Friday, April 23, 2010

Gigantic Marshmallows

I went shopping today at my friendly neighborhood grocery store and saw something I would have absolutely flipped over as a kid. Giant marshmallows. I mean, Super Gigante Malvavivos, from Mazapan de la Rosa in Jalisco, Mexico. They each weigh a full ounce and come in vanilla and strawberry, all artificially flavored, of course (I crossed my fingers for all-natural, but, alas, no such luck). I cracked up when I saw them and quickly tossed them in my cart, knowing what a kick my kids would get out of them. In the picture below, I've included a bottle of extract to show how huge they are.

They were nearly ransacked before dinner. I had to convince the kids that spaghetti and meatballs was better to eat before eating the super gigante malvavivos (a tough argument). Dinner was quickly dispatched and a few marshmallows devoured. Then, my husband had a brilliant idea, since I had also brought home a few bags of coconut (no, the macaroon madness hasn't ended). Chocolate dipped giant marshmallows rolled in toasted coconut. Did I marry well, or what?

So, I toasted some coconut in a pan. Watch the coconut while it's toasting - it browns very quickly. I held the pan over the flame, not directly on the stove, and kept the coconut moving. Immediately dump the coconut in a bowl to keep it from over-browning. Then, I melted chocolate chips in a metal bowl over a simmering pan of water. When the chocolate is smooth, turn off the heat under the water. Be very careful not to splash any water into the melted chocolate - it will "seize" and be unusable. You won't even be able to re-melt it. I like to keep the bowl over the warm water to keep it pliable.

Prepare a pan with parchment paper. Seriously, get some parchment paper if you don't have any and you won't ever have to spray, butter, or flour a pan again. Wax paper works, too. 

Dip the  bottom 1/2 of the marshmallows (you can use normal size if you can't find the giant ones - it just won't be as fun) in the chocolate, gently swipe the bottom against the edge of the chocolate bowl and dip into the bowl of coconut, pushing some up the sides of the marshmallow. Set this on the parchment and allow to set. If your kitchen is on the warm side, put them in the fridge for a little while. You can also eat them while the chocolate is warm and the marshmallow is a little gooey. I won't judge you. I promise.

Since I had extra chocolate, I dipped a couple marshmallows in the chocolate and didn't roll them in the coconut. Then, I threw a big handful of regular, non-toasted coconut in the remaining chocolate and made little coconut nests. No need to waste any chocolate. As a matter of fact, I believe there is an international law prohibiting such an act. The chocolate police are watching.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

The Final Words on Macaroon Madness

I think it's time for my macaroon obsession to come to an end. I'll still make them (they're just so easy!), but I don't want to seem like a one-ingredient obsessed baker. So, in this entry, the last word on macaroons (for now), I'll share my experiment with fresh coconut and some other ideas to add to my original recipe (see blog #2).

My daughter and I passed a fresh coconut at the grocery store a few weeks ago. Since I was in the middle of my madness (well, the coconut one), I thought it would be fun to see how the macaroons would taste with fresh coconut.
Cracking the giant nut (actually, it's a seed, but once the husk on the outside is gone, which it always is at the grocery store, it's no longer productive) is a tough task. I used a hammer and a screwdriver to make a couple of holes in the "eyes", poured out the coconut milk inside, and then had to take it outside to crack against the driveway. I'm still hoping the neighbor hasn't called child protection, since it looked like a baby's head in a dish towel. Once the coconut was in pieces, I discarded the tough shell and grated the raw coconut meat. I stored it in the freezer until I was ready to use it. I happened to be making rice pudding, with leftover rice from our Chinese take-out dinner, and used the coconut milk in place of two-thirds of the regular milk. I like to cook my rice pudding by adding the liquid in small amounts, like risotto until it's very creamy. I even tossed in a few shreds of coconut. Very tasty!

In an effort to do the recipe development myself, I didn't turn to the web where there are several recipes, I'm sure. I decided to modify the one I've been using all along. My first run at the recipe produced spongy macaroons (which my husband loved, but didn't satisfy me), so I reduced the egg whites and added a little more flour.

Fresh Coconut Macaroons

5 1/3 cups fresh, grated coconut
2/3 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup flour
1/4 tsp. salt
3 egg whites
1 tsp. almond extract

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Combine the first 4 ingredients, then add the egg whites and almond extract. Scoop with a small ice cream scoop or spoon onto a parchment covered baking sheet. Bake for 20-30 minutes, until golden brown.

I found these macaroons to be a little more nutty than the ones made with sweetened shredded coconut in the bag. Not that there's anything wrong with that.

Back to the original recipe and my can't-leave-a-good-recipe-alone twists:

Chocolate Macaroons

3 tbsp cocoa powder (the good stuff, please, ie. Scharffen Berger)
1 tsp orange flower or rose flower water
I happened to be out of good cocoa when I made this recipe. But, I had something even better - Persian Cocoa from Golden Fig. It's a lovely blend of French cocoa powder, rose powder, cardamom, and orange powder. Oh my, what a macaroon! I certainly did the food dance after eating this one. You can buy the Persian Cocoa at Golden Fig, 790 Grand Ave., St. Paul, MN or online at Or, try Golden Fig's Northern Woods Cocoa with cinnamon and maple powder. Add a pinch of cayenne for a little Mayan heat.

Pina Colada Macaroons

1/2 cup diced dried pineapple
1 tsp. orange flower water or, if you can find it, pineapple extract

This was another hit in the family. For a variation, and because one of the things I like most about coconut macaroons is the chewy edges, I flattened out the macaroon to around 1/2" before baking (see the macaroon on the left in the photo). If you're like me and are an edge nibbler, this is the ultimate way to make the macaroons.

Cherry Chocolate Macaroons

1/2 cup coarsely chopped dried cherries
1/3 cup dark or semi-sweet small chocolate chips (or roughly chop up the regular size)
1 tsp almond extract

I haven't made this recipe yet, but it sounds so very tasty to me.

Curried Macaroons

1 tsp sweet curry (again, I love the blend from Golden Fig)
1/2 cup chopped dried mangoes
1 tsp orange flower water

Another untested recipe, but one would think coconut and curry would be a match made in Kashmir.

One thing I've noticed on my macaroon journey is how important it is to judge the doneness (is that a word?) by the eye. There have been times when it took an extra 15-20 minutes to get the golden brown I wanted. It's probably my uncalibrated oven, but I'm used to the watch-and-see game with whatever I bake. I also put a few unbaked coconut macaroons in the freezer to bake at a later date. I'll let you know how those come out. Wouldn't that be nice to be able to bake off a few at a time? Then, you can have fresh macaroons anytime you crave them. Midnight snack, anyone?

I'd love to hear your suggestions for other additions to coconut macaroons. I'm sure if I had 50 bags of coconut, I could come up with 50 variations on the recipe. Or, just leave me on a desert island full of coconuts. I'll need my oven, please. And, a swanky camper with indoor plumbing. And, loads of tea and milk. Maybe I'd tire of coconut macaroons after a year or so, but probably not.