The bane of my childhood candy experience was a Mounds bar. I just didn't get it. I would bite into the promising chocolate nugget, which would immediately give way to a chewy, shredded, nutty interior, that, in my opinion, had no rightful place in a chocolate bar. It was clearly the texture that I did not like.
I was mystified by my friends, who bought super-sized packages of Almond Joys to scarf down when we went to the movies. Every Halloween, when my brothers and I would pile our loot in the middle of the kitchen table, gloating and eyeing trade-ups, my chocolate-covered coconut bars were the first I'd offer up with no regrets. Sadly, my brothers were not so keen on coconut either, so the negotiating could get ugly.
As a parent, it baffled me that my children loved coconut. But as chief cookie baker, I stepped up to the plate and used coconut more and more freely in bars, cakes and cookies. And you know what? I, too, developed a fondness for this tropical "nut," appreciating its flaky fresh and nutty interruption in a sea of sugar. I guess you could say I grew up.
I eat coconut now, unforced, and prefer it paired with dark chocolate. Sometimes I make macaroons, a jumble of coconut bound together with egg white and condensed milk. Yes, the milk is icky-sweet, but it seems to yield the best juicy-soft interior, which is what prevents dryness and distinguishes a great macaroon. I've followed a recipe from Ina Garten from time to time, but switch out some of the sweetened coconut with unsweetened, which I find reduces some of the cloyness, and add a whiff of almond extract. Oh, and I always give them a generous dunk in dark chocolate, which has a magnificent grounding effect on, well, everything.
Chocolate Dipped Coconut Macaroons
Active time: 20 minutes
Total time: 45 minutes
Yield: Makes about 24
1 (14-ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
7 ounces sweetened shredded coconut
7 ounces unsweetened shredded coconut
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
2 large egg whites, room temperature
1/4 teaspoon salt
8 ounces dark (70 percent) chocolate
Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
Combine the milk, coconut, vanilla and almond extract in a large bowl and stir to blend.
Beat the egg whites and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer until soft peaks form. Gently fold into the coconut.
Drop heaping tablespoon-sized mounds of coconut, about 1 1/2 inches apart, on the baking sheets. Bake on the center rack in the oven until golden brown, 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the baking sheets to ensure even baking. Remove and cool completely on a wire rack.
While the cookies are baking, melt the chocolate in a double boiler over simmering water at low heat, stirring until smooth. Dip one half of each macaroon in the melted chocolate and transfer to a board or platter lined with parchment.
Refrigerate until set. Store at room temperature for up to 4 days.
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