Reading Molly's work is like hearing a great song, where your past and future play out in your mind in one quick reel of images, à la The Wonder Years. Every detail comes to life, every sentiment resonates throughout your core, and every perfectly placed word emphasizes the last and ties up each sentence in a stunning bow, knocking you off your feet with meaning. I'm not a huge softie, but this girl has stolen my heart. Impressed doesn't say enough.
When I got to her "Quite That Magnificent" essay, where she mentions working in my hometown of Mill Valley, I wanted to jump from my seat on the bus and shatter the silence by yelling, "She knows where I live! She's been to where I've been! She likes Max's coconut macaroons!" Boy oh boy, I knew, from that moment, that we were MFEO (Sleepless in Seattle quote, anyone?). She also mentioned Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam cheese (made in Point Reyes near me!), Mt. Tamalpais itself (my entire family attended the high school named after that mountain!) and Marin Brewing Company (I have a beer and cobb salad there, like, once a week!). To seal our serendipitous connection, I decided I had to make macaroons.
I too love the local Max's cafe and their gargantuan macaroons. I usually order their seven-layer cookie or a slice of cake but my mother loves sharing a coconut dome over the course of a few days. The minis (if we're talking in Max's terms) that I made the other night, however, are a perfect size and sweetness, just as Molly intended. The bittersweet Valrhona chocolate ganache (only the creme de la creme for Ms. W) makes them that much more regal. It was really hard to leave them cooling out of the oven, and then again when dripping with chocolate on a tray in the fridge. Really. Hard.
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup egg whites (from about 5 large eggs)
1-2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
4-5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
1. Place the coconut, sugar, and egg whites in a heavy 2- to 3-quart saucepan and stir well. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring frequently, about 10 minutes. The mixture will be creamy as it heats, and then it will slowly get a bit drier. Stop cooking when it no longer looks creamy but is still quite sticky and moist, not dry. Remove from the heat, and stir in the vanilla. Scrape the mixture into a pie plate or small baking sheet, spread it to allow quick cooling, and refrigerate until cold.
2. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a baking mat. Using your hands or an ice cream scoop, scoop and firmly pack the coconut mixture into small domes. Space them evenly on the baking sheet.
3. Bake the macaroons until evenly golden, about 30 minutes. Cool completely on the pan, set on a wire rack. Then remove the macaroons from the baking sheet, and set them on the rack. Set the rack over the baking sheet (to catch chocolate drippings).
4. Put the chopped chocolate in a medium bowl. Heat the cream in a small saucepan over medium heat, swirling the pan occasionally, until it is hot and steaming. Do not allow it to boil. Remove the pan from the heat, and pour the cream over the chocolate. Let sit for 1 minute, then stir until smooth. Spoon the warm ganache generously over the macaroons.
5. Refrigerate the macaroons on the rack until the ganache sets, at least 2 hours. You can repeat the chocolate ganache again (with another batch made) for double chocolate thickness, and refrigerate again. Transfer them to an airtight container, and refrigerate or freeze. Will keep in the refrigerator for up to 5 days; frozen, a month or two.