Thursday, 8 April 2010

Better late than never

I'll keep this post fairly short and sweet (much like what I baked for this post) since I have left this so late in the week. Despite having a four-day weekend, I have been rushed off my feet, but better late than never!

Easter is the time for baking, and while I am not cooking with a particular seasonal ingredient this week, I am hoping the fact that baking was involved is seasonal enough - normal service will be resumed next week.

After B. and I spent most of Saturday in an alcohol-fuelled haze after going wine tasting in West Sussex and then spending the rest of the day in a pub, I was looking forward to Easter lunch at my parents’ house. There, we proceeded to eat a huge meal (basically a re-run of Christmas - turkey and all the trimmings.)

So, after drinking all of Saturday and eating all of Sunday, I couldn’t face anything too rich or chocolatey. I felt like something light and fresh but still sweet, so I decided to make coconut and lemon macaroons on Easter Monday. (After all, Easter wouldn’t be Easter without some form of baking.)

I absolutely love the flavour of coconut and have always liked macaroons, but hardly ever have them, and when I do, it is always the store-bought kind. One of my new year’s resolutions was to try cooking some of the things I always just bought in the supermarket, so this seemed like a good place to start.

Since I had never made macaroons before, I decided to browse the internet to get a feel for macaroon recipes. After looking at a few, I decided to base my macaroons on Nigella’s coconut macaroons recipe.

I tweaked it by adding lemon zest and lemon juice; the lemon juice also worked to replace the cream of tartar, as I didn’t have any in my cupboard. (Apparently 1½ tsp of lemon juice replaces ½ tsp of cream of tartar, according to this.) I also decided to make lots of little macaroons, rather than eight large ones.

I must admit I was sceptical at first – it seemed a lot of coconut to add compared to other recipes I had read. However, it worked a treat, and the macaroons were fantastic (even if I do say so myself!).

They were crunchy and slightly toasted on the outside, but coconutty on the inside, with a hint of lemon, which was just what I was after. It could be a little more moist in the middle, but other than that, I was pleased. Nigella suggests using shredded coconut to keep things moist, but I had to settle for desiccated as that was all I could find. All in all, it made a fantastic Easter Monday treat – just right after pigging out the day before!

Coconut and lemon macaroons
Makes 18 small macaroons

2 large egg whites
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp lemon zest
100g caster sugar
30g ground almonds
Pinch of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
250g desiccated or shredded coconut
1 baking sheet, lined

1. Preheat the oven to 170°C/150°C fan/gas 4.
2. Whisk the egg whites in a bowl until just foaming, then add ¾ tsp of lemon juice.
3. Continue to whisk the egg whites until they begin to form soft peaks, then add the sugar gradually, about 1-2 tsp at a time, while whisking.
4. When the sugary egg whites are glossy and shiny, and the peaks are holding their shape, fold in the lemon zest, remaining lemon juice and vanilla extract with a spatula. Then fold in the almonds, and finally the coconut.
5. Shape into small balls with your hands and place on a lined baking tray. Bake in the oven for about 12-15 minutes until just beginning to colour. Place on a cooling rack to cool.

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