I love coconut. Coconut anything, really. Whether savory or sweet, coconut adds a deliciously sweet, nutty, exotic flavor to just about anything. My family has always been big on the coconut macaroons. While no one in our family made particularly great ones, we often bought them on our expeditions to different little bakeries here and there. The best coconut macaroons I have ever had, hands down, are the preposterously enormous ones sold at the little bakery at Harris Ranch in Coalinga, California (on the drive up from LA). They are huge, but light, almost cakey, and packed with a punch of coconut flavor. I feel like I am forever in search of the perfect coconut macaroon recipe, having tried desperately to replicate the Harris Ranch cookies over the years, to no avail. What I definitely do know is that they add both almond and vanilla extracts, and the coconut they use is ground into little pieces, and not long shreds, which I think makes the texture especially good. Now some people like to dip their macaroons in chocolate. And while I agree that it does make for a beautiful presentation, I find the addition of chocolate to be overwhelming. It is far too sweet, and in the end all it really does is mask all of the great coconut flavor that you have worked so hard to achieve.
These last couple of years I have been successfully using the America’s Test Kitchen recipe for their triple coconut macaroons, with a few of my own little twists. The dessicated coconut that I buy is already in fine pieces, but I take the sweetened shredded coconut and grind it in the food processor until it, too, is in nice, small pieces. I then add a teaspoon of almond extract, which the recipe does not call for, and also as much pure coconut extract as I dare (usually about two teaspoons). I have made the recipe without these adjustments, and I have found that while they are perfectly delicious, they don’t really have that punch of coconut flavor that I am looking for (curse you Harris Ranch and your damn delicious cookies!!!).
I prefer the hockey puck shape (which I achieve by using a medium-small ice cream scoop and flattening the mounds out with the palm of my hand) to the little pyramids (which I just don’t have the patience for). I typically also bake my cookies for a couple of extra minutes (about 19 rather than 15) because I like them to get as browned and toasted as possible, which forms a delicious crunchy exterior, enclosing a moist and chewy interior. And while these are not the Harris Ranch macaroons, they are certainly, by far, the best I have ever made myself. So for now, second best is as good as it gets. Enjoy!
[UPDATE: I have been informed that Harris Ranch is under new management and that the coconut macaroons are now less than amazing... this, of course, will not prevent me from dreaming of the perfect macaroons of yore. But I thought I would share this news in case any of you happened to be traveling that way. Have you tasted them recently? What were your thoughts??? - Jacob ]