9/26/08

Coconut Macaroons. Oh, Mother of Science, what'll they think of next?

Okay, so how many of you knew coconut was so incredibly healthy? Let's see a show of hands. One . . . two?
Apparently this tropical wonder is highly valued for its amazing healing powers. Why, coconut water alone (which I drink like a lonely sailor on leave), provides our bodies with antioxidants, and it's loaded with vitamins and minerals. And, studies have confirmed coconut's use in treating some of the following conditions: Nausea, Ulcers, Baldness (would I make this up? ;-), jaundice, sore throat, skin infections, and the list goes on.
Which brings me to the health benefits of these Coconut Macaroons. Are there any?

Well, no.

But, if you're a coconut head like me, and happen to be in the mood for a real treat, then these, lighter-than-air macaroons will (temporarily) fix whatever ails you. These macaroons are not like the ones most of us grew up with. Remember those? Made with sweetened condensed milk and sweetened shredded coconut. Truth is, I still like those cloyingly-sweet delicacies. But these, I shamelessly confess, are quite a bit better.

The following technique combines unsweetened coconut folded into an Italian meringue, resulting in the lightest little puffs of coconut, which will instantly dissolve in your mouth, causing your eyes to roll into the back of your head.

You may be tempted to enhance the meringue by adding flavorings, and extracts, but resist the temptation. These innocent looking clouds pack a wallop of coconut flavor with very few ingredients.



Coconut Macaroons

1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup water
3 large egg whites at room temperature
3 cups (8 ounces) finely grated, unsweetened (desiccated) coconut

Special equipment: a standing electric mixer, a candy thermometer

Preheat oven to 325°F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

Cook sugar and water in a small heavy saucepan over low heat, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Boil syrup, without stirring, until it reaches soft-ball stage (or registers 238°F on a candy thermometer). While syrup boils, beat whites in standing mixer on low speed until stiff peaks form.

Gradually pour hot syrup in a thin stream down the side of the bowl into the whites, beating constantly on high speed (be careful not to let syrup touch beaters when pouring, or it will spatter and harden). Continue beating until meringue is room temperature. It will resemble a very thick, marshmallow creme. Stir in coconut. The following may be too intense for some viewers ;-)

But, seriously, don't you just want to dive right in and roll in it? Yeah, me neither.



Put mixture in a large pastry bag, with a large, round pastry tip * (I used a 1A tip). And pipe mixture onto prepared baking sheets.



Bake macaroons 1 sheet at a time, in middle of oven for 12 minutes, or until just firm enough to be removed from the baking sheet without losing their shape. But try not to let them take on color.
Carefully transfer to a rack to cool. Macaroons are fragile when they emerge from the oven, but will set as they cool.
Recipe adapted from a 2000 issue of Bon Appetít. This is why I won't part with some of those old magazines, and don't even think you can make me.

*Note: If you don't have a pastry tip, don't fret. You could also drop these from a rounded tablespoon, and -with slightly damp fingers- shape them into cones or pyramids. Or, make mini pavlovas, and top them off with any fresh fruit in season, or sorbets. I topped mine with Papaya/Mango Sorbet . . . but, Coconut Ice Cream would be fantastic. OMG. WHY do I always have these AH-HAH moments after the fact?