I think we’ve probably all had at least one bad experience with those misshapen, heavy and tooth-achingly sweet confections that pass for coconut macaroons at least once. You know the kind whose cloying sweetness hits you over the head at first bite and whose flavor is barely reminiscent of coconut.
A good macaroon however is quite the opposite.
The French call their coconut macaroons rochers à la noix de coco or congolais and they are an altogether different breed from the toothaching varieties. Baked until lightly golden on the outside, but still creamy white on the inside they are bites of pure coconut goodness.
A good coconut macaroon stricks a fine balance; it’s at once light but chewy , a little crispy around the edges, but with a soft, tender interior. It has a pure clean taste that’s all coconut and just lightly sweet and only takes a matter of minutes to make. Made up of a few kitchen staples, the difference lies mainly in the technique.
While coconut, egg whites and sugar makes up the base of most coconut macaroons I’ve used honey instead for a naturally sweetened version and for it’s mild almost floral taste. The key to these however is to gently heat the egg whites, honey and coconut mixture over simmering water prior to baking it. This allows the mixture to partially cook and the coconut to fully hydrate before it goes in the oven allowing for a shorter cooking time at a high heat.
The short baking time in a hot oven ensures that the macaroons get crispy and golden on the outside while keeping the centers nice and moist, and that is what makes all the difference.
I couldn’t resist melting a little chocolate for dipping but it isn’t required. The combination of chocolate and coconut does make for an extra special treat. You can dip the bottom of each in chocolate and let them set or just drizzle it across the top.
(This post originally appeared on Jan 30, 2012; photos, post and recipe have been updated.)
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