Confession: Coconut and I have not always been the best of friends.
In fact, I used to detest the flavor and texture. As a little girl, I’d bypass all of the Mounds and Almond Joy bars in my Halloween loot and head straight for the Snickers and Twix bars.
Then I discovered the Girl Scout Caramel Delights cookies, (we didn’t call them Samoas down in PA where I grew up), and I changed my tune a bit. It must have been the caramel and chocolate that drew me in ;).
The next step I took towards gaining an appreciation for coconut was a virgin Pina Colada consumed at some point… and then a few years later, a not-so-virgin Pina Colada.
The culminating moment when I finally determined that I actually adored coconut was when I first tasted Thai coconut curry. Spicy and rich; savory with a kick of sweet.
I was sold.
Years after this epiphany, I was handed an individually wrapped coconut macaroon following a delicious French lunch at L’Espalier in downtown Boston. As I bit through the slightly crisp crust and into the soft center, I had one of those closed-eyes-everything-slows-down moments.
I had to recreate these at home!
Well, I finally found a recipe that caught my attention as being worthy of making. I made a half batch of Megan’s Detox Blonde Macaroons, and was ecstatic about how fantastic they were! The only caveat: they are pretty high in saturated fat. Yes, I know coconut is on the path to redemption after spending years on health professionals’ “don’t eat” lists, but I still think moderation is best.
On my second go-around, I attempted to make the macaroons with all reduced-fat coconut. Poor decision. Note to self: you need fat to make butter. Even coconut butter. So, the coconut used to make the coconut butter had to be full-fat. What about the shredded coconut that is folded into the butter? How could I lessen the overall saturated fat content? Ah yes. Use reduced fat shredded coconut and sub out half of it for rolled oats!
My version is lower in fat, but retains the lovely flavor and chewy texture of the original. Vanilla bean paste contributes the aesthetically appealing black vanilla bean flecks more affordably than a whole vanilla bean, but pure vanilla extract can also be used. A touch of almond extract adds depth of flavor, and a bit of salt provides a nice counter balance to the sweet maple syrup.
The first step is to make your own coconut butter – for which you absolutely must use full fat unsweetened shredded coconut.
After a few minutes in the food processor, the flakes should start to break down like so:
A few more minutes of blending, and voila! Smooth, creamy, & silky coconut butter.
Since there aren’t a lot of flavor additions, I recommend using high-quality extracts. I LOVE this vanilla bean paste, and use it in recipes where the flecks of vanilla bean are visible.
I’m also hooked on this almond extract. I’ve considered dabbing it on my wrists and behind my ears as perfume ;).
See the vanilla beans in the macaroon dough?
As is true for most cookie dough, this one tastes phenomenal! Go ahead and lick that bowl clean – there are no raw eggs to be concerned about, and I say it’s a mandatory step in the baking process.
These macaroons smell nothing short of intoxicating while baking, and you will not believe how amazing they taste. Coconut is clearly the predominant flavor, and the addition of rolled oats does not detract from its potency. The maple syrup adds not just sweetness, but also a rich flavor that is heightened by the vanilla and almond extracts. The macaroons develop a lovely crisp crust as they cool, while the interior of each golden orb remains chewy.
I can easily say that these are – without a doubt – my new favorite cookie. Although I would still pass by a coconut candy bar without a second glance (who needs all of that artificial junk?), I’ll take a few of these macaroons any day!
yield: 24-26 macaroons, depending on size
- 2 2/3 cup full fat shredded unsweetened coconut (one 8 oz package) OR 1 cup of coconut butter
- 1 cup reduced-fat shredded unsweetened coconut
- 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
- 3/4 cup pure maple syrup, preferably Grade B
- 1 Tbsp + 1 tsp pure vanilla bean paste
- 1/2 tsp pure almond extract
- 1/2 tsp Kosher salt
- Preheat oven to 300°F. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or parchment paper.
- In a food processor, process 2 2/3 cups full fat shredded coconut for about 5-8 minutes, until a thick, smooth coconut butter forms, scraping down the sides as needed (this will yield about 1 cup of coconut butter).
- Combine the coconut butter and all of the remaining ingredients in a bowl. Stir until well-combined.
- Using a mini ice cream scoop or a small spoon, scoop the dough onto the prepared baking sheet (no need to leave much room in between as they do not spread out). Bake for about 20-25 minutes, or until the bottoms of the macaroons are lightly browned. The macaroons will be very soft at this point.
- Allow the macaroons to sit at room temperature on the baking sheet for about 30 minutes, or until they firm up and cool down.