They say when life hands you lemons, you should make lemonade. But what should you do if life hands you a big ol' bag of something that you don't know how to use?
A few weeks ago, there was a bit of a baking emergency (because that's really the only kind of emergency in my life): I was mid-recipe and lacking an ingredient that, I swear, I always have on hand. The baking was for a gift to someone the next day, so I braved the cold and embarked upon a late-night trek around the city to find the missing piece.
To make things more difficult, said ingredient wasn't something readily available at stores that were open that late, like convenience stores or gas stations. Something like milk, eggs, or sugar. Nope. Said item was a little more, shall we say, exotic.
Um, yeah. Let me be the first to inform you that you will not find shredded coconut at CVS, Rite-Aid, 7-11, or the stores attached to Sunoco and Exxon gas stations. I was as shocked as you are. ;)
Sitting in the car and stopped in the intersection, I wracked my brain as to where I could possibly find shredded coconut. And, just like the Room of Requirement appeared to Harry and his buds at Hogwarts (yep, went there), so appeared my room of coconut -- a specialty Indian food store. "Yes!" I thought. "They'll definitely have shredded coconut!" And they did. Hooray!
Fast forward a few weeks. That once-heralded-as-a-savior bag of shredded coconut had been sitting in my pantry, opened only once. See, it was a bag of unsweetened coconut, which isn't very popular in baking recipes. We bakers like sugar, glucose, sweetness, whatever you want to call it. While I used the unsweetened stuff in a pinch to make the best oatmeal cookies in the world, I also compensated by adding a little more sugar to the main recipe.
Every day that bag stared me down like a hawk eyes its prey until I put it to work one night. After weeks of brainstorming and searching, I found a recipe that I couldn't resist. One that sounded almost too good to be true, but reviewers assured that it was the real deal. Coconut macaroons!
You've had macaroons, right? I had, too, but they never really did it for me. Usually made with sweetened condensed milk, the cookies had a gooey almost uncooked texture to them. If I wanted to eat sweetened condensed milk with some coconut tossed in, I'd grab a can and a spoon and go to town. (Maybe done that before minus the coconut... maybe not.)
But these aren't your run-of-the-mill macaroons. These macaroons use egg whites and sugar and only 3 other ingredients, none of which come in a can, and all of which come together in a flash. The taste is undeniably coconut, but it's the texture that really wooed me. The cookies are light as air! Crispy on the edges where the sugar has caramelized slightly. And chewy, oh my gosh so chewy, on the inside. The chewiest!
Don't think you're a texture fanatic? Don't think you like coconut? Make these and just try -- try, I say! -- to stop at one. It won't happen. Totally. Won't. Happen. You're welcome, friends.
One year ago: Roasted tomato soup
Two years ago: Broccoli potato cheddar soup
Three years ago: Snickerdoodle cookies
(recipe adapted from Martha Stewart)
-makes about 36 cookies
3/4 cup granulated sugar
2 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
2 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. In a large bowl, combine all ingredients using rubber spatula until well mixed and evenly moistened. Drop 1/2 tablespoonfuls of coconut mixture (that will look like little haystacks) onto lined baking sheet roughly 1 inch apart. Bake until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove baking sheet to wire rack and allow macaroons to cool slightly. Enjoy warm or at room temperature. Cookies can be stored in a sealed container at room temperature for up to 3 days.