Chocolate-Dipped Coconut Macaroons
This morning I woke up with an inexplicable craving for bubble tea.
Instead I ate a bowl of cereal and made it to class barely on time. I took notes, asked questions, and when I walked out the door, it felt like October instead of mid February. The temperature flirted with the low 40s. Cause for celebration! I wore a flowery skirt, smiled at strangers, and I still wanted bubble tea.
I didn’t even drop off my bags. I walked straight from the classroom, down the street into Boston’s Chinatown, knowing exactly what I was looking for.
A few weeks before Halloween, when I was still in the process of making friends in a big new world, my floormate M- and I decided to get lunch. We’re both half Asian, and we both missed Chinese food, so we headed into Chinatown together.
Chinatown is squeezed between Downtown Crossing and the South End. It’s small, but dense, stuffed with grocery stores, jewelry shops, and narrow brick alleyways. Heaps of snow stay frozen solid in the shadows of tall buildings pressed close together. Cars honk. The edges of sidewalks are congested with scraps of packaging and cigarette butts, and you can’t see what’s around the corner until you actually turn, but what can I say? I love Chinatowns. They’ve got a character you can’t quite capture anywhere else.
M- and I didn’t know where to get good food, so we explored until we found a tiny but promising café. There were no tables, just a laminated menu taped to a counter and a long line. We ordered rice, barbeque chicken, pork buns, and why not – two coconut bubble teas.
The food was good, but the bubble tea was the star of the meal. Thick and fragrant, it used coconut cream, not powder. Every sip tasted tropical and real – like a spoon scraped against the white walls of a split coconut – as opposed to the suntan lotion taste of most imitations. It was good enough to remember months later.
I could recall the bubble tea fairly well, but I had no idea how to get there. I wandered into Chinatown and made lefts and rights at random, ending up on crooked side streets lined with shops like uneven teeth. Just when I was about to give up, I recognized the sign, innocently tucked between a row of restaurant windows. I ran through a puddle of melted snow and across the empty street, yanked open the door and bought myself a bubble tea.
It didn’t even survive the trip home. Not a big surprise, considering I got lost on the way back. I’ll have to adventure into Chinatown walkabout-style every time I want to rediscover this bubble tea, but I think it’s a worthwhile experience.
Back when I worked at Seastar Restaurant, with chefs all around me baking chocolate molten cakes and slow-cooking cedar plank salmon, coconut was my favorite smell in the entire restaurant. We’d spread flakes of coconut on a baking sheet and toast them, later to be sprinkled over the white chocolate coconut cream pie. After mere minutes in the oven, the most seductive smell wafted down the line. No matter what I was doing, I’d start to work in a daze, dreaming of paradise.
I can’t understand when people say they hate coconut. I can, however, see why some people don’t like coconut macaroons. Too often they’re over-the-top sweet and gluey.
But when you find a good macaroon you get something special. The cookie is light and chewy, with toasty crisp edges. The coconut flavor is pure, not masked by sugar. A dip in dark chocolate adds richness without cloying sweetness. It’s dynamite. How could you not want more?
[Writing, baking, photographing. Blogging. Waitressing. Radio-ing. A second job with the admissions office at my school. Homework. ...Sleep? I don't know how I managed to make second semester even busier than my first, but I'm really trying. Thanks for sticking through with me!]
Another good thing about macaroons – they’re one of the easiest desserts to make on a whim. They only require a few ingredients and a couple of steps. The most time consuming part of the process was forming the pyramid-shaped macaroons, but it’s minimal effort to push the edges of coconut up into a triangle.
Also, don’t overlook the almond extract. It’s strong stuff, to be used in small doses, but it adds a special something to an already wonderful cookie.
Chocolate Dipped Coconut Macaroons
Adapted from Bon Appetit via Orangette
Makes a dozen large macaroons
3 cups lightly packed sweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup egg whites (about 5 or 6 large whites)
1 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
6 oz bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup + 1 tablespoon heavy cream
Combine the coconut, sugar, and egg whites in a large, heavy saucepan. Stir over medium-low heat for about 10-12 minutes, or until the mixture is pasty but not dry. Over time, the mixture gets somewhat creamy, then begins to dry out – remove from heat when it is no longer creamy, but sticky rather than dry. Mix in the extracts. Spread the coconut mixture into a thin layer on a sheet pan and refrigerate until cold, about 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or Silpat. Pack the coconut mixture into a 1/4 measuring cup or scoop. You can pack them into domes, or use your fingers to press them into pyramids. Bake until golden, about 30 minutes. Cool on a wire rack.
Heat the heavy cream in a small saucepan until it steams. Remove the pan from heat and add the bittersweet chocolate. Whisk until the chocolate is fully melted and the mixture is smooth. Dip cookies in the chocolate (or spoon chocolate over them) and set on a parchment-lined sheet. Chill in the fridge until the chocolate sets, about 2 hours. Then store the macaroons in the fridge in an airtight container.
Printer-Friendly Recipe – Coconut Macaroons