Suzi's Blog

Coconut Joys

Editted 2013_02_03_0483

 

I have a new proof for the existence of God. It would take such superior designer to come up [and conceal] two very distinct but two very complex nut foods. Foods that are encased so deeply you cannot believe how people ever figured out to use them.

There is coconut, of course. And then there are the cacao pods which are transformed into chocolate only through a series of steps that impossible to have ever been devised. But thanks, perhaps to a gracious God, they were revealed. There are no chocolate atheists.

The combination of coconut and chocolate can be sublime. What better vehicle to transport those flavors to you than a perfect French meringue. I do mean perfect.

As soon as Suzen saw the title, Coconut Joys, she was onto this recipe. Surprisingly, I was entrusted with making them. And this only because in the brilliant new book Meringue by Linda Jackson and Jennifer Evans Gardner there is the technique for perfect meringues.

You’ll want to use very, very fresh coconut flavor here. So, that half-used package of coconut from last spring that is sitting on your shelf? Use it for the photo. That’s what I did.

Instead of using full-sized chocolate chips, the use of mini-chips here reinforces the daintiness of the cookies.

These are easy to make — 15 minutes. And long to bake — 3 ½ hours in your oven. It’s a weekend treat. One you could use, say, to teach your children to be patient. [Or yourself.]

One thing about meringues. If it is raining out, don’t even think about it. Humidity is the mortal enemy of meringue, so wait for sunshine.

Coconut Joys

Yield: about 40 small cookies

Ingredients:

  • 4 large egg whites, room temperature
  • ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
  • ½ cup superfine sugar
  • ½ cup powdered sugar
  • ½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • ¾ cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • 1 cup mini semisweet chocolate chips
  • ½ cup chopped almonds, optional

Preparation:

Preheat the oven to 200°F. [Yes, 200°F]

In the bowl of an electric stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites and cream of tartar, increasing speed to medium-high until soft peaks form. Add superfine sugar and then powdered sugar, about a tablespoon at a time. With a rubber spatula, very gently scrape down the sides of the mixing bowl because the powdered sugar is so lightweight it will fly up and stick to the sides of the bowl. Continue beating on high until peaks are stiff and glossy. Reduce to low and add vanilla, coconut, chocolate chips, and almonds; beat until combined.

Drop by well-rounded teaspoons onto baking sheets lined with parchment paper, about 1 inch apart. Bake for 90 minutes. Turn oven off and cool meringues in closed oven for 2 hours or until dry to the touch.

Cool completely before removing from baking sheets. Store in an airtight container.

 

Source: Meringue by Linda Jackson and Jennifer Evans Gardner

 

Easiest Ever Dulce De Leche Bars with Coconut

 

Last week I posted a recipe for dulce de leche swirl congo bars. Fantastic cookies combining the flavor of blondie cookies with chocolate chips and dulce de leche.

Here’s another great idea from Simply Sensational Cookies. These are called Easiest-Ever Dulce de Leche Bars. Why “easiest?” Because amazingly, you don’t use dulce de leche as an ingredient. No you make a shortbread batter, bake it off, then top it with sweetened condensed milk. Pop it back in the oven. The shortbread finishes cooking and that milk is transformed into dulce de leche. Oh, and you top it off with coconut.

It’s really easy. It’s decadently good. If you want to justify making this, get some children. Tell them you are going to demonstrate an important chemical reaction. In goes the shortbread base with condensed milk and out comes dulce de leche. Honestly, I think that’s just the sort of lesson that can trigger a healthy interest in science or cooking.

Or eating.

Easiest-Ever Dulce De Leche Bars

Yield: 24 2” squares

Ingredients:

  • 1 batch Simple Shortbread Bar dough [recipe follows]
  • 2 14-ounce cans sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract
  • ⅛ teaspoon almond extract or coconut extract
  • ⅛ teaspoon salt
  • 1 ½ cups shredded or flaked sweetened coconut

Preparation:

Baking Preliminaries: Position a rack in the middle of the oven; preheat to 350°F. Line a 9 by 13-inch baking pan with heavy-duty aluminum foil, letting the foil slightly overhang on the narrow sides. Lightly grease the foil or coat with nonstick spray.

If the shortbread dough has not been prepared ahead, ready it; press it evenly into the foil-lined baking pan. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, until the shortbread is tinged with brown and just slightly darker at the edges.

Reset the oven to 325°F.

For the filling: In a medium bowl, thoroughly stir together the sweetened condensed milk, vanilla, almond extract, and salt. Evenly pour the mixture over the crust. Cover the pan tightly with foil. Bake (middle rack) for 40 to 45 minutes or until the filling is the color of caramel candies. Sprinkle the coconut evenly over the top. Bake, uncovered for 10 to 15 minutes longer, until the coconut is nicely browned and crisp.

Transfer to a wire rack; let cool completely. Using the foil as handles, lift the slab to a cutting board. Carefully peel off and discard the foil.

Cut away the overbaked edges using a large sharp knife. Cut the slab crosswise into sixths and lengthwise into quarters.

Source: Simply Sensational Cookies by Nancy Baggett

Simple Shortbread

Yield: one 9 by 13-inch pan

Ingredients:

  • 13 tablespoons [scant 1 2/3 sticks] butter, unsalted, cool and firm, cut into chunks
  • ½ cup granulated sugar, plus 1 to 2 tablespoons more for optional garnish
  • 1 ½ teaspoons vanilla
  • 2 cups unbleached all-purpose white flour
  • 1 ½ cups dulce de leche, room temperature from a 13.4 ounce can or ajar of store-bought dulce de leche or, better, home-made and chilled

Preparation:

Baking Preliminaries: To prepare simple shortbread bars, position a rack in the middle of the oven; preheat to 350°F. Line a 9 by 13-inch baking pan with aluminum foil, allowing it to overhang on the 9-inch sides slightly. Lightly grease the foil or coat with nonstick spray. (If using the dough as a bottom crust for layered bars, after making the dough proceed as directed in the individual recipes — which is what is suggested above for this Easiest Ever cookie).

To make the dough with a mixer, let the butter warm up until just slightly soft. In a large bowl with the mixer on medium speed, beat the butter, sugar, vanilla, and salt just until evenly blended, scraping down the bowl as needed. On low speed, beat in the flour just until the mixture forms a mass. (If the mixer motor labors, stir in the last of the flour a large spoon; or gradually knead it in with your hands.)

If the dough too crumbly to hold together, gradually work in up to 4 teaspoons water until it holds together her smoothly. Press and pat the dough into the pan until evenly thick all over (Laying a sheet of wax paper over t h e surface may make it easier to smooth out t h e dough.) If planning to serve t h e shortbread as a cookie itself, garnish the t op by evenly sprinkling over a little sugar. Bake (middle rack for 23 to 28 minutes or until t h e shortbread is nicely browned all over, perhaps slightly darker at the edges, and just firm when pressed.

Transfer the pan to a wire rack to cool to firm up slightly and cool to warm.

Source: Simply Sensational Cookies by Nancy Baggett