A recent Top Ten Tuesday meme going around the blogs lately was the top ten books you absolutely had to own and then had never read. I could use the same meme for ingredients I’ve bought in my King Arthur Flour shopping splurges and then never used.
Number one on the list would be the unopened 1-ounce bottle of coconut flavoring that I bought for Christmas baking the year before last.
Another must-have ingredient was languishing in the fridge – unsweetened coconut from Trader Joe’s or Whole Foods (someplace I don’t go to on a regular basis). I also had a unopened bag of shredded, sweetened coconut. Trying to think of something light to serve as dessert after Easter dinner, I decided to try coconut macaroons.
Added bonus! I found a recipe in The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook for Triple-Coconut Macaroons that called for both sweetened and unsweetened coconut, and cream of coconut, too. (The can of cream of coconut was from tail-end-of-summer pina coladas that never happened before suddenly it was fall and time for hot apple cider drinks.) I figured I would substitute one teaspoon of vanilla extract called for in the recipe with one teaspoon of the coconut flavoring from King Arthur Flour, and would use all of my unused coconut ingredients at once.
It’s somewhat ironic to buy a cookbook from America’s Test Kitchen, where they test each recipe hundreds of times to find the perfect ingredients and method of preparation for each recipe, and then make a change to the very first recipe you try, but I did. (It was a very minor substitution, but please don’t tell Christopher Kimball.)
The macaroons came out beautifully, if not perfectly shaped. (Another irony – I was musing as I was shaping the cookies into “haystacks” before baking that I wasn’t sure how a haystack really looked anymore, and nowadays don’t farmers store hay in big plastic bags, and what about people who have never lived in a rural area, etc., and the whole time there was a handy little drawing right there on the page with the recipe showing a pair hands shaping the cookies into little mounds with rounded tops. Yeah, it’s Cook’s ILLUSTRATED. I get it now.)
The cookies were best the same day they were made, especially warm from the oven. I froze some last Sunday and took them out of the freezer today to try them. The texture’s not as good after freezing, but they’re still tasty.
The subtitle of the The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook is “2,000 Recipes from 20 Years of America’s Most Trusted Food Magazine”; if you find this assertion reassuring, this may be the cookbook for you. It’s on sale from the America’s Test Kitchen Web site now at the bargain price of $24, which works out to less than two cents per recipe. This is a cookbook that doesn’t assume that you know how to trim beef tenderloin but shows you in step-by-step drawings exactly how to do it. It also offers time-saving tips such as, if you’re going to cook your mushrooms you don’t have to fussily sponge them clean with a damp paper towel as you’re supposed to do for salads, you can just wash them with water in a salad spinner.
The Triple-Coconut Macaroons recipe isn’t posted free online by America’s Test Kitchen, but you can get a one-day free pass to try out the Web site, which has tons of recipes on it. You can also get a preview of the NookBook edition of The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook at Barnes & Noble here, to get an idea of the recipes and read about how the cookbook came to be.
The Cook’s Illustrated Cookbook
By the Editors at America’s Test Kitchen
America’s Test Kitchen, 2011
$40.00, U.S., hardcover
Disclosure: I bought this cookbook as a gift for my husband the Christmas before last (yes, the same year I bought the coconut flavoring that I never used) and unfortunately, I think it was a case of giving someone else the gift you would like for yourself. As a relatively less confident cook, I want EXACT directions and SPECIFIC DETAILS in a recipe, and these are specialties of America’s Test Kitchen. My husband, on the other hand, uses recipes more for inspiration than for following exactly, so this cookbook wasn’t a particularly good choice for him.