Sunday, 11 October 2009

coconut macaroons



it feels like i've been away from here for months though it's only been a couple of weeks. first we had the outlaws here for a weekend, and then we went diving in egypt.

the thought that only a few days ago i sat on a boat in a bikini seems a bit weird: the weather has definitely turned while we've been away. i spent this morning packing up summer clothes and doing double-takes every time i notice a patch of tanned skin peeking out between socks and jeans or looking back at me in the mirror.

it was nice, this final flirt with the summer. though i've never been any good at beach holidays (fidget gene dictates i get bored surprisingly quickly, even if i have a good book to read), diving is different. you spend a lot of time on boats which are somehow inherently not boring - no idea why but people always seem quite content doing nothing on boats. plus you have to set up your kit, put on your wetsuit (if someone could invent one that doesn't require ten minutes of sweaty agony, i'd be grateful), do all the checking, tightening, squeezing, inflating, deflating, blowing and waddling around trying to put your fins on without falling over and losing your mask.

still, it's kind of nice to be back and there is something quite comforting about the arrival of autumn. i know it's astonishingly shallow but one of the things i actually look forward to most is winter clothes. you can reinvent yourself - in my head, i'm in a bottega veneta a/w 09 campaign. also cosy nights in with heating on and candles (candles seem slightly frivolous in the summer) and lots of red wine. and nice pubs with pints of bitter. and then there's skiing. small things, and all that.

anyway, a bit about food...these little macaroons were so nice i feel like abandoning the blog now to go into the kitchen to make them. you can see from the pictures that i'd nibbled on one before they'd even cooled, and then on another as they were getting the chocolate covering. basically, think i ate three before they were 'ready'.

the only thing is, you needs quite a few egg whites so it's best to do it when you have leftovers. mine were after an attempt at making creme brulee (surprisingly not sweet unless you add the sugar on top which i substituted with mango and lime coulis) - i say an attempt because, although seriously tasty, i lacked what rich's dad called moral courage and took the whole thing off heat a few seconds too soon. it didn't quite set properly - everyone ate it, mind.

the macaroon recipe is from the orangette blog, with a few tweaks. she uses sweetened coconut, for which there is no need whatsoever. she also adds sugar, which i left out completely. and i didn't have any almond extract. but the principle is the same and they really were sweet enough.

a word of warning - they are very fragile, possibly more so than normal because there is no sugar in them.

COCONUT MACAROONS

3 cups desiccated coconut
¾ cup egg whites (about 5 or 6 large)
1 ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
8 ounces 85% chocolate, finely chopped
3/4 cup double cream

this is what orangette says, verbatim:

"Place the first three ingredients in a large, heavy saucepan, and stir to combine well. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring regularly, about 10-12 minutes, until the mixture is pasty but not dry. (The uncooked mixture will look sort of granular at first, then creamy as it heats, and then it will slowly get drier and drier. You want to stop cooking when it no longer looks creamy but is still quite gluey and sticky, not dry.) Remove from heat. Mix in vanilla. Spread out the coconut mixture on a large baking sheet. Refrigerate until cold, about 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Fahrenheit. Line another baking sheet with parchment paper or a Silpat baking mat. Using a ¼-cup measuring scoop, scoop and pack the coconut mixture into domes, and place them on the baking sheet. You should wind up with about a dozen. Bake the macaroons until golden, about 30 minutes. Transfer to a rack and cool."

you can leave the chocolate bit out altogether, of course. the only reason i did it is because i had cream left over from the creme brulee. they were perfectly nice without it (see nibbling, above).

if you want to do it, you just put the cream and the chocolate in a pan and heat very gently until the chocolate has melted, stirring well. you then just use a spoon to pour the mixture over your macaroons. leave to set somewhere cold.

i found the macaroons are best eaten on the day you make them, as they go a bit soggy after a while (though still tasty).

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