle: none other than coconut shavings and Dutch cocoa powder in the form of macaroons.

Between waiting for the strawberry pie to cool and waiting for the lemon bars to cook, I was once again bored and thumb twiddling. But I had noted a bag of coconut shavings in the pantry slouching next to a can of fancy Dutch cocoa powder. It practically shouted “gebruiken mij”so I decided to make its dreams come true.

I had everything I needed for a batch of chocolate macaroons—except condensed milk. But when would these coconut shavings ever get put to use if I didn' t deal with them myself? It was a glaring opportunity at culinary heroism. I needed to give this coconut a home. So I went around the corner and bought myself some condensed milk and two disposable baking pans.

I' d never made macaroons before, but knew a little something about what they entail. Making them with no recipe would be a great experiment: and if it flopped, I' d reimburse my hostess for the ingredients. If not, I' d have yet another dessert to offer.

I mixed an entire bag of sweet, shaved coconut with a can of sweetened and condensed milk in a big bowl. To that I added ¾ c of cocoa powder and a pinch of salt. I mixed the ingredients thoroughly and rolled them into balls, (which left lots of sweet residue inside the hollows of my palms) placing them on a foil-lined, heavily greased baking sheet.

I cooked them for about 10 minutes, and watched in horror as the baking pan began to fill with chocolate liquid. After another 10 minutes had passed, all that was left were little tufts of coconut rising out of great pools of sweet, coconut and chocolate milk. I left them in the oven for another 20 minutes to see if they might reabsorb the liquid. I was hoping for a miracle.

Once the coconut tops were browned, (which was a subtle change, since they were already deeply infused with chocolate hues) and withstood my poking index finger, I pulled them out and began to remold the pools of milk chocolate into each macaroon. At first, I gathered the liquid with a teaspoon, but once the cookies had cooled a bit, I used my hands instead, pressing the hardening milk crust down into the bottom of each cookie.

A miracle! The bottoms actually held together and the melted crust became a crystallized base that suited the otherwise chewy and somewhat soft desserts. By the time they had finished cooling and hardening, my lemon squares and strawberry pie with chocolate crust were also finished. And though I had intended to make crème fraîche to accompany the pie, a slice of lemon bar and a macaroon were perfectly acceptable garnishes. Big bang in my mouth.

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