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Loved by people with gluten allergies and Passover observers alike, coconut macaroons are the go-to treat for many folks who are avoiding wheat-based foods. They're also an old cult classic—the cookie was popular in bakeries long before we started worshiping the sexier pastel import that spells its name with just one "o". Coconut macaroons may not be adorable, but, for coconut lovers, they're unadulterated coconut bliss.
They're also a great equalizer in the kitchen: easy to make, and involving few ingredients. Basic recipes call for coconut, egg whites, sugar, vanilla, and a pinch of salt. Fancier versions call for sweetened condensed milk, chocolate chips, or even dehydrated pineapple chunks. For me, coconut was born to pair with dark chocolate, so I endure the extra step of tempering to enrobe, dunk, and drizzle.
There are two different styles of coconut macaroons—those made with unsweetened, desiccated coconut (which is the kind that has been fully dried and contains no additives) and those made with moist, sweetened, shredded ribbons of coconut. The latter is readily available at major grocery stores and produces a very moist cookie, while the former is only available in specialty stores or online. The unsweetened version is slightly more high-maintenance because it requires that the cookies be firmly packed together for baking. But there's a payoff: it allows the baker to control the sweetness, and yields a crisper, dryer cookie that tastes more grown up.
When making either type of macaroon, here are some tips to keep in mind:
- Toast the coconut beforehand to release the oils (and for the sweetened version, for a bit of caramelization), and enhance the flavor
- Always dampen your hands before shaping macaroons to prevent sticking
- If you are planning to dip the macaroons in chocolate, be sure to allow them to cool completely before you begin
Click through the slideshow for helpful tips for both types, then get yourself some coconut and make your own. They are a logical treat for Passover, and great for Easter too.
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About the author: Lauren Weisenthal has logged many hours working in restaurant kitchens and bakeries of Brooklyn and Manhattan. She is a graduate of the Artisan Bread Baking and Pastry Arts programs at the French Culinary Institute. You can follow her on Twitter at @evillagekitchen.