Friday, February 8, 2013

Lemon Coconut Macaroons

When I first moved to Washington, DC, I lived near Dupont Circle and a great bakery/food store called Marvelous Market.  They had the most wonderful (marvelous!) chocolate-dipped coconut macaroons.  They were huge, and a true indulgence, but those cookies started my love affair with macaroons.

Please note that there is a difference between macaroons and macarons. It's kind of a pet peeve of mine when people use those terms interchangeably.  They are two different kinds of cookie/pastry. Macaroons do not have a filling, are generally made with coconut or almonds/nuts as its base, and sometimes you don't even whip the egg whites before adding the sugar and coconut or almonds. Macarons are little meringue-like confections (they look kind of like buttons) filled with ganache, jam or buttercream. They are often tinted with food coloring to make festive colors and can have seemingly limitless kinds of flavor combinations. 

Because they don't contain flour (or dairy, for that matter), macaroons are often served as a treat during the Jewish observance of PassoverMy husband and I were going to someone's house for Passover dinner a few years back, and I had offered to bring dessert, so I thought it would be fun to bring macaroons.  Jonathan was horrified, because he hated macaroons. No offense to Jews everywhere, but the macaroons you buy in the cans don't even begin to compare to homemade.  My husband, who is Jewish, had never tasted a homemade macaroon until I (a Lutheran) made one for him. I find it a little sad that he missed out on those tasty treats for so many years!

Anyway, macaroons are great to make when you have some extra egg whites left over.  I also like to make meringues, but I'll save that for a different post.  :-)  But the real reason I thought I'd make some macaroons is that I had a half of a jar of lemon curd in the fridge, plus the egg whites.  I saw a recipe for macaroons that seemed a little like a macaron, but not as labor intensive, so I thought I would give it a try, using the lemon curd for a filling.  Of course, I didn't follow the recipe as written.  Instead of making a true meringue,where you add the sugar gradually to get stiff, pillowy fluff, I dumped the sugar in all at once.  This deflated the egg whites a bit, but that's what I was looking for -- I wanted the end result to be a little crisp on the outside, but chewy on the inside.  I also like the flavor combination of coconut and lemon, so I decreased the almond meal a little, and added the unsweetened coconut.

The result was very much what I had been looking for: a light but chewy cookie.  What didn't work as well was the lemon curd filling, because the cookies were too chewy; when you tried to bite through the cookie, the lemon filling kind of oozed out the sides. It was kind of a mess.  BUT, the cookies themselves were delightful with a great lemon coconut flavor and just a hint of almond.  Even the kids at the bus stop liked them (well, most of them, anyway).

Lemon Coconut Macaroons (inspired by a recipe I found on Epicurious)

3 large egg whites (room temperature)
1 cup of sugar
zest of one lemon
3/4 cup almond meal
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut (I used flaked, but you could surely use shredded)

Preheat oven to  275°F. In an electric mixer, beat the egg whites until they form soft peaks (1).  Add the sugar and beat until the whites are shiny and airy, but will fall off the whisk in a thick ribbon (2). Fold in the ground almonds, lemon zest and coconut.




Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Drop heaping tablespoons of batter  onto the baking sheet. I used a cookie scoop, but you could also use two spoons to scoop, then scrape onto the sheet. Place the cookies 1 inch apart (they won't spread much when they bake). Repeat with the rest of the dough.

Bake for 20 to 30 minutes or until the cookies are firm and very slightly brown. Let cool for 5 to 10 minutes before removing the cookies from the baking sheets to a rack. When cool, store in an air-tight container. Makes about 30 cookies.

P.S. I am working on a post about our street's annual Meat Day, but I haven't loaded up the pictures.  I realized it's been a while since my last post, so this one will have to do until next week...

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