I grew up hating coconut. It smelled like suntan oil to me, and called to mind a revolting Hostess confection known as a Snowball. Snowballs were round and hot pink and unnaturally soft. The only texture came from the “coconut” coating, which looked and felt like dryer lint. Snowballs were so cloying and mushy that I couldn’t stomach them at any age, which is saying something. I had a towering tolerance for sweet and mushy as a cavity-prone child of the 70’s. Snowballs put me off coconut for decades.
Eventually I encountered less processed versions of coconut. And once I tasted coconut milk in savory marinades, sauces, and curries, I fell in love. Coconut milk is rich and fragrant. It’s an utterly luscious vehicle for hot, complicated spices, redolent of tropical climes. I’ve never met a coconut curry I didn’t like. Still, it took time to get past the memory of those Snowballs and open my heart to coconut desserts.
I made my first tentative stab at coconut dessert with Ina Gartens’s coconut cake. It was perfection. In the glow of that cake, the texture of coconut actually seemed like a good thing. A thing to embrace, rather than flee. Hostess Snowballs began receding to a faint, menacing, hot-pink memory. My conversion to sweet coconut was recently complete when I made my first-ever batch of coconut macaroons. These bad boys have a crumbless, chewy consistency all their own. They are moist, and ever-so-slightly flowery. Bittersweet chocolate adds a deep, dark and creamy counterpoint.
Not only do these cookies embody intriguing flavor and texture, they also score high on the unfussiness scale. Of course, I had to go and gild the lily by dipping them in chocolate. That’s wholly unnecessary, and it pretty much doubles the preparation time. I won’t fault you if leave them un-dipped. But if you have a few extra minutes, you’ll be glad you dipped. Really glad.
I considered several macaroon recipes, and went with the simplest (naturally). This recipe is adapted from the one printed on the bag of Baker’s brand sweetened coconut.
Chocolate-Dipped Coconut Macaroons
makes about two and a half dozen cookies
1 14-ounce package of sweetened coconut flakes
¼ cup sugar
3 large egg whites
2 teaspoons almond extract
½ teaspoon salt
4 ounces bittersweet chocolate
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
In a large bowl, stir the coconut, sugar, egg whites, extract and salt with a wooden spoon.
Place batter by generous, rounded tablespoonfuls onto parchment-lined cookie sheets.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, until edges are golden brown. Cool completely.
Melt chocolate in a double-boiler (or a glass or metal bowl placed atop a saucepan of gently simmering water).
Dip the bottom of each cookie into chocolate, up to a depth of about a quarter inch. Place cookies upside down on parchment paper until chocolate cools and hardens (about 20-30 minutes).