I was looking for something thematically fall or Halloween, but not pumpkin (even though we have cans of pumpkin purée). Scarecrows…straw…haystacks! I had a vision of the cookie but had no real idea of what was in them, so called up Belle’s godmother. Just three ingredients: chow mein noodles, butterscotch chips, and peanut butter. And no oven. Perfect for a short half hour block. Continue reading “Haystacks”
With an extra egg white from a batch of Pumpkin Cream Cheese Cupcakes, we turned to The Kitchn’s coconut macaroons. We like this recipe because it’s pretty flexible, both with amounts and actual ingredients. It also doesn’t include any condensed milk (common to macaroons), which we don’t typically keep in the house.￼ We ended up with extra egg yolks, destined for Scrambled Eggs.
The first step was to toast the coconut, something Belle was happy to assist with. She can’t reliably avoid breaking a yolk when she cracks an egg, though, so the precision of separating eggs was out of the question. Enter water play!
Give her a container and a faucet (and maybe a spray nozzle) and Belle will practice filling and pouring til her hands are as wrinkled as raisins. I can supervise, prepare some mise en place, and engage her in guided conversation (“oh, is your cup full? Or empty?”) to work on whatever language she needs.
Whipping an egg white mixture provides an opportunity for early science literacy. I pointed out the changes in color from clear to white and in texture from smooth to frothy. Meanwhile, Belle got to practice her kitchen safety when Mama forgot to add the almond extract before turning on the mixer: “should we stop the mixer to tip the spoon, or keep going?”
Folding the toasted coconut into the egg white mixture was a really easy task for Belle, though since she doesn’t really have the scoop motion down with a spatula, it took a while. That gave me a chance to prep the parchment and a bowl of water to clean/wet our hands.
The best/most chaotic part of the recipe is undoubtably forming the macaroons. Using Belle’s language, I explained that we were making “coconut balls” and tried to show her how to pinch out the extra wetness and place it on the cookie sheet. It mostly got flung or dropped from a height. (Still tastes good.) With not much mixture remaining, she wanted to make “more balls,” so it was clearly a preferred activity.
We also talked about words associated with touch here (“sticky” and “wet”) and impulse control (not pouring the bowl of water for cleaning hands into the mixing bowl). On several occasions, it made the most sense to just move the water out of view (under the table) and have her ask for it (“your hands are sticky? What do you need?”).
Skills worked on:
- textures and associated words (sticky)
- shapes (balls)
- impulse control
- pincer grasp
- cookie sheet
- parchment paper
- mixing bowl
- whisk attachment (stand or hand mixer)
- large spoon or spatula
The original recipe calls for 3 cups of coconut and 4 egg whites, a ratio which we found to be too wet and caused the excessive spread on the left (also caused by toddler levels of precision). If you have 3 c of coconut because you’ve been snacking on an open bag (like us), we recommend dropping an egg white. The original recipe also suggests that adding 1-2 extra cups of coconut (totaling up to 5 cups) will make lighter, crispier macaroons. We’ve previously tried with 5 c and think they’re pretty much perfect!
Recipe (30 min prep, 15-20 min bake, yield 18-24 macaroons depending on size and volume of coconut):
- 4-5 cups sweetened, shredded coconut (about 1 lb)
- 4 large egg whites
- 1/2 cup white sugar
- 1 tsp almond extract (can substitute vanilla)
- 1/4 tsp salt
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Spread 4-5 c. coconut evenly on a cookie sheet (about 1/4″ deep) and put in oven to toast, about 10 min. Check frequently and stir. Edges should get brown, parts will get tan, and most will be just off-white. Set aside.
- While toasting, separate 4 eggs.
- Whisk together the 4 egg whites, 1/2 c. sugar, 1 tsp almond extract, and 1/4 tsp salt until frothy.
- Fold in the toasted coconut til evenly moistened.
- Line the cookie sheet with parchment paper.
- With wet hands to prevent sticking, shape the coconut mixture into balls about 1 1/2-inches in diameter. While the coconut doesn’t spread much, the egg whites do, so the wetter the mixture, the more space is required between cookies (1-2″).
- Bake the macaroons for 15 to 20 minutes, until golden-brown.
- Let cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
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