Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The other shoe drops -- coconut macaroons

I wrote last week about S cookies, which require four egg yolks.  So what do you do with the four egg whites?  Make coconut macaroons, of course.

In preparation for my Christmas baking I visited the grocery and was surprised to see that I had some choices when it came to coconut.  I don't recall ever seeing unsweetened coconut available in a regular grocery, although I have found it in the bulk food section now and then.  Scrutiny of the labels made me confused and annoyed.

First, wouldn't you think that the sweetened variety would have more calories than the unsweetened? Not so, even though the sweetened had 5 more grams of sugar per serving.  Mysteriously, the sweetened had less fat and more sodium.  Who knows what goes on in food processing plants?

sweetened -- 70 calories -- 4.5 g fat, 5 g sugar, 30 mg sodium
unsweetened -- 70 calories -- 6 g fat, 0 g sugar, 0 mg sodium

Second, wouldn't you think there would be no price difference between the two, or if there were, the unsweetened would cost a bit less?  Not so.  You could get 7 ounces of sweetened for the same price as 5 ounces of unsweetened, even though the bags are cleverly sized to look identical.

But never mind.  Here's the world's easiest and best recipe for coconut macaroons, straight from my grandmother.

Coconut Macaroons

Beat 4 egg whites and 1 tsp vanilla until opaque and foamy.
Add 2 cups powdered sugar and beat some more.  Add 1/4 tsp salt.
Fold in 10 ounces coconut (any kind you want!)

Spoon into mounds on parchment paper or a greased cookie sheet.
10 minutes at 325°, then 10 minutes at 275°.

Wednesday, December 24, 2014

S cookies -- Merry ChriSSSSSSSSSStmas!

My grandmother had two recipes that were obligatory at Christmas, and you had to make both of them because one of them used four egg whites and the other used four egg yolks.  Let's talk about the yolk side of the aisle first.

They're called S cookies because the traditional preparation is to roll the dough into finger-size snakes and then form them into S shapes.

But when my boys were little, the one whose name didn't start with S often wondered why his brother, whose did, got cookies named after him.  So sometimes we would make M cookies along with S cookies.

One year I got a brilliant idea.  We could use metal type to imprint letters into the cookie dough.  And since then we have rarely made the traditional S shapes.  The new way is easy enough for a four-year-old, who proved to be an excellent helper.

scrubbing the type beforehand

printing the type into the cookie

I don't usually either collect or cook from recipes, preferring the improvisational approach to life, but you can't do a lot of improvisation when baking (except for getting your Ss via letterpress instead of sculpture).  So here's the recipe:

S Cookies

1/2 pound butter
2 1/3 cups sugar
4 egg yolks
rind and juice of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp lemon extract
4 to 4 1/4 cups flour
1 tsp salt

Cream everything together in electric mixer or cuisinart.

For traditional cookies, form dough into rolls about the size of your pinkie and bend them into Ss.  Bake on parchment paper; leave space between the cookies because they will rise and spread a bit.

For non-traditional cookies, use a bit more flour; form dough into rolls about 1 1/2 inch diameter, wrap in plastic and chill in refrigerator overnight.  Cut 1/4 inch slices off the roll and imprint with type, buttons, chopsticks or any other tool you like.  Bake on parchment paper; leave space between the cookies because they will rise and spread a bit.

Bake 13-14 minutes at 350°

Cookies will not get brown, except on the bottom; they will be a little wiggly when you take them out of the oven but will firm up as they cool.

at left, type cookies; on the right, traditional S shape, for demonstration purposes only

Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Not at all cheesy

My sister's granddaughter Leslie Uhl, already in possession of the foodie credential CCP (Certified Cheese Professional), just won a lovely prize to go along with it.  She submitted the winning essay in a competition sponsored by the Comté Cheese Association, and won a free trip to France next summer to learn everything about Comté cheese that she doesn't know already.

If you have a minute to spare, click over [here] and read her essay.  As a professional writer I had to give her serious points for doing the job well.  For one thing, if you don't have a whole lot to say about the appointed subject, think of a related subject that you can discuss gracefully and amusingly -- clearly Leslie was much more comfortable writing about lowbrow Midwest comfort food than about the Montbéliarde Cattle and the master affinuers, so that's what she did, then neatly tied the two together in a bow.  Good work, Leslie!

Just to make this a learning experience, Comté cheese comes from the Franche-Comté region, immediately west of Switzerland.  And here's something I didn't know before my foray into Comté lore:  as a controlled appellation, the cheese has to pass inspection to be sold under that name.  Cheese that fails gets sold as Gruyère.  Since I like Gruyère just fine, I'd probably love Comté, and will have to keep my eyes open for it in the store.

Leslie works at Di Bruno Bros., a hallowed foodie mecca in Philadelphia.  I hope this honor gets her a nice raise!

Friday, December 5, 2014

Restaurant thumbs-up

Sometimes I like to order two appetizers in lieu of an entree, which can be awkward at a crowded table.  Somehow the two small plates occupy more space than one big one, one ends up being stuck into a corner, and you feel like you're eating off your lap at a buffet dinner.

So I was pleased to order two appetizers and have them arrive on rectangular plates, which fit perfectly in front of me!  And the food was excellent, too.