Thursday, April 3, 2014

Coconut Macarons

I had to make a bunch of macarons for a Relief Society evening and thought it would be as good of a time as any to try my hand at a coconut macaron. I've been wanting to try them for a while now, and I'm happy with this result. I'm going to play around and tweak my recipe a bit, but for now, here is what I came up with.

Coconut Macarons

1/3 c. almond flour
1/3 c. coconut flour
1 1/2 c. powdered sugar
3 egg whites (at room temperature or slightly warmed)
5 T. granulated sugar
1 t. coconut extract

Heat oven to 280 degrees and place the racks on the two lowest positions. Cut pieces of parchment paper to fit two cookie sheets perfectly. If you are not familiar with hand piping macarons, you can trace 1 1/2 inch circles all over the parchment, leaving 1/2 inch in-between circles. If you choose to do this, make sure to turn the paper over so pencil marks don't get on the cookie shells.

If your almond flour seems coarse, run it through a food processor to make it more fine. When measuring, make sure to pack it in, as it will be very light weight. Process the sifted almond flour, coconut flour and powdered sugar together in the food processor for a minute or so and set aside.

Place egg whites and sugar in the bowl of a mixer and start to mix on low (Kitchen Aid speed four) with the whisk attachment for two minutes. Increase the speed to medium (Kitchen Aid speed six) and continue to beat for an additional 2 minutes, and then once again at a high speed (Kitchen Aid eight). Add the teaspoon of coconut extract and beat for 30 seconds on the highest speed (Kitchen Aid ten).

Transfer egg whites to a large bowl (I often use the same bowl they were originally in). Add a third of the dry mixture and fold it about a dozen times until just mixed. Fold with a spatula, going up the sides, pushing down the center. Finish mixing the rest of the dry ingredients, being careful to fold and not stir. When you lift your spatula, the mixture should pour off like thick molten lava. If it's not flowing when you lift the spatula, it is too thick and needs more mixing. This is the trickiest part, but after experience, you will know when it's perfect. If you're having trouble with this step, there are a lot of videos on the internet that help.

Use a piping bag with a medium-sized round tip (#10 works perfectly). Place it in a large cup and fold over the sides. Pour in half of the mixture and twist the top. Start piping the batter into the circles. The best way to do it is hold just over the pan (not touching), perfectly straight up and down, and let the batter flow out naturally, until the circle is perfectly filled. Then quickly turn your wrist as you lift the tip to try and not leave a tail. Once the first pan is filled, hold the pan with both hands and tap hard on the counter 3 times. Turn the pan so your hands are on the opposite ends and tap again 3 times (helps get any air pockets out and flattens the cookies). Continue until both pans are filled and the rest of the batter is used up. Let them sit on the counter for at least 15 minutes, or until the tops are no longer wet when you touch them. (This could take a lot longer in a humid climate-mine sometimes takes up to an hour in Virginia.)

Place the cookie sheets on the two bottom oven racks. You will have to experiment with the cooking times, but this is what works best for me. Set the timer for 2 minutes and when it rings, open the door for about 15 seconds, to let any humidity escape. Then set the timer for 6 minutes. Once the time is up, change the pans so that the top one is now on the bottom, as well as turn around so the back of the pan is now in the front. Bake for 6 more minutes. To test the doneness, carefully lift the cookie off the sheet. If it comes off the parchment easily, they are done. If the cookie separates in half, bake one more minute, and so on. Be extremely careful and watch closely, as these coconut ones can easily brown. Cool the macaroons completely before lifting them off the parchment paper. Once they are cool, start matching up the sizes and place both halves next to each other and then fill and sandwich together.

Completed macarons are best if refrigerated for a couple of hours, or frozen up to a month in a sealed container. At least 15 minutes before serving, remove the macarons from the freezer and keep sealed in the container, with the lid on, until completely thawed.

Coconut Buttercream Filling

8 T. unsalted butter, softened
3 egg yolks
1/4 c. granulated sugar
5 T. heavy cream
1/2 c. dried unsweetened coconut flakes 
1 t. coconut extract

Cut butter into pieces and mash with a spatula until the consistency resembles mayonnaise. In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks, then add the granulated sugar and whisk until the mixture lightens to an off-white and you can no longer see the granules of sugar. Add the cream, and whisk to combine. Pour the egg mixture into a small saucepan and heat over low, whisking constantly to ensure that the mixture does not curdle or scorch. Cook until the mixture becomes thick and custardy, like pudding. Pour the egg mixture back into its original bowl and whisk constantly until the bottom of the bowl is at room temperature. Whisk in the butter in three batches, add the coconut extract and the coconut; stir until smooth and all ingredients are fully combined. Pipe or spread onto half of one macaron shell and carefully place the same size shell on top. Put just enough pressure so that the filling reaches the edges. (If filling is too fluid, put in refrigerator or freezer for 5-10 minutes until it's set and easier to work with.) If desired, roll the filled macarons in a bowl of unsweetened coconut flakes.

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