My recent French macaron baking whirl produced a number of flavoursome experiments.  Mint, café au lait, lemon, rose, lavender, passionfruit and pistachio.  My macaron obsession is far from over, but for now, my macaron apron has been hung up.  For now…

In the meantime, I aim to bake a few other items off my ever expanding ‘must bake’ list.  While focusing on my French macarons, I was constantly reminded of the modest coconut macaroon.  Kerrin from MyKugelhopf recently made an outrageously rich matzoh dessert for Passover.  Passover seemed the perfect time to whip up a batch of coconut macaroons.

While reading about French macarons, I noticed these little tropical tasting treats were sometimes given a less than positive rap.  So I hoped to give these little hay-stacked cookies just a nudge of acknowledgement for what they are.  A simple little biscuit perfect for a sweet indulgence any time of day.  Nothing more, nothing less.

For the recipe, I chose the ever reliable version from Martha Stewart.  These are simple and quick to make.  The perfect snack to whip up at a moment’s notice.

{Chocolate Chunk Coconut Macaroons } recipe by Martha Stewart
Makes 20

* Ingredients *

3/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups unsweetened shredded coconut
2 large egg whites
1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chunks
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

* Directions *
1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine sugar, coconut, egg whites, chocolate chunks, vanilla, and salt. Use your hands to mix well, completely combining ingredients.
2. Dampen hands with cold water. Form 1 1/2 tablespoons of mixture into a loose haystack shape, and place on prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining mixture, placing macaroons about 1 inch apart.
3. Bake until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes. Remove baking sheet from oven to a wire rack, and let macaroons cool slightly on baking sheet. These are best served warm from the oven, but can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days; leave in a warm place for 1 hour before serving to allow chocolate to soften.

lamingtons6The lamington is probably the most authentic Australian baked good.  Its origin is not challenged (unlike the Pavlova) and it is firmly established as one of our nation’s treasures – a bit of a culinary icon, in fact.  You cannot attend a school fete without seeing stalls and tables piled up with these coconut covered gems.  It is also not uncommon for fundraising to be supported by ‘lamington drives’.

I have not met an Australian yet who does not like the lamington – Vegemite, yes, lamington no.  It is probably not a surprise though that most people enjoy a fluffy sponge cake coated in chocolate.  But more of a surprise that most people also like that chocolate coated sponge cake encrusted with coconut.  Seems most Australians are partial to the coconut.

They say the Lamington was named after Lord Lamington who was the elected Governor of Queensland in 1986 through to 1901.  Evidently, the lamington was created purely by accident – like the brownie – with a stale sponge cake coated with melted chocolate and then dipped into coconut to create a make-shift dessert.

Lamingtons are incredibly easy to make, and the recipe I use for Lamingtons is so very simple.  Just bake a basic sponge, cut into squares, coat with a layer of chocolate and then a layer of coconut.

Enjoy these to celebrate Australia Day or any other time of year.  If you are in the Northern Hemisphere (and experiencing a bitter winter), hopefully the coconut brings you a little sunshine with every bite.  Enjoy!

{ Lamingtons } (recipe by the Australian Women’s Weekly)

* Ingredients *

6 eggs
¾ cup castor sugar
1 cup self raising flour (all purpose + 2 tsp of baking powder)
1/3 cup cornflour (cornstarch)
1/3 cup hot water
15g (about ½ oz) butter, melted

4 cups (500g / 16 oz) icing sugar (powdered sugar)
1/3 cup cocoa
15g (about ½ oz) butter, melted
½ cup milk

3 cups (250g / 8 oz) desiccated coconut

* Directions *

1. Preheat oven to 190 C / 375 F.
2. Grease a 23cm (about 9 inch) square slab pan.
3. Beat eggs in medium bowl with electric mixer until thick and creamy.  Gradually add sugar, beat until dissolved between each addition.
4. Transfer mixture to large bowl.  Fold in sifted flours, then combined water and butter.
5. Pour into prepared pan, bake for about 30-35 minutes.   Stand 5 minutes before turning onto wire rack to cool.
6. Trim crusts from cake, cut into 25 squares.  Dip each piece in icing toss in coconut, and stand on wire rack to set.
7. For the chocolate icing, sift icing sugar and cocoa into a heatproof bowl.  Stir in butter and milk, stir over hot water until icing is smooth.

{ A few tips … }

1. It is best to make the sponge the day before and refrigerate.  It will be easier to cut and handle during the coating process.
2. When you are ready to coat the lamingtons, line a baking tray with parchment and then top with a cooling rack.  This will be perfect for your little coated cakes to rest.
3. For variation, you can split the sponge and fill with jam before coating.  You also do not have to stick with a plain sponge.  Chocolate or even strawberry is a nice variation – like the sponge layers of my Rainbow Cake.   Some lovely examples of variation are pretty pink lamingtons and berry ripple lamingtons.