Coconut Macaroons

Hola from Guatemala! Yes, you heard (or rather read) correctly, Guatemala. I made it to Antigua, Guatemala Saturday after over twenty five hours on a bus. I won’t bore you with the story of my arduous bus ride, but I will say it involved a broken air conditioner. Can you imagine taking a bus across Central America without air conditioning? Well, some of us – and by some of us I mean me – don’t have to.

I wish I could share all my stories – the good ones, the bad ones, the hilarious ones, the ones only I’ll think are hilarious – with all of you. That would involve thousands of paragraphs and countless hours of typing. We all know you don’t want to read that and we all know I have better things to do, like haggle in the market and climb volcanoes, than write that much. So for now, instead of sharing my stories, I’ll share these macaroons I made in honor of Passover two and a half(ish) weeks ago. Macaroons made in the United States for a Jewish holiday being written about in Guatemala. Talk about globalization.

Prepared with coconut flakes instead of shredded coconut, these Alice Medrich developed macaroons are far from your typically macaroon. (I have yet to pick up one of Alice Medrich’s books. I hear they’re fabulous though. Cooking from one of them is on the top of my to do list when I get home!) They strike a harmonious balance between chewy and crispy. I coated mine in chocolate but can’t wait to try the lime and cinammon variation below. I have a story about limes and mosquito bites and Spaniards. I’ll tell you about that later though. For now, hit the kitchen!

Coconut Macaroons

from Alice Medrich via Food52

Makes about 22 cookies

4 large egg whites

3 1/2 cups unsweetened dried flaked, not shredded, coconut (also known as coconut chips) or 3 cups sweetened, dried shredded coconut

3/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (available kosher for Passover, or can be omitted)

Slightly rounded 1/4 teaspoon salt

Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.

Combine all of the ingredients in a large heatproof mixing bowl, preferably stainless steel because the mixture will heat faster than in glass. Set the bowl directly in a wide skillet of barely simmering water (if your bowl bobs in the water, simply pour some out). Stir the mixture with a silicone spatula, scraping the bottom to prevent burning, until the mixture is very hot to the touch and the egg whites have thickened slightly and turned from translucent to opaque, 5 to 7 minutes. Set the batter aside for 30 minutes to let the coconut absorb more of the goop.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.

Using 2 tablespoons of batter, make attractive heaps 2 inches apart on the lined cookie sheets. (You can also make these smaller and bake for less time, in 1-tablespoon heaps.) Bake for about 5 minutes, just until the coconut tips begin to color, rotating the pans from top to bottom and from front to back halfway through the baking time to ensure even baking.

Lower the temperature to 325 degrees and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, until the cookies are a beautiful cream and gold with deeper brown edges, again rotating the pans from top to bottom and from front to back halfway through the baking time. If the coconut tips are browning too fast, lower the heat to 300 degrees. Set the pans or just the liners on racks to cool. Let cool completely before gently peeling the parchment away from each cookie.

The cookies are best on the day they are baked — the exterior is crisp and chewy and the interior soft and moist. Although the crispy edges will soften, the cookies remain delicious stored in an airtight container for 4 to 5 days.

Upgrade 2.1: Chocolate-Topped Coconut Macaroons. Do this for any version of Coconut Macaroons: While the cookies are still hot, top each with a little piece of your favorite milk or dark chocolate. Or drizzle a little melted chocolate over each cookie.

Upgrade 2.2: Coconut Macaroons with Lime Zest and Cinnamon. Stir 1 1/2 to 2 teaspoons freshly grated lime zest into the batter before scooping it. Using a fine grater or Microplane zester, grate a little cinnamon stick over the cookies just before serving.

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