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The Genius Ingredients Coconut Macaroons Were Missing

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Even if you’ve had some version of these macaroons before (and you have) and been quite happy, you couldn’t have known what they were missing.

As delightful as all those other macaroons may be, with their one-bowl ease, their irresistibly chewy texture and snowball-like charm, it turns out they could be—curiously and dramatically—better.

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Danielle Kartes' Coconut Custard Macaroons
Danielle Kartes' Coconut Custard Macaroons

Most macaroons are made with shredded coconut and little else, bound with sweetened condensed milk or egg white. And until Danielle Kartes, author of the blog and cookbook Rustic Joyful Food, emailed me a few years ago, I didn’t think much about what they might be lacking.

As Kartes was researching classic macaroon recipes, she told me she found herself wondering, “Where was the egg yolk? Where was the butter? Where was the fun?” So she took it upon herself to add them, and an important dose of salt, in the form of flaky fleur de sel, too.

Adding more fat and salt—the ingredients that we spent the 1990s stripping away—isn’t necessarily the answer to making everything better, but the difference it makes in these macaroons is profound.

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Instead of a straightforward sweet, coconutty chew, you get a more rounded richness, and a welcome savory oomph. And the butter has an amplifying effect—the cookies don’t just taste better because butter inherently tastes rich and good, but because it turns to browned butter in the oven, and mingles with sugars and salt to become caramel. All of these flavors swim along quite happily with coconut.

At the same time, the butter and egg yolk help the pointy outer edges of the macaroon brown and crisp up as the inside stays soft and custardy. In fact, the cookies are so moist (there, I said it) that they can soften and lose some of their addictive crunch over the course of a day. Don’t worry—I’ve stress-tested them for you, and a quick toast in the oven brings them back to their full crispy-chewy glory.

This makes them as good a treat to eat now (and I do mean now—they’re ready fast) as to share with your lucky coworkers and friends tomorrow. Any passersby who taste them will go doe-eyed, and keep wandering back for more. They won’t be able to pinpoint why they’re so much better than all the other cookies that look like them. Go ahead and tell them.

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Danielle Kartes' Coconut Custard Macaroons

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Makes about 60 cookies
  • 18 ounces sweetened, shredded coconut (about 6 1/2 cups)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 stick butter, melted
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract (available kosher for Passover)
  • 3/4 teaspoon fleur de sel or other large-flake sea salt
  • 3/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
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Note: These macaroons are kosher for Passover, but if you're looking for a good recipe that's also parve to serve after a meaty seder, try Alice Medrich's New Classic Coconut Macaroons—they're genius, too.

Photos by James Ransom

Got a genius recipe to share—from a classic cookbook, an online source, or anywhere, really? Perhaps a genius dessert? Please send it my way (and tell me what's so smart about it) at [email protected].