What do you typically look out for on a Christmas cookie plate, that is offered to you? Is it the fancy sugar cookie coated in brightly coloured icing with glittering pearls? Or something rather plain, like jam-filles sablés, spritz cookies or Vanillekipferl? I probably gave it away already, but I almost always opt for the later, and there is a good reason for it.
As beautiful as artfully decorated cookies may look, I’d guess 9 out of 10 pieces I did try indeed fell short of my expectations. Usually, they are overly sweet and most sugar pearls don’t really add to a pleasant mouthfeel – quite the opposite. On the other hand plain underdog cookies like simple spritz or sablés have wowed me more than once – since they don’t sell on their looks alone, they really do have to taste super good, otherwise no one would repeatedly make them.
Two years ago I was skimming through my grandpa’s cookie gifts (Not sure why, but each year when Christmas eve is approaching, his pantry is overflowing with gifted cookies and stollen from friends, neighbours and family. He receives so many treats, that he started to pass them on to everyone he knows. Weird concept, no?) and picked a bag filled with coconut macaroons. Back home I had completely forgotten about them until Oliver asked if I had tried them – because I really should. They looked worse than unspectacular, uneven in shape with some brown spots, but despite the looks, were by far the softest macaroons I had ever eaten! Sadly the cookie bag hadn’t come with a label, so I was clueless on how to contact the cookie baker and ask for the recipe secret.
Well, thank God there is the internet! While researching coconut macaroons I stumbled onto several recipes that listed curd cheese (edit: German Quark) as an ingredient and decided to add some to my next batch. From that day on, coconut macaroons have reached new heights on our Christmas cookie popularity rank – each new variation (lime! cardamom! ginger!) has been polished off the plates by my dear cookie testers at Cafe Solo with nothing less than enthusiasm. After five batches in December last year, we’re already in the middle of batch no.3 this year… If you love SOFT, JUICY, COCONUT as cookie attributes – these are for you! Totally.
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350° Fahrenheit). Either line two baking trays with parchment paper or distribute baking wafers on the trays, then you won’t need parchment paper. Wash the lime under hot water and rub dry. Slice the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds.
Whip the egg whites and salt with a mixer (whisk attachment) until beginning to stiffen, then add the sugar and beat for at least 3 more minutes, until really stiff and glossy. Now add a little finely grated lime zest (I use about 1/3-1/2 of one small fruit for a notable lime aroma) as well as the scrapped out vanilla seeds and the curd cheese and beat shortly, just until evenly combined. Lastly fold in the coconut by hand.
Drop little coconut heaps directly onto the parchment paper or onto the baking wafers, about 4-5 cm (2 inch) in diameter. This can be done with two teaspoons, but I prefer a pastry bag. When done, slightly wet your finger and give them a nice round shape – this let’s them brown more evenly.
Bake in the oven on middle level for 13-16 minutes, or until some brown spot appear (they are still quite soft to the touch!). Take out and let cool on the tray completely, before storing them in an airtight container. They taste great for up to 10 days, but ours hardly last longer than a few days… (even variations with added spices turned out lovely, especially cardamom and ginger were a keeper).
Recipe source: own creation, inspired by many others
Prep time: 15-20 minutes, baking 13-16 minutes
Ingredients (yields about 30-34 cookies):
optional: baking wafers (German: Oblaten), diameter 4-5 cm (2 inch)
1 organic lime
1/2 vanilla bean
4 egg whites (M)
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
150 g caster sugar
40-50 g curd cheese/German Quark (20-40%)
200 g unsweetened desiccated coconut