Variations on a theme
Coconut macaroons vary from recipe to recipe, but in their most basic form they are a cookie made from shredded, dried coconut, egg whites, sugar, and some salt and vanilla for flavoring. They are yummy on their own, but, like many cookies, they are even better when dipped in, or drizzled with, chocolate. Click through the slideshow to learn tips and tricks for making great macaroons.
Macaroons made with unsweetened coconut
Many people prefer macaroons made with dried, unsweetened coconut (as opposed to the moist, pre-sweetened kind). If you use a recipe that calls for the unsweetened kind (it can be purchased at most health food stores and specialty spice stores), begin by combining the dry ingredients first: the coconut (pre-toasted, if you'd like), sugar, and salt. Then add the wet ingredients—typically egg whites—and mix thoroughly with your fingers.
Shaping the macaroons (with unsweetened coconut)
Macaroons made with unsweetened coconut should be loosely scooped (either using a cookie scoop or two tablespoons) and placed about 1 inch apart on a parchment-lined sheet pan. Many recipes call for pinching them into compact pyramids with wet fingertips, but another great way is to use a small scoop.
Add mix-ins if desired
After you've mixed the macaroons, feel free to add chocolate chips to the mixture.
Smoothing the edges
Use wet hands to smooth out the edges of the macaroons to avoid sticking.
Bake to desired color
The best part of a macaroon is the caramelized outer surface. The cooking time is only a guideline, don't be afraid to allow the macaroons to bake to your desired darkness.
Macaroons made with sweetened coconut
If you are making macaroons using the pre-sweetened, moist, flake coconut found in most grocery stores, consider toasting it in the oven first to give it some extra caramelization and complexity.
Mixing the macaroons
With both types of coconut, the mixture should be moist and sticky, but not too wet. When you ball some up in a fist, it should hold its shape without being drippy. For macaroons made with pre-sweetened coconut, I like using condensed milk in the mixture, in addition to beaten egg whites, which gives the macaroons a nice, rich texture and flavor. Many other recipes are far more simple, and will just call for the coconut to be combined with unbeaten egg whites.
Portion the macaroons
For macaroons made with sweetened coconut, it is not necessary to firmly pack the mixture, because the long strands of coconut intertwine and hold together. When portioning this type of macaroon, a loose scoop or spoonful works perfectly. Remember to wet your hands before shaping the mixture.
Shaping the macaroons
Bake to desired color, cool a bit on the parchment
As with the unsweetened macaroons, you'll want to bake to your preferred level of caramelization and just use the baking time in the recipe as your guide. Be sure that before you pull them out of the oven, a crust has formed on the exterior. Allow macaroons to cool on the parchment for 10-15 minutes before transferring them to a rack to finish cooling.
Be sure to allow the macaroons to cool completely before dipping or storing. If you dip too soon, the chocolate will mix with unwanted condensation, which will cause it to seize up. If you store them while hot, the excess condensation will make the macaroons soggy.
Dipping in chocolate
Set up a small station with the rack of cooled macaroons, parchment, forks, and the bowl of tempered chocolate. Both milk and dark chocolates work fine, just be sure to follow the specific tempering guidelines for each kind (check out this tutorial on tempering if it's your first time).
Allow chocolate to set up
Place the finished, dipped pieces on a fresh sheet of parchment and allow the chocolate to set up completely in a cool, dry place. You may place the cookies in the fridge for 30 seconds to a minute to speed the process along, but don't leave them in the fridge or the moisture will damage the chocolate.