There are basically two different sets of recipes for coconut macaroons.
The first set of recipes call for coconut, sugar, and egg whites, whereas the second set of recipes calls for coconut and sweetened condensed milk. There are variations on each recipe, for example, using different amounts of sugar, different amounts of egg whites, and different kinds of coconut (shredded vs. flaked), not to mention using different add-ins (orange, lime, nuts, chocolate chips, etc.).
For a long time, I refused to use sweetened condensed milk in my recipes, because I thought it was some sort of “processed” product. About a year ago, however, I discovered that sweetened condensed milk is actually just milk boiled down to reduce the water content, plus sugar.
Due to my long-standing ban on the use of sweetened condensed milk in my baking, I had always made coconut macaroons using the first set of recipes (shredded coconut, sugar, and egg whites). However, my macaroons were generally dry, and though I love a good, moist macaroon, I didn’t love MY macaroons, so I didn’t make them very often.
Soon after my discovery about what sweetened condensed milk really is, I was asked to make macaroons for a bridal shower. I decided to try making coconut macaroons using one of the previously verboten recipes – that is, using sweetened condensed milk. I made little macaroon cups, filled them chocolate ganache, and topped them with a sugar heart:
The macaroons came out so moist and chewy, and the little tarts received rave reviews. At last, I was able to make a really good macaroon!
Recently, a customer in a market where I sell my goodies (Ava’s Downtown Market in Mountain View, CA) requested coconut macaroons. I used the sweetened condensed milk version to make these beauties:
Version 1: Shredded Coconut & Sweetened Condensed Milk
However, Passover is coming up, and I need a kosher version of macaroons, which would require me to use kosher milk for the sweetened condensed milk version of the coconut macaroons. I don’t know if they make kosher sweetened condensed milk, and if not, I’d have to make mine own.
In the meantime, I saw a recipe for coconut macaroons on the Internet using the egg white version, which called for flaked coconut and lime. People who commented on the recipe online really liked the macaroons and specifically noted how moist and chewy they were. So I decided to give them a try. Here’s what they looked like:
Version 2: Flaked Coconut, Egg Whites, & Sugar
What I found to be extremely interesting is how two cookies, both with the same name, “coconut macaroons,” could be so extremely different in taste and texture.
I thought that the version using shredded coconut and sweetened condensed milk was dense and chewy, kind of like a Mounds candy bar, but not as sweet (I purposely cut down on the amount of sugar I use in my baking). The version using flaked coconut and egg whites, on the other hand, is much airier, crunchy on the outside, and kind of chewy on the inside. The big pieces of coconut provide a completely different taste sensation than do the small pieces of shredded coconut.
I happened to have both types of macaroons on hand at the same time, so I decided to give samples of each to people and see what they thought.
One guy said he definitely preferred version 1 because he loves coconut and they were much more coconut-y
Another person, a lady, said that she doesn’t love coconut, and she preferred version 1 because, in a sense, it was less coconut-y. She had this to say about version 2:
very full of coconut texture; to me it was too much, it felt like I really had to work to chew the long strands (they were quite moist/soft, just felt too "long")
Two other people who both liked coconut definitely preferred Version 2, noting that it had more flavor and a variety of textures.
Another person who likes coconut liked them both, "dry and crunchy, moist and sweet."
So, which version will I make in the future? Probably both.