Sunday, 7 March 2010

Coconut Macaroons

Every bit as pretty as a French macaron.

I am thinking about entering into the macaron movement. Posts like these have been making me crazy and I feel like I need to try my hand at this biscuit that everybody says is so hard to turn out.

I know mine won't be 'perfect', whatever that means, but I don't care. And neither should anybody who has made failed macarons, because, and I say this with absolute confidence and certainty, there is more luck than skill in ensuring the perfect macaron. So there.



How do I know this without having made any myself? Well, OK, the 'absolute confidence and certainty' might be exaggerating a little, but in my defence, I have been to Paris more times than you have (well, some of you), and have eaten my fair share of macarons. And do you know what? Some of them were RUBBISH!



Is it just me who wants to take a bite out of that? Tell me it isn't.

You heard me, rubbish. If you want my honest opinion, more guff has been written about this biscuit than almost anything else in the world (except perhaps for that scandal involving Gordon Brown, Number 10 and the National Bullying Helpline - that took up a fair few column inches). Macaron recipes, like an awful lot of French patisserie recipes, are ridiculously overcomplicated, and you only have to look around the Internet to see that even when people follow the instructions to the very letter, they still fail. So when I make my macs (which will be next week - I have had one hell of a weekend, with no time at all for baking) I'll be doing it the 'I don't care about the rules' way. And if my macarons fail, well, I don't care. Like I said, you can go into any patisserie in Paris and still get bad macs. I'll be sampling Pierre Hermé's wares when I am in London on Wednesday too, so we'll see if his are any good. Though I'll probably cut him some slack even if they aren't; we share initials after all. It counts.

Now. Until I lived in France myself, which was before I became a food obsessive, the word macaron meant nothing to me. I would have thought you were talking about macaroons, my dear, macaroons.



You see, long before Parisian chic, there were English macaroons, which are nothing like their French cousins. They're made with coconut, they are bigger and they go so nicely with a cup of tea that you really wouldn't believe it. I think that's why we call them 'English' - I mean, it's hardly for the locally produced ingredients is it? 'Ah yes, some coconut from the New Forest, and almonds from Blackpool... You just couldn't make a good macaroon without our fresh, local produce, could you?'

Nice idea, but not realistic.

When I was growing up, there were three bakeries in my local town. Two of them were busy chains in prime locations, and one was independent. It was a bit of a mystery to me as to how the independent one stayed in business, because you never saw a soul inside, and I always thought the window displays were terrible. They were full of things that seemed really old fashioned and boring to me at the time, like jam tarts, shortbread (without a chocolate coating, à la chain bakeries), strange marshmallow-filled ice-cream cones (very seventies) and coconut macaroons with lurid red glacé cherries on top.

Little did I know that in adult life I would love the macaroon as much as I do.

That bakery shut down many years ago, and I always presumed it was through lack of custom, though later I found out it was because the gentleman who ran it passed away (and that, actually, it was an incredibly popular place, famous for its bread in the early morning, which explains why I never saw anyone in there after school).

I wish as a child I liked coconut as much as I do now, because I would have had one of those macaroons each and every day had I known what they could taste like. I have always hated glacé cherries, and that will never change, but they could easily have been picked off and binned. I'll never know if the baker's macaroons were any good, just like I'll never taste the famous bread, and wanting what you can never have is horrendous.

How can something so beautiful taste so awful? (I'm talking about the cherry, not the macaroon!)


Still, there's no point in regrets. The answer is to make macaroons! And OK, they might not be as glamorous as M. Hermé's (though I'm glamorous enough for all of us, so don't dwell on that too much), but they are easy to make and make the house smell like marshmallows.

Of all the things I have thus far made for Delicious Delicious Delicious, I think these are my favourite. Simple and beautiful, they just cannot be beaten. Make them. See. Everyone else will still be prancing on about the French ones, so your sweet treat of choice will afford you an air of mysterious, subcultural anti-cool. And wouldn't that be nice?

At Delicious Delicious Delicious, we take our desserts very seriously.
We know you have a choice, and thank you for saying 'no' to the cherry.

The recipe is adapted from one by Nigella Lawson, which I have made about five or six times in total, and each time I change it a bit. I don't add cream of tartar, use more almonds for a firmer texture and flavour the macaroons with pandan extract (not exactly traditional, I know) because I love it with coconut, but you can go her way if you like.

Coconut Macaroons

You will need:

250g dessicated coconut
75g ground almonds
2 egg whites
100g sugar
1 tsp pandan extract/vanilla

  1. Preheat the oven to 150°C. Line a baking sheet with parchment. Mix the almonds and coconut in a large bowl.
  2. Whisk the egg whites in another bowl until they reach the soft peak stage, then slowly and gradually, still beating, add the sugar until you have a glossy, white meringue with stuff peaks.
  3. Fold the nut mixture and extract into the meringue using a metal spoon.
  4. When the two mixtures are combined, use your hands to make 8 small coconut mounds on the baking sheet. They won't spread much, so you can space them fairly close together.
  5. Bake for 15 minutes, though they may need 20; when done, they will be golden coloured and dry on the outside.
  6. Cool on a wire rack. Top with cherries if you must. Melted chocolate would be fabulous too.

21 comments:

  1. I got myself in a right state with macarons. Trust me, you cannot get it as wrong as I did!!!! Just have a go, you'll be fine.

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  2. I gotta tell you...I felt a little dirty looking at the pictures with the cherry sitting right on top.

    I had to look away a few times. And then go take a shower.

    :P

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  3. I have to say that I love eating macarons A LOT!!! But ones that aren't freshly made taste quite odd. My children have fondly named the ones here in Belgium "goo cookies" because most of them are pretty bad. Can't wait to see how yours turn out.

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  4. Awh yeah, go you for adding pandan! Yuuuum! What an awesome idea. Glace cherries lol, I have a love hate relationship with those things (they're SO good in the Indian dessert 'siroh'). Yup. I kid you not!

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  5. Yum yum yum yum! looks and sounds like your having a lot more luck then me at the moment cooking! Your food makes me hungry but when i think dinner tonight...

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  6. Good luck with your macarons hope they turn out well for you and you dont end up with bad ones like you have had in the past. Your right that bad macarons are sadly too easy to come by even in paris but the worst I ever had were from marks and spencer. They launched a box of 12 mini's a couple months back and they were just awful, tough and flavourless

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  7. OMG! I'd COMPLETELY forgotten about good old fashioned English macaroons! I tend not to like them because of the sugar overload experience. I know what you mean about the macaron movement, it's almost like a blogger's rite of passage! But I think I'll steer clear, way too complicated I reckon and is it worth all the fuss, not too sure about that either,I'll just let you do them and say I did!

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  8. I am so glad you have posted about macaroons. I've seen so many posts about macarons and all I could think about was - where are the macaroons!

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  9. Those look delicious. I just realized that I haven't made macaroons since last Christmas, and this saddens me greatly. I might have to take a two-mile walk to the grocery store to get some coconut now...

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  10. It's not as bad as we all make it sound - but be warned - it's addictive!

    PS: Loved T. The Destructor's comment - nearly fell off my chair laughing =)

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  11. Yum, my mother always made coconut macaroons, she used to make them on rice paper. I haven't thought of these in ages.

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  12. Mmm, mmm, mmm! I haven't tried out the fancypants macarons yet (though I plan to soon), but I hope yours go better than all the horror stories we've both heard (er, read).
    That is a great post you have there. Before reading it I didn't even know about the English macaroon, just the American one without the almonds. Now I can't wait to try them out!
    Thanks for sharing!

    ~Kurious Kitteh

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  13. I hear you on the rubbish macarons!! Same goes for other pastries... While almost any croissant in Paris is most probably better than it is anywhere else, some just dont live up to the expectations, while some are heavenly!!!

    I love teh coconut thingy you posted here. They're quite popular here in Russia, although I think they're made slightly differently, yours look like they have more coconut in them!

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  14. Mmmm!! i love these! i made my own once but i diced the cherry up and added it in :D
    delish it was!

    cant beat coconut macaroons! they taste so much better than macarons...

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  15. These look great!
    Have you tried Richard Corrigan's 'Almond Biscuits' recipe in The Clatter of Forks and Spoons? Remarkably like macarons, remarkably delicious, and remarkably simple:
    500g ground almonds
    300g caster sugar
    seeds from 1 vanilla pod
    4 egg whites
    50ml Amaretto
    -Mix almonds, sugar, vanilla. Fold in egg whites (unwhisked), with amaretto. Dot small spoonfuls on a papered baking sheet, and bake in 160C oven for 10-15 mins.

    They are a revelation.

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  16. Dear,
    Stumbled here from another blog. Swooning for those awesome macaroons! Love it.
    Your blog has quite a collection of bakes. You should seriously think of renaming your blog title to wicked wicked wicked. :))
    - Cool Lassi(e)

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  17. Ooo! For me??

    Coconut Macaroons really aren't that hard to make. At least, mine aren't. There's all different kinds of coconut macaroons...

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  18. hi P
    nice macarons I lve the coconut flavour : In France this is not exactly what we call Macarons but only in St Emilion near Bordeaux where there are famous cookies such like yours

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  19. These look lovely, and your post had me in stitches. How dare you be irreverent towards macarons? :)
    Unfortunately I can't make them myself - my oven is way to dodgey for something so temperamental. I've always loved coconut macaroons like these wonderful exhibits you have here. Thanks for posting these and for the smile.

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  20. Made these today. Only had 200 gm dessicated coconut, only had 75 gm ground almonds, the egg separator fell in the mixture, couldn't whip it enough to make it "peak" (snigger), but they are delicious!

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  21. I haft to try this reciepe.wanna eat them right now

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That's what he said.

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