I’ve been spending a good bit of time in the car recently, making trips down to St. Olaf College, my alma mater, in Northfield, Minnesota, which is about an hour away. Barbara Kingsolver has been my companion. (Books on tape, I love you.) I’m about ten hours into The Lacuna. It’s hard to imagine being distracted from Barbara’s prose, but the roads have been so bad this year, the worst in memory. I find myself distracted by images of horse and buggy. And then by memories of my Norwegian grandfather and his last car, a Lincoln Continental, which would make this trip so much smoother. Even in the late 1980s, it was a boat. How nice this drive would be with him. We’d wash over the soft waves of the potholes. And we could share a little box of the coconut macaroons that I just made. He would like that. We’d chat, the car bobbing, as we used to—about fishing and antacids and the wisdom of ordering a malt with dinner at the kind of place that you can do that, the usual nothings that meant so much. Wouldn’t it be a wonderful surprise, if we could conjure such things, if only for a few minutes? The surprise of my distracted thoughts got me thinking about culinary surprises, and about those macaroons sitting at home on my kitchen counter. Wouldn’t they be nice with their own surprise? An injection of caramel, maybe cinnamon cream caramel? This is how my brain works. Like a cat. (Pretty yarn. Pretty yarn.) The good news is that my little distractions lead to recipes like this. Not too bad for daydreaming.
Music for making Cinnamon Cream Caramel Coconut Macaroons:
A crooner my grandpa would approve of: Andy Williams’ Moon River
Cinnamon Cream Caramel Surprise Coconut Macaroons
Yield: four dozen cookies
1 batch coconut macaroons (recipe below)
1 batch cinnamon cream caramel (recipe below)
- When you caramel is cool enough to work with, fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip. Be careful. The trick here is waiting until you won’t get burned, but not so long that the caramel is thickening too much.
- Take out an egg carton, place your eggs in a basket or bowl, and place a sheet of waxed paper or parchment over the carton. You’re going to nest your macaroons in the egg carton. Place them into the carton tops facing down, so that you can put a little caramel into the bottom of each cookie.
- Inject a little squirt of caramel into the center of each one and allow the caramel to cool.
- Remove the macaroons from their temporary nest, return your eggs to the carton, and enjoy!
To separate an egg white, crack an egg in half. Pour the egg white out of one half of the shell and discard that half shell. Then, holding your hand over the measuring cup, gently pour the yolk into your hand. Allow the white to run through your hand and into the measuring cup below. Reserve the yolk for making custard or another yolk-rich dessert.
Yield: four dozen cookies
1 c. egg whites
2 c. sugar
16 ounces unsweetened desiccated coconut
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F and line two baking sheets with parchment.
- Separate the whites from about seven eggs into a one-cup measure until you have one cup of egg whites.
- In a large bowl, mix the egg whites and the sugar well.
- Add the coconut and stir to mix.
- Scoop out little macaroons using a tablespoon or a small scoop and place them on the baking sheet with ½“ between each cookie.
- Bake for 12 minutes.
- Rotate the trays from top to bottom and 180 degrees.
- Bake for another 12 minutes.
- Allow the cookies to cool to room temperature.
- Store them between layers of waxed paper in a tin or other container. They will keep about one week.
Use a very large pan for this recipe in case it boils up.
I use a candy thermometer for this recipe, but you don’t have to purchase one to make it. In fact, I made it for many years without one. Have a saucer or small bowl of cold water ready at your side. When the caramel begins to thicken and darken a bit, begin dropping a dab of caramel onto the saucer. Give it a little pinch with your fingers. It’s ready when it forms a defined but very soft ball that you can squish easily.
If you’re using a candy thermometer, have a hot pad ready. The thermometer can become quite hot. And if your candy thermometer isn’t very tall, hold it rather than clipping it to the pan. If the caramel burbles up over the numbers you’ll be in a pickle.
If you’re using a digital thermometer, do not clip it to the side of the pan. The constant heat is hot a happy partner for its delicate innards, and mine have gone on the fritz and then died. Conventional candy thermometers are perfectly happy clipped to the side of the pan, and I recommend them over their high tech counterparts.
Use the best cream you can for this recipe. A higher butterfat content is better. I love Cedar Summit Farms’ luxurious cream.
Do not scrape the pan with a spatula when you pour the caramel. The caramel against the bottom and sides of the pan are hotter and will form a hard sheet in your caramel.
To fill a pastry bag, fold down the top of the bag a few inches. This will keep the top clean so that it will be easy to fold or twist the bag closed without a mess. Then fold the tip up against the bag. This will prevent the bag from leaking when you fill it. Place the bag, tip folded up, into a glass. Then fill, remove from the glass, and fold up or twist the top closed. Use gentle pressure at the top to pipe.
Store leftover caramel in a jar in the refrigerator, warm it, and drizzle over ice cream.
Cinnamon Cream Caramel
2 c. sugar
1 T. ground cinnamon
¾ c. light corn syrup
½ c. unsalted butter
1 pint (2 c.) heavy cream
- In a large pan, mix together all of the ingredients except one cup of the cream.
- Bring to a boil over medium heat, stirring constantly.
- Gradually add the remaining one cup of cream.
- Continue stirring. It will thicken significantly and darken a bit.
- Cook almost to the soft ball stage, or to 230 degrees F, or until a dab dropped onto a saucer filled with cold water forms a very soft but defined ball. (See caramel tips above.)
- Allow the caramel to cool at room temperature until it is cool enough to work with. Don’t wait too long or it will begin to solidify.