Okay, this recipe needs a bit of a preface. 1. I’m reasonably sure that most every line of work has its own sense of humor, the difference between these spheres of humor having to do with tone and levels of creativity (morbid vs. lite, clever vs. crass, etc.). I’m not sure where pastry kitchen humor sits on this scale, but I do know that our kitchen at work knows how to share a laugh and that I definitely find this kind of atmosphere easier to work in than its overly professional, relatively humorless other. 2. Some people have been trying to tell me otherwise, but one of the major differences between the pastry scene in Montreal and the pastry scene in Paris, say, has to do with the relative absence of the macaron here. You may be able to find macarons in a few local pastry shops, but they’re far from central to our local tradition and they haven’t yet reached the heights they have elsewhere, and consequently a lot people here remain in the dark as to what a macaron even is (a delicate sandwich cookie made from almond powder and whipped egg whites). True to the Anglo-American tradition of sweets that remains dominant across most of Canada (and is an important factor even in Quebec), people here are much more familiar with the macaroon (a confection made with coconut and egg whites baked in mounds, no pun intended) here than the macaron, and frankly the two are often confused.
With these things in mind, I set about testing macarons made with coconut in place of the traditional almond powder a few days ago. Not only did it seem like a great idea for a new-fangled, unorthodox macaron , but it struck me as being vaguely hilarious. I tried out a few different recipes with varying degrees of success before finally hitting upon the right combination yesterday, thanks to Nigella Lawson. When I’d gotten my recipe just so—light and super chewy, with a consistency that created perfectly uniform macaron domes—and filled it with a medium caramel in order to tease out the connections between what I’d fashioned and alfajores (a Chilean layered cookie made with dulce de leche and coconut), I took them to a social gathering and sprang them on some of my taste testers/friends. Then I sat back and just waited for the belly-laughs and the knee-slapping to ensue as the sheer wit of my latest creation dawned upon them.
[crickets chirping, then getting shushed]
I’m still waiting. “Know your audience,” right?
My coconut macarons might not have bowled them over, but the good news is that in terms of texture and flavor they were a hit. One taste tester who “can’t stand desserts” found himself eating an entire one quite contentedly; another who shuns sugar ate two.
(makes about 20 filled cookies)
75 g very fine unsweetened coconut
125 g icing sugar
2 egg whites
2 Tbsp. granulated sugar
Preheat the oven to 350˚F.
Mix the coconut and icing sugar together in a bowl. Beat the egg whites until foamy and add granulated sugar slowly while whisking to stiff peaks. Add the coconut mixture and fold gently but firmly. This will turn quite stiff and paste-like. Don’t panic. Fill a piping bag with the batter and pipe circles about 1 1/2 “wide, or drop by spoonfuls onto parchment paper. Let rest 15 min. Bake about 10 min. Let cool. Fill with dulce de leche, chocolate ganache, or jam and sandwich together. Some people prefer these the day they are made, but I think they benefit from a night or two in the fridge in an airtight container.