These sweet, tender and darkly chocolate macaroons were first served to me by a friend’s friend; someone who was not expecting us to stop by and whom had just literally driven up to find us hanging outside her house. Instead of visiting with us on her lawn, like I would have done back in the day, she invited us in and began to just whip up a batch of these addicting little cookies at the spur of the moment. Minutes later we were all sitting on her sofa, inhaling the heavenly aromas and laughing, and not ten minutes after that we were sipping on her husband’s famous Mandarin Orange martinis and munching on melt-in-your-mouth macaroons.
If this wasn’t the quintessential meaning of hospitality, I don’t know what is. I had never met her before and yet moments into our visit, I felt welcome, special and like we were all great friends (Martinis tend to make me very friendly).
I have to admit that hospitality is not something that has come naturally to me. As a young wife and mom, I would literally freak out if someone stopped by our house. It was during those new mom years when I was barely keeping my head above water and dishes were piled high in the sink, dogs were running rampant (usually barking their heads off) and toddler toys were scattered from one end of the house to the other. Hiding under the peek hole of the front door, or switching off the lights and pretending we weren’t home was the action of choice as opposed to graciously opening the door to a surprise guest and inviting them in for a cup of coffee or better yet a homemade coconut macaroon and a martini.
Yes, I am embarrassed to admit these things, and if you were a guest at our door fifteen years ago or so and saw our two cars in the drive and yet stood on the porch in front of a firmly closed door rather perplexed, I am sorry. Since then I have learned a thing or two about hospitality, and I have gotten a lot more comfortable in my own skin.
Thank goodness I am a quick study and living next door to warm people, who always invited us in for a bite of a bakery cookie and a cup of Turkish coffee, began to rub off on me. Their house wasn’t always perfect looking, but their hospitality was always overflowing, and that is what mattered most. Of course, I am not here to advocate surprise visits on friends and neighbors because a quick call ahead is always a nice thing to do, but sometimes life is spontaneous and being greeted by a warm smile and a hug, or a cookie and a martini, is much better than standing on a lonely front porch.
Warning!!! These cookies are rather addicting and seemingly innocent so make sure to have somewhere to take them or send the left overs with your unexpected guests. ;)
Almond Joy Macaroons (Gluten Free)
Recipe by Amber Burke
*You must plan a day ahead with this recipe if you don’t have step one already completed; see below for details.
Makes approximately 2 dozen cookies.
2, 14 oz packages of sweetened coconut, shredded(angel flaked as noted on Baker’s brand package)
1 package unsweetened coconut, shredded (looks almost like powder in the package)
1 package unsweetened coconut FLAKES
5 egg large egg whites, brought to room temperature
1/4 t. fine sea salt
1 t. natural vanilla or vanilla bean paste
1/2 t. natural almond extract (my addition)
1/4 c. of all natural maple syrup
24 whole toasted almonds
1/2 c. melted good quality dark chocolate
To make the macaroons:* STEP 1 : Must be done 24 hours in advance. Mix the coconuts together in a large bowl and then store in an airtight container such as Tupperware for a minimum of 24 hours. You will NOT use all of this coconut in one recipe, but you can store the unused mixture so you are ready next time you make this recipe.
After you have stored the mixed coconut, measure out 2 1/2 cups of it, and put it in a large mixing bowl. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit and line two baking pans with parchment paper or waxed paper. This is important because the batter is very sticky.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a balloon whisk, or with an electric beater, whip the egg whites (first on low speed, then medium and finally high speed) until they form very stiff peaks, almost to the point you would use for a meringue. This will take about 3 minutes or so. As the peaks begin to form, add in the salt, vanilla and almond extract and beat together. Once your egg whites have firmed to stiff peak stage, gently stir them into the coconut. Add the syrup and stir until the mixture forms into a sticky cohesive batter.
Scoop mounds of the batter onto the prepared pans using a small icecream scoop or cookie batter scoop. Place one almond on each cookie and gently press down. Bake for 8-10 minutes or until barely golden on the bottom or on some of the flakes. Let cool completely.
Drizzle chocolate over the cookies using a zig zag pattern with a small spoon. Let the chocolate firm up a bit before serving.