Vanilla Coconut Macaroon Kisses

I sometimes wonder if I think about food a little too much.

I've noticed recently that it always seems to be in the back of my mind even when I'm working. I'll be writing an email to one of my coordinators or doing a bit of photo research when I suddenly realize that all along I've been thinking about those quickly ripening bananas in the fruit bowl or contemplating a summery version of osso buco made with white wine and herbs. Thanks to the magic of Gmail chat, my boyfriend and I will usually communicate throughout the day, sending each other interesting news links or contemplating our different lunch options. I also tend to fill him in on these various kitchen plans since he is often, and with increasing frequency, my intended guinea pig.

"I'm thinking of baking cookies tonight," I told him recently.

"Macaroons?" He asked immediately. Though they hadn't originally been my plan (I'd actually been thinking something along the lines of jam-filled linzer cookies like those at Le Madeleine in Washington, DC, where I used to live), I instantly changed my mind and decided to make him the cookies I knew he would like.

These easy-to-bake cookies were ubiquitous in my house growing up, although we knew them by the spanish name--besitos de coco or "coconut kisses"; the perfect treat for your coconut-loving S.O.!

I used a whole vanilla bean in this recipe and the tiny flecks of vanilla really look beautiful against the pure white of the coconut. I like letting these bake until the tips are just slightly toasted and then drizzle half the batch with melted semi-sweet chocolate. This recipe makes quite a bit, so you can save any leftovers in an airtight bag or container. If your significant other is anything like mine, these won't make it through the weekend.


Vanilla-Flecked "Besitos de Coco" (Coconut Macaroons)

These cookies are incredible easy to make--no need to whip the egg whites beforehand. Just mix everything and bake. Parchment paper is the key to keeping these cookies from sticking (and easy clean-up). If you don't have any though, a VERY generous spray of PAM w/flour will also work.

Ingredients
3 egg whites (about 1/2 cup)
1 cup white granulated sugar
1 whole vanilla bean
2 1/2 cups unsweetened dessicated coconut (if you can only find sweetened, reduce the sugar to 3/4 cup)

5 ounces semisweet chocolate

Directions
1. Mix the egg whites, sugar, and coconut in a large bowl.

2. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise down the middle and scrape all the seeds into the bowl. Mix again making sure to evenly distribute the vanilla seeds. You should see tiny specks of black throughout the batter.

3. Using a tablespoon or ice cream scoop, place 12 scoops of batter at a time (evenly spaced) on a baking pan lined with parchment paper; each scoop should be about the size of a golf ball. The batter will be thick and lumpy with little peaks of coconut.

4. Bake for about 12 minutes at 350 degrees or until the tips of the coconut turn golden brown. Let cool completely on the pans, then separate the batch in half.

5. In a microwave, heat the chocolate for 30 seconds at a time until complete melted.

6. Dip a spatula into the melted chocolate and wave over the macaroons about 4 or 5 inches above the tray. Let the chocolate drizzle down in zig-zag patterns and let cool. (You can also dip the cookies one at a time by hand.)

Enjoy!

That New York Times Cookie Recipe


If you like to bake—and your friends all know this—then the odds are high that at least one or two (or perhaps more) of them sent you this link at some point over the past couple weeks with a brief note suggesting that “you should try this!” or maybe even a more brazen “will you make me this?” 

Or perhaps you saw it yourself first, while browsing through the sections and skipping (as I do) everything serious and important and clicking straight through to that all-encompassing most deliciously frivolous of New York Times sections: Style.

The Style section is the New York Times for me. It’s lazy mornings and a cup of tea and maybe a little Louis Armstrong on in the background (because I like things just so).

I like how they pick things apart. I like how they treat the most basic of things (a cookie recipe!) with the same kind of scrutiny usually reserved for much headier topics.

A touch snobby? Perhaps… Self-indulgent? Oh absolutely…and that’s likely why I enjoy it so much.
And so it’s for these reasons that this article and its accompanying recipe caught my eye.

I admit I didn’t follow the directions to the letter (I rarely do). I didn’t have cake flour on hand so I just used regular AP, making sure to subtract two tablespoons from each cup and giving it all an extra sift prior to measuring. Instead of the fancy chocolate discs, I used Baker’s semi-sweet chocolate chunks because they are a) delicious and b) all I could find at the grocery store in my neighborhood. I also used dark brown sugar instead of light and a little pinch of cinnamon just for a little extra something special.
I made three batches of cookies from this recipe:

The first I baked right away and was less than pleased with. The cookies were crunchy throughout and a bit too sweet. My boyfriend and I had one each and tossed the rest.

About 24 hours or so later, I baked a second batch that was significantly better than the first. Though my boyfriend still found them a bit too cloying, I thought the sweetness seemed to have mellowed quite a bit, and was able to pick up on those promised subtle hints of caramel and vanilla. The texture also improved and was a bit chewier.

The third batch was the best by far. I made it the next morning (about 48 hours later) and they were fantastic: chewy throughout with just a hint of crisp at the edges and that incredible toffee flavor the Times kept raving about.

I brought this entire batch into work (OK, minus 2) and my coworkers raved. Our new temp pronounced the cookie the best chocolate chip cookie she’d ever eaten, and my wonderful, albeit slightly OCD co-editor broke her pattern of only eating sweets in pairs to help herself to a third.

Also, in the interest of full disclosure, you should know that this dough is probably the best cookie dough ever. I ate more cookies raw than baked, and like the cookies, it just got better and better as it "aged." I may try an eggless batch to use in a cookie dough ice cream at some point in the future!

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The New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookie Recipe
By Jacques Torres from the NY Times

Ingredients
2 cups minus 2 tablespoons
(8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content (see note)
Sea salt.

Directions
1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.

3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.

4. Scoop 6 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more.

Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.

Yield: 1 1/2 dozen 5-inch cookies.

Is this why they call them BEET-les?

Every week, the company that I work for (or big giant corporation, actually) hosts a pretty fantastic farmer's market in our corporate cafe. I can never resist the produce and usually end up loaded up with brown paper bags full of fragrant bush basil, cute mini-vegetables (baby heirlooms, nugget potatoes, baby romaine), perfectly ripe fruit, and an armful of multi-colored beets (my favorite).

I've got a batch of the lovely, earthy beets roasting in the oven as I type and I have plans for them. Big, sweet, knock-you-off-your-feet plans. You'll have to wait to see,though. But for now, take a look at this cute little fella I found stowed away in my market bag.

It's Better on Top

When I was growing up, I used to love that Fruit on the Bottom yogurt sold in big convenience packs at the grocery store. My mom would buy a few containers of it a week and no sooner had she returned from the store than I would be set with my spoon, ready to push through the watery plain yogurt down into the gloppy "fruit" pooled at the bottom. I wouldn't even bother swirling it as was intended; I was fine with a spoonful or two of the sweet stuff before discarding the mostly full container in the trash (carefully hidden from my parents beneath a sheet of paper towel or two). The berry varieties were my favorite, but as I got older my palate started rejecting those little pots of sugar in favor of slightly more nuanced flavors and textures. Right now, nothing beats a spoonful of thick and tart Greek-strained yogurt. There is no denying, however that sweet berries and yogurt are a fine combination, but it is also one that can be easily put together at home sans the sugary jam (and to far greater results).

This *barely* counts as a recipe and so I won't even pretend to write one, but it's my latest obsession and one I thought worth sharing. Equally delicious as breakfast or dessert, this simple parfait makes great use of that thick, (overpriced) Greek-strained yogurt that seems to be everywhere right now. I'm a fan of the Fage (pronounced Fa-yeh!) brand yogurt, which is creamy and just a little bit tart. I scoop this into a wine glass and top with fresh blackberries, raspberries, unsweetened shredded coconut, and sliced almonds. A sprinkle of vanilla extract (I used my homemade kind--stay-tuned for more on that) and generous drizzles of amber Agave syrup finish off this perfect treat.

Now I've never really been a "fruits are enough for dessert" kind of girl--I tend to be drawn more to the molten-decadent-bruleed-a la mode-with a cherry on top kinds of treats--but this combo is so good that it somehow manages to sate my incorrigible sweet tooth with a kind of edible "there, there now."

And yes, it's good for you too! Thanks to Jamie Lee Curtis, we all already know about the benefits of yogurt in balancing the flora and fauna of the digestive track. The real goody in this treat is the Agave syrup. For those of you who haven't tried it (I'm a super recent convert still in possession of my first bottle), it tastes like a sweet cross between honey and maple syrup. It's slightly less viscose than honey and blends easily with liquids (even cold ones!). Though lacking the depth of raw honey, the sweetness and texture is great. And the best part (for those of you who, like me, are prone to finicky blood-sugar levels) is that the high-fructose content keep it a low-GI sweetener; so no blood sugar spikes and crashes to worry about.

I encourage you to give this combo a shot, or go ahead and try the yogurt with other fruits or berries, (and maybe toss in some ground flax seeds for added fiber). You'll never go back to those supermarket convenience packs again!

xoxo

A

P.S. I got a new camera. Can you tell?

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