Growing up, one of my absolute favorite treats was a Jamaican sweet called coconut drops. As a child, when I would visit the island to see family, they were the first thing I’d run to the corner store to get. My first memory doing this was about the age of 10, visiting an aunt and uncle in the "country" (which, in Jamaica, means up in the mountains). The corner shops are also the places where locals gather for a quick bite and a beer. The coconut drops I remember were handmade and wrapped in plastic wrap, they were incredibly sweet and spicy. So I would nibble on one for days.
I indulge my sweet tooth now, too, by grabbing coconut drops from my local Caribbean market. (I should point out that my local Caribbean market is actually not quite so local—when I really crave Jamaican food and treats, I go all the way to the Bronx and visit my aunts and cousins, who live off of Gun Hill Road.) It’s basically a candy that is made from dried coconut, brown sugar, and fresh ginger—a very traditional recipe.
At some point, I decided that I couldn’t wait to go to the Bronx to enjoy coconut drops, and I wanted to turn those flavors into something I could make quickly and easily and enjoy often. Immediately, coconut macaroons came to mind. What I love about them most is that they require so few ingredients, but still turn into such a delicious treat at the end. More than that, you don’t have to be a baking or pastry expert to make them—you can be at any skill level, and the cookies still come out amazingly (even when they’re not perfect!). All you need is a good mixing bowl, a wooden spoon, and some elbow grease.
When I make these, I make a huge batch, then eat them until my stomach starts to hurt a little bit (it is completely worth it) and freeze the rest. If stored in an airtight, freezer-safe container, the macaroons can be frozen for up to three months. And when you’re ready to eat them again, just take them out of the container and let them defrost to room temperature for an hour or two—that’s it!
I make a lot of these during the holidays, when we all are craving some sweet treats and comfort foods. But they are my go-to party dish year round, mostly because I am often working and end up with little time to plan—these are the perfect thing to make and bring last minute. I recently got married, and my husband loves them, too, so of course I say yes to his special requests for them. Any excuse to be reminded of my favorite childhood tradition. —samanthadavis
Heat the oven to 325°F (165°C). Set two oven racks near the center of the oven. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. (Make sure to use parchment paper, and not wax paper, on the baking sheets. The macaroons will stick to wax paper.)
In a medium bowl, mix together the coconut, sweetened condensed milk, ground ginger, crystallized ginger, and vanilla extract. Set aside.
In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the egg whites and salt until stiff peaks form. Use a large rubber spatula to fold the egg whites into the coconut mixture.
Using a mini ice cream scoop or two spoons, form heaping tablespoons of the mixture into mounds on the prepared baking sheets, spacing about 1 inch apart. Bake for 23 to 25 minutes, rotating the pans from top to bottom and front to back, until the tops and edges are golden. Let cool on the pans for a few minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.