Macaroons: Chocolate Chip or Lime

 

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Macaroons are a cinch to  make. By macaroon I mean the American macaroon, which is typically a mixture of egg whites and shredded coconut shaped into balls and baked. The French version, though delicious, is a little more complicated with meringue and piping and cream fillings involved.

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When I wanted a simple cookie recipe to make at school this past week, my Chocolate Chip Macaroon immediately came to mind. I usually make them during the holidays. I am not sure why I don’t make them the rest of the year considering how quick and easy they are to make. But now that I have the recipe out, I don’t plan to file it away again.

The macaroon was a great cookie to make with kids because it is essentially a 4 step process: measure, mix, form balls, and bake. The children can do almost all of the work with just a little guidance.

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The hardest part for the children was separating the eggs. One boy was able to open the egg shell and catch the yolk in the half shell. I taught the other children to carefully break the egg into a small bowl and very gently lift the yolk out.  The children loved squishing together the coconut balls. Then we baked the cookies until lightly browned. Crunchy on the outside and chewy on the inside. Yum!

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At home, I whipped up a more grown-up version of the macaroon— a lime flavored one. Perfect for those who don’t like to mix coconut and chocolate (ahem, Dana). Prep time took less than 10 minutes. Can’t beat that. With summer on the way, I think I’ll keep this recipe handy. Might even go nicely with a mojito…

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Chocolate Chip Macaroons

Makes about 2 dozen

1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. sugar
2 large egg whites
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups sweetened shredded coconut
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips
pinch of kosher salt

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. In large bowl, mix together all ingredients with a fork.

2. With hands, shape bite-size balls of coconut mixture, about 1-inch round. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.

3. Bake until golden brown, about 15-20 minutes. Transfer to a cooling rack. Will keep in an airtight container for several days.

 

Lime Macaroons

Follow Chocolate Chip Macaroon recipe with the following changes:

1. Substitute 1 Tbsp. fresh lime juice for the vanilla extract

2. Add 1 Tbsp. lime zest (about 1 1/2 limes)

 

 

 

 

 

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Gingersnaps— A Winter Antidote

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Gingersnaps are sweet and spicy with just enough warmth to make them a perfect winter cookie.

I make these gingersnaps every year at the holidays. This year I noticed how popular they were both for the adult and the kid set. I made a mental note to make them again soon— because why wait another year for a yummy cookie! Last week I made them for Valentine’s Day and may have started a new tradition. I typically gravitate towards a chocolate dessert for this February holiday, but the kids already receive so many chocolate treats that I decided to pull out my gingersnap recipe. It was a big hit, again. We each enjoyed a couple for dessert (along with a few candies) and then we brought the remaining 50 or so cookies on a visit with cousins. They were gobbled up within a day.

This recipe originated with my Aunt Trish who sent me a recipe for Ginger Sugar Cookies. At the time, I was on a search for a good gingersnap recipe— one that was both crisp and chewy and had just the right hint of spices. I made a few adjustments to the recipe my aunt sent me and came up with the one below. I love the results and hope you do too. Try it. I bet those you feed will be glad you did.

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After chilling the dough, I use a teaspoon to measure out enough dough for a 1/2″ ball.

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Roll each ball of dough in granulated sugar.

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Flatten the dough ball with the bottom of a glass.

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Bake and enjoy.

Gingersnaps

Makes 5-6 dozen

8 Tbsp. (1/2 cup) margarine
4 Tbsp. (1/4 cup) unsalted butter
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/4 cup molasses
1 large egg
2 cups (10 1/2 oz) all-purpose flour
2 tsp. baking soda
1  1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. ground cloves
1/2 tsp. ground ginger
1  1/2 tsp. salt

1. Melt margarine and butter. Let cool slightly. In bowl of an electric mixer, put the sugars and molasses. Add the melted margarine/butter and egg and beat until well combined. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking soda, spices and salt. Whisk to combine. Add to butter mixture and beat until just combined. Chill dough for at least a couple of hours or overnight.

3. Preheat oven to 375°F.  Roll dough into 1/2″ balls. Roll each ball in granulated sugar and place about 2″ apart on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper (or greased). Using the bottom of a glass, flatten each ball of dough. If dough sticks to glass, dip the glass in granulated sugar before pressing down on cookie.

4. Bake for 8-10 minutes, or until cookies are crackled looking and barely browned.

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Gingerbread Cookies with Preschoolers

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One of the best parts of my job as assistant 4’s teacher at the Community Cooperative Nursery School is baking and cooking with the children. We make something each week. Our focus is more on the process than the product, which means we look at, smell, touch and taste the ingredients. Depending on the recipe, I teach the children to measure, mix, crack an egg, flip a pancake, knead dough, roll out cookies.  We always end up with a product most children (and adults) enjoy eating.

Over the last couple of weeks we have been reading, comparing, and predicting endings to a variety of gingerbread cookie stories. Our head teacher, Dana Gorman, is very creative. You can check out how she added this to our curriculum in a fun way at her blog, Playfully Learning. With all the focus on gingerbread stories, baking gingerbread cookies was a natural fit.

We made the dough one day and decorated and baked the cookies the next day. I usually work with between 4 and 6 children at a time. We clear the chairs because kitchen chefs don’t sit to do their work either. We made 2 batches of the dough giving all the children an opportunity to help.

We started by creaming the butter and sugar using what I like to call, Preschool Power. No electric mixers here. Then we added the dark molasses. The children help one another by holding the bowl for the child mixing. We pick a number and everyone gets to move the wooden spoon that many times around the bowl before passing the bowl on to the next child.

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Next the children measured dry ingredients. By this point in the year, they are expert levelers. Then we mixed together the wet and dry ingredients and wrapped the finished dough in plastic wrap.

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On day two, each child got to roll and decorate his or her own cookie. This dough is quite malleable and easy to squish back together. Roll the dough thickly, at least 1/4″ thick, because the children like to press decorations into the cookie. I teach the children to push gently down on the dough as they roll in one direction. I watch the rolling carefully. The children will sprinkle on flour if the dough sticks and I help them rotate the dough for even rolling. You can use a bench scraper or a metal spatula to lift the cut-out cookie from the table to the sheet pan. I tell the children “the cookies need a helping hand” to get on the tray. Then the children used the set out decorations to decorate independently. They were so proud of their creations.

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Here is the recipe we used with a disclaimer: I pulled this off the internet a few years back (I’d give credit if I remembered where it came from). The dough works because it is so malleable but it is not the best tasting cookie. Maybe next year I’ll have a better recipe to share. But if the process of making these cookies is more important than the product, use this one. Every child ate a cookie. Just like in many stories we read, a few crumbs were all that was left.

Gingerbread Cookies
Makes about 20

1/4 cup softened butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup molasses
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
2 tsp. dry ginger
1/2 tsp. salt
3/4 cup water

1. Heat oven to 350F. Blend butter and sugar. Beat in molasses.

2. Combine dry ingredients in a separate bowl.

3. Add dry ingredients to butter mixture in 3 additions, alternating with water. Mix until combined. Add more water a little at a time if still too crumbly.

4. Chill. Roll and cut out cookies.