Ok, friends, I’ve officially had my first baking disaster. I am 28 years old and somehow, until now, the difference between parchment paper and wax paper has eluded me. I thought the two were interchangeable, but I just learned the hard way that wax paper melts. And not just melts, but seals itself onto your food like some kind of arts & crafts project (think decoupage). I know. I’m very embarrassed.
The only reason this didn’t happen sooner is that I typically bake on a silicone baking mat and therefore never actually need parchment paper. I know that I risk losing some baking cred by sharing this, but just in case anyone else out there is dim to this fact, I want to save them a ruined dessert. Takeaway: parchment paper is brown, has a nonstick, waxy finish and can be used in the oven; wax paper is thinner, translucent, waxy and NOT heat-proof. Because I didn’t have the time or the patience to redo this recipe, I salvaged what I could and am sharing it anyway (because it was real tasty).
On to the main event! In People magazine’s recent “Holiday Entertaining” issue, Gail Simmons of Top Chef shared a number of holiday dessert recipes, including macaroons. She called them “Toasted Coconut Macaroons.” This confused me because there was no step for toasting the coconut (nice try, Gail). I looked up a few other recipes to see whether people actually toast the coconut before making macaroon batter. Some do. But I mulled it over and decided that what I like about macaroons is the crispy golden shell and the soft chewy insides that retain a raw coconut consistency. I reasoned that since this recipe already had a low liquid to coconut ratio, I didn’t want to lose any of the coconut moisture prior to baking. So I went with Gail’s recipe, skipped the toasting, and dropped the misleading title.
I was very excited about the decorating aspect of these cookies and ready for some holiday-themed sprinkles. Since I was baking at my parents’ house in upstate New York (hence the lack of my trusty silpats), I was limited to grocery stores in the Vestal, NY area. They did not carry the holiday sprinkles of my dreams, but for some ridiculous reason, I thought that I might have the patience to divide out the sprinkles in a multi-colored package so that I could have separate piles of red, green and white sprinkles. Don’t ever fool yourself into thinking this is a reasonable idea.
Once upon a time, my friend KG joined a sorority and when I asked about the mysterious hazing process, she told me the worst thing they had to do was sort out colored sprinkles. Only now do I realize what a horrific, tedious, hair-pulling process this must have been (although compared to other hazing stories I’ve heard, the PSU Zetas sound pretty nice). Every time I would separate a few of the balls, the other ones just rolled back over to rejoin the party. Anyhow, I quit that business pretty quickly and embraced a multi-colored theme. Don’t worry, they still came out very festive and cute (I know you were worried).
White Chocolate Dipped Macaroons
adapted from Gail Simmons’ recipe in the People 2010 Holiday Entertaining issue
Makes 18 macaroons
2 egg whites
½ tsp. cream of tartar
2 tsp. sugar
¾ cups sweetened condensed milk (one 14 oz. can will be enough)
½ tsp. vanilla extract
2 tsp. lemon juice
zest of one lemon
14 oz. sweetened, shredded coconut
1 cup white chocolate chips (or milk or dark chocolate if you prefer)
sprinkles of your choice
Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Beat egg whites with an electric mixer on low speed until frothy. Add cream of tartar and sugar. Continue beating whites on a medium speed until very frothy, but not stiff (if you overbeat the whites and peaks start to form, it’s fine). By hand, mix in vanilla, lemon juice, zest and condensed milk (make sure you don’t use the electric mixer here because mixing in the thick condensed milk it will kill all the bubbles you’ve added to the whites). Fold in coconut until incorporated. Let mixture rest for 3 minutes.
Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or heavily grease the pans. Using an ice cream scoop (or large spoon), drop heaping mounds of batter onto the trays. Bake for 30-35 minutes. Let cool.
Melt chocolate in a double boiler over low heat. Of all chocolates, I find white chocolate the most difficult to melt evenly. Put the chocolate in the boiler from the start and let the water heat up underneath so that the chocolate melts slowly; stir very often. If you are a master-melter and your chocolate melts smoothly, dip the cooled macaroons into the chocolate until halfway coated. If your chocolate does not melt smoothly, spread the melty chocolate onto the macaroons with a butter knife. Add sprinkles immediately after coating each macaroon and let cool on a rack until chocolate hardens.
Macaroons are very sweet, so you might want to leave some without chocolate. But honestly, if you’re eating something like a macaroon, you might as well go whole hog and enjoy it smothered in chocolate and sprinkly goodness.