Friday, November 14, 2014

Hungry Girl Learns to Love Fruitcake and Coconut

A day of skiing 35 years ago left me starving and willing to eat anything put before me. It happened to be fruitcake, something I had avoided my whole life. I took one bite and then basically scarfted down the entire cake. It tasted wonderful. That winter, I learned how to bake my own fruitcake and have been doing so every Christmas season since.

On our recent trip up the east coast I learned to love coconut. Once again, it happened because I was so very hungry. Ed and I had stopped at a bakery just outside of Acadia National Park in far northern Maine. (Ed doesn't like to go anywhere without a stash of scones and cookies.) As I had come to expect, there was nothing that I could eat (i.e., gluten-free) except for coconut macaroons. Ed bought one, fully intending to enjoy it as he knows I don't like coconut.

Fast forward a few hours. We had hiked, set up our tent, and worked up an appetite. It was late afternoon, time for a little snack. Ed pulled his macaroon out of the white paper sack and broke off a piece for me to try. I took one bite and fell in love with it. While he looked the other way, I ate the other 3/4 of the lone macaroon. For the rest of the trip, I thought about that macaroon and how delicious it was – big, fluffy, moist, sweet, and slightly crunchy on the outside.

Since we returned from our trip, I've been on a quest to recreate that lovely macaroon. I think I've nailed it. I've made three batches this week. One for my Dad's Open House. One for cousin Tom. And one for me.

I've slightly adapted a recipe from Barefoot Contessa Ina Garten. (My adaptations are noted in italic.) I've added the zest of one lemon to cut the sweetness a bit. I use my 2.25" ice-cream scoop to form the half balls, which makes them quite large. With that size scoop, this recipe only makes 12 macaroons. I'm planning to purchase a slightly smaller scoop.


Coconut Macaroons

14 ounces sweetened shredded coconut
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 lemon zest, finely grated
2 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

Combine the coconut, condensed milk, and vanilla in a large bowl. Whip the egg whites and salt on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until they make medium-firm peaks. Carefully fold the egg whites into the coconut mixture.

Refrigerate the mixture for at least 30 minutes (up to overnight).  

Drop the batter onto sheet pans lined with parchment paper using an ice cream scoop.  Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown. If you would like the coconut on the outside to be a bit more toasted, you can switch your oven to broil for one minute. Watch closely!

Cool and serve. These are best served the day they are baked, but I have frozen them and they hold up well.

My dad moved into a new apartment two weeks ago.
On Tuesday afternoon, we hosted an Open House for his friends to come see his new digs.
The coconut macaroons were a big hit.

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