Thursday, March 22, 2012
A cure for coconut haters.
Okay I'm not a coconut hater and I can't claim to understand the aversion. But, as every coconut-loving baker knows, there are plenty of people who cannot stand the stuff. The most common complaints I hear are about the texture-- something about the texture of your standard sweetened dried coconut is just off-putting to some.
I'm not generally in the business of turning distaste to adoration. However, these cookies more than anything else I've made seem to hold some magic power over people who loathe coconut. I warn them, "Those have coconut in them! I know how much you hate coconut..." but over and over they insist on just "a little bit" before exclaiming that they have never liked coconut but they love these cookies. That is some pretty powerful stuff.
I would love to tell you that there's some new technique used in these cookies that will make your boyfriend who hates mushrooms crave them, or make your kids beg for spinach. Unfortunately, I think it all goes back to that texture issue-- in this recipe, the coconut is finely ground before mixing it with the dry ingredients. Which, when I consider it, could help those who dislike the texture of mushrooms, although I can't claim to have a special mushroom cookie recipe in my arsenal.
Coconut Sugar Cookies
Adapted from Martha Stewart Living, December 2005
Makes 5 dozen, depending on the size of your cutters
Note: To me, these are Christmas cookies as I make them every year (except last year, which lead to some sad faces... I'm telling you, people love these cookies). But I have a friend who requests them every year for her birthday and this has caught on leading me to make them all year round. Which is nice, if you have cookie cutters that are not almost exclusively Christmas-themed (which I do not). They also make the cutest Valentine's Day cookies if you color the icing like conversation hearts (bonus: no chalky taste). Finally, feel free to freeze the raw dough for later use, wrapped carefully, for up to a month. Just thaw, roll, cut, and bake.
7 oz sweetened flaked coconut
3 3/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for work surface
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt (standard table salt)
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Coconut glaze (below)
1. In a food processor, process the coconut until finely ground-- it should look kind of like coarse sand. In a large bowl, whisk togather the together flour, coconut, baking powder, and salt; set aside.
2. In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the butter and sugar on medium-high until light and fluffy, 3-5 minutes. With the mixer on low, mix in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the vanilla. Add the flour mixture and mix until just combined, scraping down the bowl as needed. Divide dough into thirds and wrap each piece in plastic. Refrigerate dough until firm but malleable, about 1 1/2 hours-- you'll know it's ready when your finger makes a dent with some resistance, if it's too hard, let it sit out for a few minutes before rolling.
3. Roll out dough between 2 sheets of parchment paper to 1/4 inch thick. Repeat with remaining dough, stacking between parchment on a baking sheet. Freeze or refrigerate until firm, 30 minutes. **Really important, don't skimp!
4. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut out desired shapes with a cutter. Place on parchment paper covered cookie sheets, 1 1/2 inches apart. To ensure that your shapes are really crisp, chill the cut cookies again for 15 minutes before baking.
5. Bake until edges are just golden, 11 to 13 minutes, rotating sheets halfway through. Let the cookies cool on sheets 3 minutes before transferring to wire racks to cool completely. When cookies are cool, spread a thin, even layer of glaze on each cookie. I prefer to use a small spoon, but a piping bag works, too. If you like, toss some colored sugar or sprinkles on while the glaze is still wet.
Extra note: These cookies are really best if you leave them sit overnight after glazing them on wire racks. After a few hours, the glaze melds with the cookie and they become more tender and somehow tastier. Also, the glaze never fully dries, so if you want to pack them for longer storage (and you should) layer them between sheets of parchment paper so you don't end up with one giant block of cookie and glaze.
1/2 cup unsweetened coconut milk (if you have extra, just freeze it)
6 cups, give or take, confectioners' sugar
Food coloring (optional)
Whisk together coconut milk and sugar in a large bowl until it is as thick as honey-- if it's too thin, it's really hard to spread. If it's too thin, add more sugar, if it's too thick, add just a touch more coconut milk. But be patient before deciding to tweak it-- really whisk it in as the coconut milk can take a surprising amount of sugar. Tint with food coloring, if desired, I like just a few drops of gel-paste food coloring. Spread on cookies immediately; it gets a hardened skin if left to sit.