Tuesday, December 27, 2011

Gluten-Free Coconut Macaroons

 Today I’m cleaning out the crumbs of sweets left from the holidays. Tossing the dried out coffee cake from Christmas morning, the shortbread is in the freezer, and I’m undecided about the coconut macaroons. Maybe I’ll just let them be in the refrigerator a little longer. I may need a teeny little sugar high.

One of the candies I forced my children to tithe after Halloween was Mounds Bars. Mounds Bars always get me with their creamy milk chocolate covering that sinks under your teeth and mashes into the soft white inside. Bits of it stick in your teeth for hours waiting to be horsed out for further enjoyment. It’s never clicked that I could make coconut macaroons myself. Maybe because most homemade or purchased macaroons are like choking down cattail fuzz with dried broom grass. So it was only this year that I decided to research and try them, mostly because (she says) it’s a treat that can be given to friends who need to stay gluten-free.

I know we’re all probably sick to death of Christmas cookies and candies. I pretty much am. But if I don’t post this now, I’ll forget. And who knows? You may need something for a New Year’s Eve party.

I fell in love with this dangerous recipe from A Homemade Life by Molly Wizenberg, because it is very easy and tastes way better than any I’ve ever had. The coconut base is moist and tender, crispy on the outside and you can either drizzle or dip them in a perfect coat of chocolate. Her way of making chocolate glaze is genius: another no-fail idea to use for other recipes that require a chocolate glaze.

Chocolate-Covered Coconut Macaroons
Adapted from Bon Appétit (September 2002) and the Marigold Kitchen of Madison, Wisconsin

3 cups (lightly packed) sweetened shredded coconut
¾ cup granulated sugar
¾ cup egg whites (about 5 or 6 large)
1 ½ tsp pure vanilla extract
¼ tsp almond extract (I leave this out. Not a fan of almond extract.)
8 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
3/4 cup heavy cream

Place the first three ingredients in a heavy saucepan, and stir to combine well. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring regularly, about 10-12 minutes, until the mixture is pasty but not dry. (It will look sort of granular at first, then creamy as it heats, and then it will slowly get drier and drier. Stop cooking when it no longer looks creamy but is still quite gluey and sticky, not dry.) Remove from heat. Mix in vanilla and almond extracts. Spread out the coconut mixture on a large baking sheet. Refrigerate until cold, about 30 minutes. (Don’t skip this step – it makes it so much easier to handle.)

Line another baking sheet with parchment paper. Using a ¼-cup measuring scoop, scoop and pack the coconut mixture into domes, and place them on the baking sheet. (I use my hands. You  can also make them smaller.) You should wind up with about a dozen. Bake at 300 degrees until the macaroons until golden, about 30 minutes. Transfer to a rack and cool. You can even bake them a little longer if you like them a little more crisp on the outside.

Set cookies on rack over a rimmed baking sheet. Place the chopped chocolate in a medium bowl. Heat the heavy cream in a small saucepan until it is very hot and steamy (not boiling), remove from the heat, and pour it over the chocolate. Whisk until the mixture is smooth and the chocolate is thoroughly melted. Spoon the glaze over the macaroons, covering them almost completely and allowing the chocolate to drip down the sides. [You will have leftover glaze, which can be refrigerated or frozen.] Refrigerate the macaroons until the glaze sets, at least 2 hours. Transfer the macaroons to an airtight container, and refrigerate or freeze.

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Merry Berry Bunny Christmas

Honeysuckle’s babies are fully furred out and the black ones are getting a silver undercoat. We have a lot of trouble focusing on work these days. We must say how cute they are about a hundred times a day.
We had to move that wooden box farther away from the barrier because they quickly learned to hop up on the stool, to the box, over the barrier, onto the chair and down on the other side. They were spending about half their time on OUR side, and any time you stepped onto the porch those who weren't already there came over to greet you.

They love to mob your feet, be cuddled and petted, but we suspect they only associate us with anything salad-y. They're like a wolf pack - attacking food, gorging on carrots, apples, and any amount of kibble we care to offer.

I’ve posted four new videos and you can also watch them on youtube. No thanks necessary. My gift to you. They will make you or - if you have them - your children happy. Have a blessed Christmas. It's time to kick back.

Bunny darts. Constant, incessant activity.

We gave them high bush cranberries branches I found in the woods. They attack them like little sharks.

More berry eating. The berries pop when the eat them.

I love hearing the click, click, click of the bottle when they are drinking and watching the little pink tongue dart in and out. 

We were obsessing about what kind of homes they’d go to and Anita was advertising on Craig’s List. Both of us were worried, and yes, we were praying about who would get them. She received a call from two women who are friends who live on nearby farms. Well, sort of farms. One of them has raises llamas and the other one has a sort of everything farm from kids to cashmere goats. So nine of Honeysuckle’s babies are going to these two places. (Check out Nellie’s blog – Farmovation.) One of them came over last night to meet the bunnies and we sat on the kitchen floor while the babies darted around, leaping one another, nibbling our shoes, and being so dang cute we almost cried.

There won’t be a need for background checks and no-fly list investigations. They’re going to fine. In fact, more than fine. Nelly was wondering if they should place their hutches so they have a view, as in, do they like to look at things or will they be okay in the barn.
I was thinking about the hymn … “all creatures of our God and King, lift up your voices now and sing…”  We were doing a little of that. They leave the day after Christmas and the only thing we won’t miss is the the fact that their poops have risen from the size of Grape-nuts to golf balls. Multiplied by 11 and factor in a 50% miss-the-litter-box number and you might be able to visualize our back porch.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

The Nutmeg of Consolation

In my kitchen there is a whole nutmeg that’s been hanging around for a long time. I move it from the chopping board to the window sill to a little pottery dish. I am loathe to throw it away even though it may be too old to grate and get any spice out of it at all. I pick it up and roll it between my thumb and fingers. It it a beautiful, hard little nut about two thirds the size of a truffle. (I can compare anything to chocolate in some form.) Pebble smooth. Half butter-brown, half burnt sienna. It has a design, as if the author was beginning to spin a symbol or paint a scene upon it. Fascinating. It reminds me of … good things.
Today, in a piece I wrote for The Washington Institute of Faith, Culture,and Vocation, where good friend, Steven Garber writes and works and has his being, I reflected on something called “The Nutmeg of Consolation” and related it to Simeon in the book of Luke – of whom it is written that he was “waiting for The Consolation of Israel.” This has always intrigued me. It seems to me that in life we need consolation from or in so many things. Even if unspoken, we look around in the corners of our life, in the rooms where we live, in the people we know, hoping for comfort. Here was a man who lived in waiting for many, many years, looking for The One, peering into the faces and arms of those who crowded through the courts of the temple.

At the end of the piece, I quote from a book by Patrick O’Brian, who wrote a series of sea-faring novels set in the early 1800s. I love them and their characters. The Nutmeg of Consolation  is both the name of a ship and a piece of music. In rare moments of peace, Captain Aubrey and Stephen Maturin, the ship’s surgeon, played duets on the violin and cello. On one such occasion Aubrey asks Maturin, “I dare say, what was that last piece?”
Maturin’s reply: “Nutmeg of Consolation.”
            Aubrey thinks about this and says, “That’s it. Those were the very words hanging there in the back of my mind. What a glorious name for a tight, sweet, newly-coppered broad-buttock little ship – a solace to any man’s heart... Dear Nutmeg. What joy.”
            Yes. What joy to know it is coming. The Consolation of Israel will hove into sight, his sails sheeted to the wind, and you cast-away on an island without hope of rescue. That, my friends, is Divine.  To read the entire piece – go here.