I never expected coconut macaroons to cause me a headache. They seemed like an obvious choice for this column: an old-fashioned sweet-treat that’s normally reserved for children, with a short ingredient list and a simple method. How could it go wrong? I knew the theory: coconut, egg whites, sugar, some vanilla. Easy!
Well, when it comes to macaroons, there is one thing that every recipe is agreed on. Every respectable recipe I looked at was clear: shredded coconut must be used, desiccated coconut would result only in sad, crumbly, dry little cakes that wouldn’t hold their shape and would suck all moisture out of your mouth, your body, the surrounding area, the atmosphere, until the earth itself is just a dehydrated husk. I rolled my eyes. Recipe writers are such drama queens, I thought, asserting their authority all over the shop. And anyway, it’s basically impossible to get hold of shredded, non-dessicated coconut nowadays. Don’t ask me why; perhaps coconut macaroons’ lack of popularity have destroyed the demand for it. Whatever the reason, shredded coconut was a no-go. I didn’t imagine the different between the types of coconut – surely a mere semantic distinction – could make such a difference to the finished product.
Well, you can probably guess what happened next. I duly tried various different versions, each drier than the last: sad, little flavourless grey pucks. I was at a loss: if shredded coconut isn’t widely available anymore, is this the death of the macaroon as we know it? Thankfully not: this story has a happy, sticky, coconutty ending. All that’s really needed here is to introduce some moisture, replace the natural oils that are present in shredded but absent in dessicated coconut. The answer (as so often is the case in lacklustre baking) is condensed milk. This ensures a crisp, golden exterior, and a fluffy, slightly sticky middle. Once cracked, it is an extremely simple recipe. Simple whisk the egg white until it reaches stiff peaks, stir the coconut and condensed milk, then fold the whole mixture together until combined. Bake until golden, then allow to cool and dunk or drizzle with dark chocolate.
Oh, and this recipe irritatingly doesn’t use an entire standard-sized tin of condensed milk for which I apologise: try the spare condensed milk with strong, black coffee, Vietnamese style, or use it to make a small batch of no-churn ice cream.
Makes: 12 macaroons
Takes: 10 minutes
Bakes: 20 minutes
175g condensed milk
200g desiccated coconut
1 egg white
100g dark chocolate
- Preheat the oven to 160°C and line a baking tray with parchment paper. Stir the condensed milk and desiccated coconut together in a large bowl.
- In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks. Fold these egg whites through the mixture of condensed milk and coconut until combined, but without knocking all of the air out of the egg whites.
- Divide the mixture into 12 portions using a small ice cream scoop or a heaped tablespoon. Space a little apart on the tray. Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown and a little crisp on top. Leave to cool completely.
- Melt the dark chocolate over a bain marie. Dunk the base of each cooled macaroon in the melted chocolate or, using a spoon, squiggle the melted chocolate across the top of the little cakes. Sometimes, I do both.