Last spring as I was planning the menu for my Passover seder, it occurred to me that I did not want to make yet another flourless chocolate cake. Delicious as they are, I was bored of them, and wanted to my menu to be a bit less predictable.
I happened to be reading A Homemade Life, Molly Wizenberg's lovely book. Wizenberg's blog Orangette, is a constant source of inspiration to me. And so I turned to her recipe for macaroons, that mainstay of the seder dessert plate. It had never occurred to me to make macaroons; when I think of them, they come out of a vacuum sealed can, and taste like sweetened sawdust.
In addition to being extremely easy to make, oh my, were they good, like the juiciest, most tender and sublime Mounds bar.
I filed the recipe away for next year, but at the end of the summer, I was going to have my friend Nicole and her fiance over for dinner, and Nicole is on a gluten and dairy free diet. As a cook, I love the challenge of satisfying people's dietary requirements and still making a delicious meal. Dessert was especially challenging. Poached fruit would have been easy and obvious but it wasn't striking my fancy. And then I realized that if if I left some macaroons naked, they would still be mighty tasty, and fit the bill.
And so I made them, and then Nicole had to cancel, and poor me, I was left with a dozen macaroons all to myself. It only took me a few days to finish them.
Since then I have not been able to stop making these, and it is really annoying my children, not to mention violating my two out of three rule on purely selfish grounds. I guess that is the nature of obsession.
As far as Sarah is concerned, I've already slacked off on baking for far too long. But she's a trooper, and let me know that she while she will eat macaroons under duress, they are not her favorite. Sacha, consistent with his approach to baked goods, eats the frosting, leaving behind its mutilated carcass. My macaroon obsession is most unfair to Gabriel though, because he is allergic to egg whites, cannot even partake.
I made these at the end of summer vacation for a party at the pool, and as I passed them around the table to a group of adults, the reaction was much like that which I remember from my college days, when you passed around a bong full of really good weed. And that is just about the best response a cook can hope for.
Coconut Macaroons with Chocolate Ganache
Adapted from A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg
3 cups lightly packed sweetened coconut
3/4 cup sugar
5 large egg whites
1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
pinch of salt
4 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped (I like Lindt Excellence Intense Dark 70%)
1/2 cup heavy cream
Place the coconut, sugar and egg whites in a heavy 2- to 3-quart saucepan and stir well. Cook over medium low heat, stirring frequently for 10 minutes. The mixture will start off looking very creamy, and as it dries out, you will be able to see individual flakes of coconut. Stop cooking when it is still sticky and moist, not dry. If the coconut mixture begins to brown in spots, turn the heat down a bit and stir more frequently.
Remove from heat, stir in the vanilla and salt. Spread the mixture in a pie plate and refrigerate until cool enough to handle, about 30 minutes.
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone baking mat.
Use your hands to firmly pack the coconut mixture into small domes, about 1-1/2 inches in diameter, spacing evenly on the baking sheet.
Bake until evenly golden, about 30 minutes. Cool completely on the pan on a wire rack.
To make ganache, put the chocolate in a medium bowl. Heat the cream in a saucepan or the microwave until it is steaming, but not boiling. If you do this in the microwave, cooking in 20 second bursts. It should not take more than 45 seconds on high power. Pour the cream over the chocolate, let sit for 1 minute, and then stir until smooth.
Dip each macaroon into the ganache and lay back on the baking sheet. Refrigerate until ganache sets, at least 2 hours.
Yield: 14-18 macaroons