Cookbook review by Tracey Zabar
Seriously easy, sweet, and delicious. Try these tiny treats, you’ll love them. You will also love just about everything in this book. Alice Medrich has been one of my chocolate gurus for many years. Chocolate for dinner! Egg Creams! Meringues and marquise and mousse! Pure happiness.
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A Danish pastry chef created Sarah Bernhardt cookies to honor that divine late-nineteenth-century French actress. My version was a tall kiss of light whipped ganache atop a soft almond macaroon enveloped in bittersweet glaze, more an individual dessert than a cookie. Here I’ve returned them to a dainty size and reinvented them as chewy toasted coconut macaroons filled with soft light ganache and capped with a crisp coat of pure chocolate instead of the softer glaze. The new “Saras” were named for my friend Sara Slavin, who not only loves coconut but also has been the art director and prop stylist for every one of my (now eight) cookbooks. They are more divine than ever.
Makes 20 to 24 pastries
4 large egg whites
3½ cups (255 grams) unsweetened dried flaked (not shredded) coconut, also called coconut chips, or 3 cups (9 ounces/255 grams) sweetened shredded coconut
¾ cup (150 grams) sugar
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
Generous ¼ teaspoon salt
½ recipe Whipped Chocolate Ganache Filling
5 ounces (140 grams) 54% to 72% chocolate, coarsely chopped
To make the macaroons: Combine the egg whites, coconut, sugar, vanilla, and salt in a large stainless steel bowl. Set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water and stir, scraping the bottom to prevent burning, until the mixture is very hot to the touch and the egg whites have thickened slightly and turned from translucent to opaque, 6 to 7 minutes. Set the batter aside for 30 minutes to let the coconut absorb more of the goop.
Position the racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven, and preheat the oven to 350°F. Line two cookie sheets with parchment paper.
If you used large flaked coconut, scoop 2 tablespoons of the mixture per cookie—or 1 tablespoon made with finer shredded coconut—about 2 inches apart onto the cookie sheets. Use your finger to make a hollow depression in the center of each cookie so it looks like a little nest. Bake for about 5 minutes, just until the coconut tips begins to color, rotating the pans from top to bottom and from front to back halfway through the baking time to ensure even baking. Lower the temperature to 325°F and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, again rotating the pans from top to bottom and front to back halfway through the baking time, until the cookies are a beautiful cream and gold with deeper brown edges. If the coconut tips are browning too fast, you can lower the heat to 300°F.
Slide the cookies on the parchment onto cooling racks. Cool completely before removing them from the paper. (They can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 4 to 5 days, or frozen for up to 3 months.)
To fill and dip the macaroons: Beat the chilled ganache just until the color lightens and the mixture becomes stiff enough to hold its shape—if you overbeat the ganache, it will have a granular texture. Scrape the ganache into the pastry bag. Pipe a 1-inch-high kiss-shaped mound (about 1 tablespoon of ganache) into each macaroon “nest.” Refrigerate until well chilled, at least 1 hour.
Place the chocolate in a medium heatproof bowl set in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir until the chocolate is nearly melted, then remove from the heat and continue to stir until the chocolate is completely smooth. Wipe the moisture from the bottom of the bowl and transfer the chocolate to a very small bowl or cup. If necessary, let the chocolate cool to about 105°F. Hold a macaroon upside down and dip only the ganache kiss into the chocolate. Then turn the macaroon right side up, hold it over the bowl, and use a fork to drizzle a little chocolate around the edges. Set the macaroon on a tray. Repeat until all of the macaroons are dipped. Refrigerate to set the chocolate.
Whipped Chocolate Ganache Filling
This is one of my all-time favorite fillings for cakes and roulades. It is light, creamy, and rich, but not at all intense, so it makes a brilliant contrast to stronger, more bittersweet flavors and a nice offset to the texture of cake or something crisp or chewy. I use this in the Tribute Cake and in Coconut Saras. You can spread it over a bittersweet chocolate soufflé sheet and make a rich and simple roulade. Don’t be alarmed if the chilled ganache looks too soft to spread (I’ve had late-night phone calls about this): it will not stiffen until you whip it just before you use it. It is essential that you consult the Chocolate Notes if you plan to make this filling with higher-percentage chocolate, or you will lose the poetry of its light creamy texture. You can make this ganache, or any of the variations, up to four days in advance.
Makes about 3 ½ cups
8 ounces (225 grams) 54% to 58% chocolate, chopped medium-fine
2 cups heavy cream
To make the ganache: Place the chopped chocolate in a medium bowl. Heat the cream in a large heavy saucepan over medium-high heat until it comes to a gentle boil. Immediately pour the hot cream over the chocolate and stir until the chocolate is mostly melted. Let stand for
15 to 20 minutes to be sure all of the chocolate particles are completely melted.
Stir the ganache until it looks perfectly smooth and free of unmelted speaks of chocolate. Let cool. Cover the bowl and refrigerate the ganache for at least 6 hours (I usually leave it overnight); it must be very cold or it will curdle when it is whipped. (The ganache can be prepared up to 4 days ahead.)
When you are ready to use the ganache (and not before), whip it until it is stiff enough to hold a nice shape and seems spreadable, but don’t overdo. Overwhipped ganache looks granular, so watch it carefully: I usually stop the mixer early and finish the whipping by hand. After whipping, the ganache will firm as it sits (and even more after it is chilled), so spread it immediately. If you accidentally overwhip, or if the ganache becomes too stiff to spread, warm your spatula by rinsing it under hot tap water and wiping it dry as necessary. (The warm spatula rescued me when I overwhipped ganache for three hundred during the Tribute Cake adventure—so don’t worry.)
Excerpted from Seriously Bitter Sweet by Alice Medrich (Artisan). Copyright © 2003, 2013 by Alice Medrich Copyright © 2003, 2013 by Deborah Jones.