Thursday, 12 July 2012

Chocolate covered coconut macaroons

The world is going mad for macarons, the multi-coloured garish almond based meringue confections popular for afternoon tea around the world. Since I started working in London, I've seen swathes of tourists clutching pastel paper bags from the likes of Laduree. They're not the kind of thing that you find in Somerset! 

I'm partial to the odd macaron; they're cute, (dare I say) girlie and wonderfully bite-sized. However, they are a bit of a pig to bake. Achieving that light and fluffy texture is rather unpredictable, much like the somewhat troublesome meringue. If you're in need of a tasty sweet snack, maybe it would be better to by-pass the chichi and look a little closer to home. 

Macaroons (note the double 'o') are easy to throw together and provide the same deliciously sweet hit without the kitchen faff. According to the wonder that is Wikipedia, English macaroons and French macarons share the same Italian word maccarone or maccherone which derives from ammaccare meaning to crush or beat. Don't run away in horror; this refers to the crushed nuts that are the main ingredient of both recipes. Both are cousins of amaretti, the crunchy Italian almond biscuit. It's a very European affair.

I adore this recipe because it really is so simple. Bung the ingredients together, shape and pop in the oven. Decoration is optional but I like any excuse to mess around with chocolate. I've made these several times and they're an ideal mid-week bake because they're quick and easy to make out of ingredients that tend to lurk in the back of the larder. Oh and they're naturally gluten free too! 

Coconut macaroons
Makes 16 – 20

2 egg whites
300g unsweetened grated coconut (or the same of desiccated coconut)
3 tbsp runny honey (omit if using desiccated coconut)

To decorate
150g dark chocolate
10 glacé cherries (optional)

 - Preheat oven to 180C and line a baking tray with a silicon or greaseproof paper.
 - Whisk together the egg whites and honey (if using).
 - Add the coconut and stir until coated.
 - Scoop out tablespoon dollops of mixture, compact slightly and evenly space on baking tray.
 - Bake for 10 – 12 minutes or until golden brown.
 - Remove to a wire rack and allow to cool.
 - Melt the chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of boiling water.
 - Meanwhile, halve the cherries so that they’re ready to garnish.
 - Dip the flat base of each macaroon into the chocolate and place on a tray covered in silicon or greaseproof paper. If you want a particularly luxurious macaroon, allow these to cool and dip again.
 - Drizzle the top of the macaroons with melted chocolate and garnish with a half cherry, dipped in a little chocolate to act as glue.

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