Vail Baking: Light and airy coconut cookies
Life is Sweet
Vail, CO Colorado
VAIL, Colorado –Got a favorite candy bar? If “Mounds” comes to mind, you’ll like these coconut meringues. Light and airy, with a chewy coconut center and a dark chocolate glaze that contrasts perfectly with the crunchy puff of sweetness, these treats will remind you of a Mounds bar in the form of a cookie.
If the classic coconut-and-chocolate combination isn’t enough to win you, the fact that these Coconut Meringues have very little fat might turn your head. Egg whites and sugar are fat-free; only the coconut (less than a tablespoon per cookie) and the chocolate glaze (which is optional; the cookies are good without it) contribute fat to the cookie.
Tasty, low-fat, and, their final virtue: They last for a long time. Humidity is what kills them, so, in our dry climate, they stay fresh and perky for at least a week, often longer.
I think they make an elegant dessert when served with fresh fruit or berries. They’re also a nice accompaniment to sorbet, ice cream, or puddings and custards.
Avoid using plastic bowls and/or utensils when making these little gems. Even when well washed, plastic may hold some residual fat, which could cause the egg whites to deflate and ruin your meringue.
Makes 26-28 cookies
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon of salt
1 teaspoon of vanilla
1/4 teaspoon of cream of tartar
2/3 cup of granulated sugar, preferably Baker’s or superfine
1 1/4 cups of flaked coconut, spooned lightly into cup; don’t pack)
Optional Chocolate Glaze
4 ounces of semi-sweet or bittersweet chocolate
2 teaspoons of mild vegetable oil (I use canola)
Preheat the oven to 300 degrees (275 if using a convection oven), with racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper or non-stick aluminum foil (non-stick side up).
Place the two room-temperature egg whites in a glass or metal medium-sized mixing bowl. Add the salt and the vanilla. Beat with an electric mixer on medium speed until the mixture is very foamy. Add the cream of tartar and continue beating at medium speed for another minute or so. Increase the mixer speed to high and beat until soft peaks are formed. Add the granulated sugar, about a tablespoon at a time, beating after each addition. Beat until the mixture is thick, glossy, and stiff peaks are formed when you lift the beaters. Don’t beat past this point. Gently and quickly fold in the coconut with a spatula or metal spoon, taking care not to deflate the meringue.
Spoon rounded tablespoons of the mixture onto the prepared cookie sheets, spacing them about an inch and a half apart. (I use two spoons to do this; one to pick up the meringue, the other to push it off the first spoon onto the baking sheet.) Bake until the cookies are firm to the touch and just barely colored. This takes about 20 minutes in my oven. To prevent the cookies from cracking, don’t open the oven door until close to the end of the baking time.
Remove the cookies from the oven, place the cookie sheets on racks, allow the cookies to cool completely, and, then, remove them from the pans.
Glaze the cookies (optional). Chop the chocolate into tiny pieces and place them in a small, microwave-safe bowl. Microwave on a low temperature (I use No. 4 out of a series from 1-10) for one minute, then for 30 second intervals, until the chocolate is not quite fully melted. Remove it from the oven and stir until it melts completely. Add the vegetable oil and stir again until fully combined and smooth. Add a bit more oil if needed to obtain a good consistency for dipping. Gently grasp each cookie by its top, dip the bottom into the chocolate mixture, wipe it on the edge of the bowl to remove excess chocolate glaze, if necessary. Place the cookie on a piece of parchment, non-stick foil, or silipat (I use the same parchment or foil that lined the cookie sheets for baking.) and let it rest until the chocolate glaze is set. Once set, store the cookies in an airtight container in a cool, dry place.
Vera Dawson, a Chef Instructor at the Culinary Institute of Colorado Mountain College, lives in Summit County, where she bakes almost every day. Her recipes have been tested in her home kitchen and, whenever necessary, altered until they work at our altitude.
Contact Dawson with your comments about this column and/or your baking questions at email@example.com.