Saturday, August 17, 2013

Coconut Macaroons and Mango Sauce


While much of the time we are able to do what we want and try creating new flavor combinations and confections at Kakao (provided we have the time for it), every now and then we have "assignments" or "challenges" for the confectioners at the shop.
I suppose you might call it forced inspiration.
Called Peculiar Pairings, we're given an ingredient or a style and we're supposed to create a confection with it in mind. For example, in the very recent past we've had "Indian" and another using local craft beers. Sometimes the ideas come easier than at other times.
Then there can be the whole question of how to go about making actual the flavor and texture that you happen to envision...

The pairing coming up soon is "comfort food." Well, I couldn't quite come up with anything. I racked my brain trying to think of what I might personally use as comfort food. Suggestions were there, the worst was mashed potatoes, but it was thankfully a joke (what in the world would I do with that even if I wanted to?). I thought of Cheetos myself, and while they fit the bill for comfort food (a good reason I do not buy them) and they do happen to be more usable in their form and texture than the potatoes, I decided that I wasn't ready for Cheetos and chocolate. It might take more finesse than I am able to provide the project. Then again, maybe there's no amount of finesse that would take care of the Cheetos.
Truthfully we do sometimes use things in our confections that one might not immediately expect as appropriate for sweets. But very often, the slightly odd is what people expect from us anyway.

It's not a crunchy, salty snack, but I finally decided on tea for the comfort food I would utilize. Ok, so I suppose it's technically not a food, but I do find tea comforting (in the evening, when it's cold outside, if I'm sick, as an accompaniment to a book). I especially like a good lavender earl grey.
And so, to create the flavor, loose earl grey tea leaves and dried lavender buds were infused in cream. The infused cream was then used to make a batch of caramel. Ta-da.
The caramels were cut and dipped in 72% dark chocolate, topped with a sprinkle of raw sugar for the tea, and one lavender but as an identifier and flavor booster.
While certainly I like it, I have a couple ideas of how I would change it if I made it again...

In addition to all the chocolate, Kakao also carries ice cream from a local ice cream shop. We have two flavors available: a natural vanilla, and classic chocolate.
In addition to the things we have to offer in the day-to-day made in-store (salted burnt caramel sauce, chocolate sauce, lavender syrup...), we also have a specialty sundae every two weeks or so.

Working in a chocolate shop, we're obviously always surrounded by chocolate. Easy access, it's not as tempting as you might think (we often comment on how we really want salt).
Don't get me wrong, it's great chocolate. Most, if not all of us, who work at Kakao eat chocolate every day. The good news is that if you have good chocolate, you don't need as much of it to satisfy a chocolate need.
Maybe that shouldn't be a blanket statement. Maybe quality doesn't matter as much as quantity for some people, but it does for me.

Anyway, the point I was trying to make is that since we're working with chocolate all the time, we frequently crave other flavors. Sometimes it's nice to work with other foods, flavors, and textures to see what we can come up with.
Back to the ice cream...

One of my favorite flavor combinations is coconut and mango, and I especially love good coconut sticky rice with mango for a special dessert following a meal at a Thai restaurant.
So, I wanted to make fresh mango sauce for vanilla ice cream and serve it with a coconut macaroon.

Fresh mango, a little coconut oil, brown sugar, and lime juice... and things turned out pretty well!
(And no, the photo below does not show toasted coconut.)

So, this time around, two recipes in one post, though they certainly don't have to go together (they just did for my purposes).
Use them however you would like.  Or not.
I understand that coconut is one of those things. People are either coconut lovers or coconut haters. The grey area seems very small in this instance, and opinions can be quite strong.
If you happen to like coconut and feel like taking things a little further, temper some good dark chocolate, dip the bottom half of the coconut macaroons, and place them on parchment to set.

As far as the mango-lime sauce goes, it's very nice poured over good vanilla ice cream (sweet and creamy goes well with the fruity and slightly tart sauce- they seem to enhance each other), but it would also be great spooned over cheesecake, with fresh strawberries, or over pound cake with some whipped cream.

Coconut Macaroons
makes about 48, 1 T cookies

14 oz (397 g) unsweetened coconut
14 oz (397 g) sweetened condensed milk
1 t (5 ml) vanilla extract
2 large egg whites, room temperature
1/4 t (1 g) kosher salt
2 T (32 g)  granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 325 F/160 C.
In a large bowl and with a spatula, mix the coconut, condensed milk, and vanilla until well combined. 
In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment or with a hand mixer, whip the egg whites together with the salt until soft peaks form. While the mixer is running, slowly add the sugar and continue whisking until stiff peaks form. Gently fold the egg white mixture into the coconut mixture until incorporated. 

Using a small cookie scoop or spoon, portion out the macaroon mixture in about 1 T (visually 15 ml) mounds onto parchment paper lined sheet pans. 
Bake the cookies in the center of the oven 15-20 minutes, until golden, turing the pan back to front about 8 minutes through the cooking time. 

Remove the pan from the heat and let cool before removing the cookies from the paper. 
(*Coconut macaroons freeze well.)

Mango-Lime Sauce
makes a generous pint (more than 473 ml)

about 2 lb. (907 kg) ripe mango
3 T (45 ml) water
1/4 c (50 g) brown sugar
2 T (30 g) coconut oil
1/4 t ( 1 g) salt
2 1/2 T (around 37 ml) fresh squeezed lime juice

Cut the mango fruit from the flat central seed. To do so, I like to use the stem as a guide and cut the "cheeks" away from either side. If it's difficult you may be cutting too deeply, and into the seed. Then score each half mango on the flesh side 3-4 times in one direction to the skin but not through, and then 3-4 times perpendicularly through the flesh so you have a grid cut into it. Flip the skin inside-out so that the cubes you have cut separate from each other and appear to pop out  from the skin. Using a spoon, scoop the cut mango from the skin and into a medium saucepan. Repeat until all the mango is in the pan. Don't forget to peel the skin from the perimeter of the seed and cut the fruit that's still around the seed off into the pan with the rest of the mango. 

Add the water, brown sugar, coconut oil, and salt to the pan with the mango. Simmer over medium-low heat 3 minutes, stirring several times to make sure the fruit doesn't scorch. 
Let the mixture cool slightly and then pour everything into the bowl of a food processor and process until smooth. Add the lime juice and process again until combined. Taste and adjust as necessary (salt, lime juice, a little extra water to thin the sauce).

If not using immediately, let cool completely, place in a covered container and refrigerate until ready to use (the sauce should be fine several days in the fridge). Bring to room temperature before using. 

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