What macaroon isn't better with banana rum ice cream?
Challenge: Coconut. I don't really like coconut. My wife, she loves the coconut, that's why we decided to participate in a macaroon event.
Why don't I like coconut?
Hard to say, but it's not so much the flavour as the fact that when I think coconut, I think Bounty (I guess that's the rough equivalent of an American Almond Joy), a "chocolate bar" composed of coconut enveloped in chocolate. Macaroons usually aren't much better -- a coconut igloo topped with a radioactive cherry beacon. What these treats -- what all treats -- made with shredded coconut have in common, and what I really object to, is mouthfeel: it's like I'm chewing on sweetened, stale hay.
The challenge was to take the following Donna Hay recipe for lime macaroons and play with the flavouring:
2 cups dessicated coconut
1/2 cup sugar
2 egg whites
1 ½ tablespoon shredded lime zest
Preheat the oven to 180ºC. Place the coconut, sugar, egg whites and lime zest in a bowl and mix to combine. Roll the mixture into balls. Place on a lined baking tray, flatten slightly and cook for 10-12 minutes or until light golden. Serve with coffee. Makes 15.
I love these challenges. My first suggestion was to replace the macaroon with a chocolate chip cookie, but Rachel quickly vetoed that.
Trying to shake the spectre of the dreaded Bounty bar from my mind, I tried to think of other connections to coconut. Tropical islands, Bounty bars, starving competitors on Survivor, Bounty bars, fancy tropical fruit drinks, ice cream. Mmmm, that's better.
Replacing the lime zest with other citrus seemed too obvious, albeit delicious. For a different kind of fruit, readily available in the dead of winter in Toronto, how about some dried apricot? And we recalled reading somewhere that Earl Grey tea and apricots match well, so that could be something really unusual. We also had some preserved ginger left over from our Christmas Thompson turkey adventure, and that could be an Asian flavour tie-in. But I'm never one to be satisfied with just two ideas for different cookies when we could dirty even more dishes. Figuring that the fabulous Donna Hay put lime zest in her original recipe for a very good reason -- it was delicious -- I hit upon the idea of creating tropical ice cream sandwiches by layering lime macaroons with homemade banana-rum ice cream. Just what you need for an unseasonably warm January day on the north shore of Lake Ontario!
Preserved Ginger Macaroons (pictured)
Follow above recipe, replacing lime zest with approximately 60 grams finely diced preserved ginger.
Apricot and Earl Grey Macaroons
Wrap 1 tablespoon Earl Grey tea leaves in cheesecloth (this is essentially a bouquet garni). Place the cheesecloth packet in a bowl or airtight container and cover with a 1/2 cup granulated sugar. Cover tightly or seal, and leave overnight or until ready to use. This is the same idea behind vanilla sugar, except this sugar has a lovely bergamot perfume.
Add 2 teaspoons Earl Grey tea leaves to 500 ml of boiling water. Let steep for 10 minutes. Remove the tea leaves and add 50 grams of finely diced dried apricots. Soak the apricots for 2-6 hours, then drain. Follow above recipe, replacing the regular sugar with the aromatised sugar and the lime zest with apricots.
Rob's Banana Rum Ice Cream
250 ml 3.25% milk
250 ml 35% heavy cream
200 ml dark rum
1 tsp vanilla extract
115 grams sugar (approx. 1/2 cup)
125 grams frozen bananas (approx. 2 bananas, may substitute unfrozen, but overripe bananas)
In a small pot over medium heat, reduce dark rum to just 50 ml. When reduced, add milk, cream, vanilla, and sugar, and heat to 80ºC. Do not let mixture boil. Remove from heat, add bananas, and blend until mixture is smooth and bananas are incorporated.
Strain mixture into ice cream maker, and prepare as per maker's instructions.
Tasting and judgment: My wife and I made banana rum lime macaroon ice cream sandwich cookies and they are delicious. Homemade macaroons are moister and smoother than their storebought cousins, and the banana rum ice cream makes them a truly decadent treat. Lime, coconut, banana, and rum really are complementary flavours: the banana ice cream has a prominent banana flavour at the start, with a subtle, sugary rum finish, then the lime in the macaroons provides a clean, sharp citrus kick. Sweet.
The preserved ginger macaroons are also very good. We had an acquaintance who adores ginger try them, and she thought they were stupendous. They have a noticeable sweet ginger taste, and a little of that sharp and exotic ginger punch as well.
The apricot-Earl Grey macaroon was a variation for which we had high hopes. Another friend, who loves coconut, said that these were his favourite because he really liked the apricot/coconut flavour pairing. We did notice, and he agreed, that the bergamot flavour we were hoping for was all but absent. I don't want to say this recipe didn't work, especially given that the apricot and coconut combination is delicious. It's fair to say, however, that this recipe needs a little tinkering in order to assert the bergamot flavour of the tea.
After all that, am I a convert to coconut? No, but I've come to a point where I can start to appreciate it, I think. I've also made some treats that my wife and friends really enjoy, which is one of cooking's ultimate benefits. Combine that with some soul-satisfying ice cream, and this challenge certainly had its rewards.