Monday, March 07, 2011

Macaroons with Chocolate Ganache and Almonds (aka Almond Joy Cookies)


I recently received a package from a friend who is traveling in Africa. The brightly-colored fabric-backed painting was lovely, but honestly I was probably just as thrilled by the basic fact of the envelope as by its contents. Care package! Foreign stamps! Hand-written letter! Getting mail is so exciting!

These days, it's possible to go years without receiving a little homemade postal love. Unless you're sharing grocery lists, you might not know what someone's handwriting even looks like. There's the mass-produced holiday card, or the wedding thank-yous written out by the dozens, but honestly it's not the same. A care package, lovingly assembled in another city and posted out to you, is such a thrill. I give and receive them all too infrequently.

But when I do, the question remains: what to send? The shelf-stable particulars vary based upon the recipient, but I'm almost always looking to include a little handmade sugar as well. Unfortunately, it can be hard to find the right cookies to send. Chocolate chip cookies and brownies are great fresh from the oven, but unless you're a starving college student, you're probably not going to want them six days later. Things like gingerbread or biscotti, dried out to a long-term-storage crisp, work well. But recently I pulled together a package for someone in need of a little pick-me-up, and demure crunchy tea cookies weren't going to do. I wanted something a little more gooey, more chocolatey and indulgent, but still delicious after spending the better part of a week in transit. Fortunately, I discovered these macaroons.

This recipe produces a showstoppingly good cookie. Fresh out of the oven, you're struck by the moist, rich coconut filling, gently toasted to a crisp on the outside. And to make matters even better, this richness is offset by a bittersweet fudgey ganache. I was compelled to take it even further, adding a sprinkling of toasted almonds, and the lightest dusting of coarse salt to bring out the sweetness. They ship well (having no delicate edges to break off in the mail), and even a few days later still taste like a candy bar. If you really want to play up the similarity, you can omit the chopped nuts, and hide a single toasted almond beneath the ganache. These macaroons are my new favorite for shipping off across the country (or hiding away in my very own freezer).


Macaroons with Chocolate Ganache and Almonds (aka Almond Joy Cookies)

adapted from a recipe that Bon Appetit adapted from Marigold Kitchen, with thanks to Orangette for flagging
makes ~ 4 dozen


Cookies:
3 cups (lightly-packed) sweetened shredded coconut
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup egg whites (about 6)
pinch salt
1 1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp almond extract

Ganache and Topping:
9 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, chopped
6 Tbsp heavy whipping cream (if shipping, reduce to 3 Tbsp for a firmer set)
1 Tbsp corn syrup (optional, but gives a nice gloss to the finished ganache)
~1/4 cup chopped and toasted almonds
coarse salt for sprinkling (optional)

Mix together the coconut, sugar, egg whites and salt in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly once it warms. The mixture will gradually dry out and become less loose and gooey, and more of a sticky paste (~12 minutes). Remove from heat, and stir in the vanilla and almond extracts. Spread out in a thick layer on a cookie sheet, and refrigerate until cold, ~1 hour (you can also place in a sealed container and allow to sit in the refrigerator overnight).

When the dough is chilled, preheat the oven to 300, and line a couple baking sheets with parchment.

Take the chilled dough, and shape into packed, mounded heaping tablespoons (a mini ice-cream scoop is ideal for this). Place the cookies on the prepared baking sheets (they won't spread, so you don't need to space them too far apart). Bake until the coconut on the outside begins to get golden, ~20-30 minutes. Remove, let set on the sheet for a few minutes to firm up, and then transfer to a rack to cool completely.

When the cookies are cool, prepare the ganache. Place the chocolate, cream and corn syrup in double boiler, and heat until the chocolate is almost entirely melted. Remove from heat, and whisk until smooth. Spoon the glaze over the macaroons, allowing it to form little chocolate hats and drip down thickly over the sides. Sprinkle with toasted almonds, and, if desired, just a few grains of coarse salt (you can lightly press down any sticking-up almonds to make sure they are fully anchored in the ganache). Refrigerate until the ganache fully sets (at least two hours), then transfer to an airtight container. Store in the refrigerator or freezer, or ship off to the loved one of your choosing.

6 comments:

  1. A care package from Africa? Sounds amazing. When I got a care package from a friend in Spain, it was like I'd died and gone to heaven.

    I'm glad you posted about mail-appropriate baked goods, too...I often want to send a package of cookies to my brother in college, but have a hard time figuring out something that would weather the trip.

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  2. I love, love, love these confections. Made a huge batch and had to get them out as gifts before I ate them all.

    My question: Have you tried freezing them? We have this large Dog Weekend in August and some things much be made ahead of time. I'm making a batch this weekend for a craft group I belong to and will freeze some as a test, but thought you might have already tried to freeze some.

    Thanks, Darienne

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  3. So glad to hear you made and loved them! I haven't frozen them, but the author of the blog I found them on has frozen them with great success (and found that she even preferred eating them straight from the freezer).

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  4. MaryLaure Boone-PallantiFebruary 18, 2014 at 10:27 AM

    These look amazing & I can't wait to make them for my hubby! Great idea for shipping at Christmas time for family & friends. Thank you!

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  5. We'd love to make these for a Passover dessert, but meat will be served for dinner. Do you have any modifications to make the ganache nondairy?

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    1. I've made dairy-free ganache by using alternative milks — almond milk, or soymilk, or even a soy creamer. Use the lesser amount, since it's not as thick as cream. If you're also not using corn syrup, you can throw in just a pat of non-dairy margarine for softness/gloss.

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