Richer — and Simpler — Than Traditional Macaroons
OK, technically these cookies aren’t macaroons (they don’t contain egg white). But they look like coconut macaroons, and their flavor is remarkably similar. So whatever you call them, your taste buds will get an exceedingly sweet treat.
Last year when I posted about Pfeffernüsse Cookies, I mentioned that for Christmas my mom would bake at least a dozen different types of cookies. The selection varied a bit from year to year, but there was always a nucleus of family favorites. One of these was Coconut Kisses, which she always baked on Christmas Eve. To make them even more festive, she’d divide the cookie dough and dye half of it red, the other half green.
These days, Mrs. Kitchen Riffs (the cookie baker in our household) skips the dye. Although I sometimes get nostalgic for the seasonal look of the red and green cookies, I must admit I prefer the way they look au naturel. Besides, that way you can serve them all year round, not just at Christmas.
A good thing too, because once you see the way kids — and adults — gobble these up, you’ll want to bake them often.
Recipe: Coconut Kisses (Macaroons)
My mother started baking these cookies in the 1950s (if not before), but the recipe didn’t originate with her. She probably found it printed on a package of flaked coconut or sweetened condensed milk (the two main ingredients). No doubt a food-company home economist developed it to sell loads of company product.
And it worked. This cookie was ubiquitous when I was growing up.
It takes about 5 minutes to mix the cookie dough, another two minutes or so to form the cookies on a baking sheet, and 10 to 12 minutes to bake each sheet of cookies. The recipe makes 4 to 5 dozen (depending on how big you make the cookies), so you’ll be doing several rounds of baking unless you have multiple ovens and lots of baking sheets. Figure a good hour or so total time for making a whole batch.
Leftover cookies store in airtight containers at room temperature for several days. You can also refrigerate them (but if you do that, allow them to come to room temperature before serving).
- 1 14-ounce package of flaked, sweetened coconut (5 1/3 cups; Baker’s Angel Flake coconut is traditional, although other brands work well too)
- 1 14-ounce can of sweetened condensed milk (any brand works)
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract (you don’t want the artificial stuff; see Notes)
- maraschino cherries for garnish (optional)
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Line baking sheets with silicone baking mats (such as Silpat) or parchment paper.
- In a mixing bowl, combine all ingredients (except garnish), stirring thoroughly to mix.
- Using a teaspoon, scoop rounds of dough and drop onto prepared baking sheets. Add a maraschino cherry to the top of each cookie if desired.
- Bake until done, about 10 to 12 minutes. Halfway through baking, reverse baking sheets from top to bottom, and turn from front to back. Cookies are done when the coconut is lightly browned.
- After removing a baking sheet from the oven, allow the cookies to “set” on the sheet for three to five minutes before removing them with a wide spatula. Allow cookies to cool before eating.
- These cookies tend to spread out a little when they bake, which I think adds to their charm. If you prefer a more compact cookie, make them smaller; the smaller ones don’t spread as much.
- If you don’t want to use a teaspoon to shape the cookies, a #60 scoop works well (each scoop is slightly over 1 tablespoon in size).
- I tend to prefer these cookies without a garnish, but the cherry is pretty. You can also dribble melted chocolate on the cookies — this is both pretty and tasty.
- Flaked coconut is coconut that has been dried, then shaved (flaked), and usually sweetened.
- Condensed milk is milk that has been reduced by boiling (thus removing the water content), and sweetened with sugar. Evaporated milk is similar, except it contains no sugar. Because sugar acts as a preservative, making evaporated milk requires more processing than does condensed milk. Condensed milk was first developed in France in 1820, but was subsequently “reinvented” in the US by Gail Borden, Jr. in 1853. Borden produced one of the first commercial brands of condensed milk in the US.
- The Borden company underwent a leveraged buyout in the 1990s and the company was eventually dissolved. Today Eagle brand is probably the most commonly found condensed milk in the US, but all brands are more or less the same.
- Good vanilla extract contains no sugar. So check the label on yours — you may be surprised at what you see.
- You want to use real (pure) vanilla extract in this recipe. Pure vanilla extract is made by soaking vanilla beans in a mixture of water and alcohol for several months. BTW, the FDA requires that pure vanilla extract contain at least 35% alcohol.
- If the label doesn’t say “pure,” that means it’s made from synthetic vanilla. The artificial kind is usually derived from the sapwood of several species of conifers — or from coal extracts!
- The flavor of some imitation vanillas can be nasty. You don’t have to spend a fortune on pure vanilla extract, but getting decent quality does mean spending a bit more for something that’s not loaded with sugar or imitation flavoring. Do yourself a favor and get the real stuff.
- You can also use vanilla beans, but for baking that’s a pain.
Mrs K R was scooping cookie dough onto sheets and busily baking. I was in the kitchen keeping
So I decided to have a cookie. Or four. Every time a sheet would emerge from the oven with freshly baked Coconut Kisses, we’d wait the barest amount of time for the cookies to cool (slightly) before picking them up and eating them, scorching our fingers and lips in the process.
“So why did your mom always make these cookies on Christmas Eve?” asked Mrs K R.
“Because of all the ones she baked, these had the shortest shelf life — they’d get stale a bit faster than some of the other varieties. She’d always make these along with Stollen, which also is best eaten fairly fresh.”
“Well, it looks like shelf life isn’t a problem around here,” observed Mrs K R.
“Guess I’d better slow down,” I said sheepishly.
“Only if you want to have some cookies left for pictures.”
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