Strawberry Macaroons

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I made these yesterday, but you know I’m not one to plan ahead and, like, blog these in advance so you could maybe make them yourself on that special day. They’re still a cute thing to make though, even if it’s not Valentine’s Day.

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My big brother Krystopf came over to help me paint what’s going to be the baby’s room (which hopefully I’ll get finished within the next week or so), and we fed him dinner for Valentine’s Day as his family is currently away on the other side of the country.

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These are based on my original macaroon recipe, which is always a crowd-pleaser. Start by bringing some stuff to room temperature: here I have 3 large eggs sitting in a bowl of warm water, and about 12 frozen strawberries, defrosting in the morning sun.

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While you’re waiting, preheat your oven to 325°F and line two baking sheets with parchment paper.

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Blend up the thawed strawberries into a glorious red purée.

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Separate the eggs, and save the yolks for something else (for me they’re going in a meatloaf later on).

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Tip the whites into a bowl together with a teaspoon or two coconut extract.

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Give them a whirl until they’re foamy and then add in 1/2 cup granulated sugar. Whiz that up until it’s white and thick-looking.

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Tip in 5 cups shredded coconut (I used unsweetened, but you can use sweetened) and your strawberry goo.

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Fold that together until fully combined.

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I decided to try to mould the cookies, which I’ve never done before, so I grabbed a heart-shaped cookie cutter and used a teaspoon to fill and pack the coconut down.

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Some careful wiggling and pressing down with the spoon freed up each one quite nicely.

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I kept going until I had 21 coconut cookies and an empty bowl.

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Shove those cookies into the oven for about 15 minutes, rotating halfway through, until the bottoms are browned and the cookies are solid. Let cool completely.

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While they’re cooling, grab some dark chocolate and huck it into a double-boiler to melt. Let that cool as well.

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Then tip the cooled chocolate into a bag with the corner nipped off and squeeze it out on your cooled cookies. Let that set.

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Serve to your attendant gentlemen!

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Coconut Cream Bars: REDUX

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The problem with this blog is that people I work with READ it. And then they EXPECT me to bring them baked goods. And then when I DO, they demand MORE. So sometimes I have to make things AGAIN. So these I’ve made before, and they were awesome. And I brought some to work. And one of the ladies I work with send me a calendar invitation for her birthday (which was MONTHS away) with instructions for me to make these for her (again). And so that’s what I did. I tweaked the recipe a little bit to add some more flavour, and I think I like them better than the originals. Conveniently they’re also Papa John’s favourite and his birthday is coming up …

Line a 9″ x 13″ pan with waxed paper and spray it as well. Set that aside. In a large bowl, dump in 20oz shredded unsweetened coconut, and 14oz sweetened condensed milk. I like to stand there and stare while the milk ever-so-slowly comes out of the can.

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Now here’s where I changed things up a little bit. I have some genuine Caribbean coconut extract that I added in for more flavour (I tipped in about 2 teaspoons) and then I decided to add a hint of orange by pouring in about 2 tablespoons Cointreau. I recommend doing it just for the subtlety of the flavour over the straight sugar taste you got before with the original recipe.

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I was actually amazed at how thick the coconut extract was – it was more of a syrup.

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Anyway, stir that up, together with 2 cups icing sugar, until you have a lovely gooey coconutty paste.

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Smooth that into your baking pan and level the top. Freeze that for a couple hours.

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When you’re nearly ready to go, melt up about 24oz chocolate of your choice – I used half dark, half milk in this batch. It’s also useful to do the chocolate in a couple of batches, adding more unmelted stuff to the mix as you run out.

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Let that cool a bit, and slice up your coconut goo into squares.

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Then start dipping! Remember that the cooler your chocolate is, the faster it will set, so act accordingly. Sprinkle the tops of each bar with more bits of coconut before the chocolate sets – for decoration.

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My chocolate was cooler (because it’s February and this is Canada) than last time so it set a little messier and less smooth than the previous version, but they’re still super tasty!

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Cake Redux: Gluten-Free LEMON COCONUT Snacking Cake

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Okay let’s try this again.  If you were visiting last week you’ll know I made a neat little gluten-free cake I found in Canadian Living but I wasn’t totally happy with how it came out.  So today I totally changed the two main ingredients (and two less main ingredients, and the cooking time) and we’re doing this for a second time.  If you notice that the text reads pretty much identically to what I wrote last week, well, it’s because it IS what I wrote last week.  I mostly copy-pasted that stuff, but I bolded all the differences.  Deal with it.

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Preheat your oven to 325°F and grease (with butter) a 9″ springform pan.  Line the bottom with parchment paper.  While you’re at it, separate 6 eggs and put the whites in a mixing bowl.

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In a large bowl, with an electric mixer, beat together 6 egg yolks1 cup granulated sugar, 2 teaspoons COCONUT EXTRACT2 teaspoons grated LEMON zest, and a pinch of NUTMEG.

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You are going to want to beat this stuff until it turns the colour of butter and when you lift the (stopped) beater away, you get a lovely long yellow ribbon coming out of the end, about 5 minutes.

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You need 2 cups COCONUT FLOUR for this, and 2 tablespoons LEMON juice, so you might want to get these ready ahead of time.  I just juiced the lemon I took the zest from. Fold the coconut flour and lemon juice into the yolk mixture.

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I totally forgot that coconut flour tends to suck up moisture.  If you do this, maybe just add 1 1/2 cups coconut flour.

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So I added in an additional 1/2 cup of MILK.

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Now take those 6 egg whites you set aside and start beating them until stiff peaks form.

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Take a scoop of the whites and stir it into the flour/yolk mix.  This will sort of thin out the mixture in order that it doesn’t crush the rest of your whites in the next step.

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Once that first scoop is combined, gently fold in the remainder of your egg whites into the flour/yolk mixture until fully combined.  Make sure to scrape up from the very bottom to make sure you got it all. Plop the batter into your prepared pan (or press it in this case) and bake it until the edges pull away from the sides of the pan and the centre is golden and firm to the touch, about 40 minutes.

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This cake did not fluff up like the previous one.  Let it cool on a rack before popping it out of the springform pan.

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Dust the cake with icing sugar right before you serve it (or the icing sugar will be absorbed into the moisture of the cake).  A nice lemon glaze (try the juice of one lemon heated to boiling with 4 tablespoons sugar) would also work I think.

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Choco-Coco Crisps

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I had pretty much a full package of marshmallows left over from my horrid disaster with s’mores, and a sizable chunk of baking chocolate that needed to be consumed before we left the province.

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So start with a giant pot and your gooey whites, around 40 large marshmallows.  Chuck them in the pot with 3 tablespoons butter and heat that on medium low, stirring frequently.Choco-Coco Crisps 3

While that’s on the go, butter two large baking dishes.

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Chop up about 4oz chocolate (I used milk chocolate) and use your microwave or a double boiler to melt it down.

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When the marshmallows start to melt, you can add in a few tablespoons vanilla extract and a few tablespoons coconut extract.  Be careful, as the alcohol in the extracts will fizz up.  Keep stirring as the marshmallows continue to desolidify.

Pour in the melted chocolate when the marshmallows are nearly entirely melted and remove the pot from the heat.  This will prevent your melted chocolate from seizing.

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Stir quickly until it’s all well combined.

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Pour in about 1 cup sweetened dessicated coconut and stir that up.

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Add in as well 6 cups crisped rice cereal and stir until it’s all evenly coated with chocolate goo.

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Using a buttered spatula or buttered hands, flatten the crispies into the buttered pans, pressing down firmly into the corners.

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Chop up about 8oz chocolate, melt that, and spread it thinly over the top of the crispies in both pans.

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Allow the chocolate to set for a bit, but cut your treats before it’s completely hardened.  Chill to set completely.

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And then, well, you eat them.  Simple as that.

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Oh, Gum Drops!

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I got this recipe from Inquiring Chef, who in turn modified it from Bakerella.  I think it’s awesome.  Challenge accepted.

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Inquiring Chef came up with four batches of different flavours: blueberry, raspberry, lemon, and mint.  She tried kiwi but apparently it didn’t gel, so I left my kiwi purée in the freezer for the time being.  I did whip out my frozen fruit from Costco and came up with six different flavours: blueberry, mixed berry (raspberry, blackberry, blueberry), strawberry, mango, and raspberry.  I planned to turn whatever was left into a mélange and call that one “fruit salad”.  I left those to defrost in the sun while I made The Un-Cola.

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You only need 3 tablespoons of purée per flavour, but I wasn’t sure how much would be left over after I finished straining out the seeds and skins, so I kind of eyeballed it.

So, in a food processor, purée those fruits all up.

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Strain them to remove the seeds and skins and whatever else is in there.

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Push the stuff against the sides of the strainer with a spoon to get ’em to go. Some are easier than others.

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Some are downright lurid.

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Now we’re ready to go.  Five flavours here.

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And my “fruit salad” here.

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The recipe below will give you two flavours.  I obviously multiplied it by three to match my six flavours.

Grease or spray 2 5″x 6″ pans for the gelatinizing of them there gum drops.  I used 8″ pie plates and cake tins, because that was what I had on hand.

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So.  Plop 3 tablespoons purée of one flavour into the bottom of one large heat-proof bowl, and then another 3 tablespoons of another flavour into another.

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In a large pot, sprinkle 4 tablespoons unflavoured gelatin (sorry, this isn’t a vegetarian recipe) over 1 cup cold water.  Leave that to soften for 5 minutes.

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Pour 1 1/2 cups boiling water over the gelatin and stir to dissolve.

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Pour in 4 cups sugar and bring that to a boil over medium heat.  You will need to stir this constantly so it doesn’t boil over.  And you will need to do this for 25 minutes straight.  No, you can’t run to change the radio station or answer the phone.  I managed to do this while talking on Skype with my parents, but they’re an indulgent sort and Skype is hands-free after all.  They only stuck around for one batch of the stuff, though.  I had to do that three times.

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Pour half the boiling sugar-gelatin foam over the purée in one bowl and the rest into the other.  Working quickly, stir to mix the purée completely into the sugar syrup.

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Pour the mixtures into the sprayed pans.

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Shove those suckers in the refrigerator overnight (or up to 2 days).  See how nice and firm that is?

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Pour about a cup of sugar onto a baking sheet. Then run a knife around the edges of the nice firm gelatin and gently release it from the pan.

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This will take a bit of persuasion, and I found a metal spatula to be very handy here. Don’t worry about damaging the gelatin — it’s pretty resilient.

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Place it in the sugar. When I’d done this I almost felt like I’d done some sort of organ transplant, and this was the one waiting for donation.  It looks like a lung or something …

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Then flip it to coat both sides — this will keep things from getting super sticky. You’ll get sticky enough as it is.

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Put the gelatin on a cutting board and use a long knife to cut strips from it.

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I then used scissors to cut the strips into 3/4″ cubes, or close enough approximates.  You can use a knife for this if you want to get straighter lines, but seeing as I was making squares out of something that was originally a circle, I wasn’t that concerned.  Plus as things get stickier, scissors are way easier.

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Cut the strips into the sugar.

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Then get in there with your hands and toss them to coat.

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A just-tossed gum drop, up close and personal:

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Transfer the finished gumdrops to parchment paper and leave, at room temperature, for 2 days to crystallize and get all good. This is my dining room table, completely covered in candy.

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Then give them all away — or save a few for yourself!  It always amazes me how simple candy always turns out to be — and that’s probably why it’s so good!

You can see more pictures of the gum drop adventure on my Flickr page.

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Clockwise from top left: Fruit Salad, Raspberry, Mixed Berry, Blueberry, Mango, Strawberry