Chocolate Covered (or not) Coconut Ginger Macaroons


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3 cups (lightly packed) sweetened flaked coconut ¾ cup sugar ¾ cup egg whites (about 6 large) 2 Tablespoons fresh grated ginger (I use the tube type found in the produce aisle) 3 Vanilla beans 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 12 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate (optional) 2 Tablespoons heavy cream (opional)

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Slice open and remove pulp or "caviar" from vanilla beans. Discard the pods or reserve for another use. Mix vanilla caviar with next five ingredients in heavy large saucepan. Cook over medium heat until mixture appears somewhat pasty and slightly darker cream color. stirring constantly, about 14 minutes. Remove from heat. Spread out coconut mixture on large baking sheet. Cover and refrigerate until cold, about 45 minutes or overnight. Preheat oven to 300°F. Line another baking sheet with parchment. Scoop ¼ cup coconut mixture on prepared sheet, loosely shape into dome topped mounds. Repeat with remaining coconut mixture. Bake cookies until golden, about 30 to 35 minutes. They should be toasted golden brown and crispy on the outside. Remove baking sheet from oven and place away from heat to allow cookies to cool slightly until firm on baking sheet before transferring to rack to cool completely. Chocolate Glaze (optional) (Tempered bittersweet chocolate can be substituted for chocolate and cream glaze) Set cookies on rack over rimmed baking sheet. Stir chocolate and cream in heavy medium saucepan over medium heat until melted and smooth. Remove from heat. Spoon drizzle glaze over cookies and if desired, dip bottoms of cookies in chocolate. Refrigerate until glaze sets, at least 2 hours. (If tempered chocolate is used, omit cream and do not refrigerate, allow chocolate to harden at room temperature) To store, transfer cookies to airtight container. Can be kept at room temperature for 3 days or up to a week if refrigerated) Serve at room temperature. Recipe doubles nicely.