Salted Caramel Coconut Macaroons

I can feel the morning Fall nip already starting. There's no denying it. While I dread summer being over, I actually love the Fall. In SF, September brings the "Indian Summer" and in Boston, the leaves start to turn, the morning are cool and the evenings have that distinct coloring of shortening days. I love both places, very much, but nothing beats a New England Fall. 

I doused some of these in dark chocolate because... duh... Salted Caramel Coconut Macaroons

While I am not quite on board with the Halloween decorations popping up in the stores, and the premature releases of all things Pumpkin Spice flavored (let's be honest I wouldn't be on bored with PS even if it was timely), I thought I might bring a recipe to the blog that reminds me of one of my favorite Halloween candies, Almond Joy. I know! The throw away candy in most households, ours included until I actually tried one about 10 years ago and realized I like them. Yeah, so? What's it to you?

and for those who maybe don't care for chocolate as much, I did a drizzle one and a plain one... Salted Caramel Coconut Macaroons

We, as human beings, all have our own shameful secrets. Almond Joy candybars are mine. For my dad it was another disgusting candy. Let me "candy shame" him for a minute to divert attention away from me.

Christopher's Big Cherry candy bar (photo: Candy Warehouse)

Occasionally we would "help" him out (really we were tricked but that's a story for another time) at one of his work sites, sweeping up sawdust, picking nails out of the trash piles, wiping down windows or peeling of the manufacturer stickers. You know, the usual manual labor a contractor's daughter is subjected to. On the way home we would sometimes stop at the gas station to fill up the truck and grab a sneaky snack before dinner. Dad always got the same thing, a Big Cherry candy (and a gas station coffee). The bright pink packaging and old-timey scrawl of that name haunts me in my sleep. Most of you reading this probably have no clue what I am talking about so let me explain. It was a maraschino cherry gobbed in a cherry flavored cream that was oozy and sticky, which was then enrobed in a milk chocolate "shell" that was dotted with peanuts. Doesn't sound that bad, but the thought of the taste... blech! double blech! They were like a cherry cordial candy without the booze (which are still not good btw), or a cough syrup flavor bomb dressed up in chocolate to trick children into taking their medicine. I didn't think they made them anymore because I NEVER see them anywhere, obviously a candy for a certain generation, but apparently you can buy them on the web by the box full... for thirty bucks!

I used to be so grossed out by the sight of that pink wrapper, much like I am sure most kids cringe at the sight of the bright blue of an Almond Joy wrapper, or worse yet, the deep red of the Mounds wrapper. But just like Dad, I don't care. I like them so I will eat them. Forget you young whipper-snappers! What do you know anyway?

I had to try all three designs just in case... Salted Caramel Coconut Macaroons

gooey and sweet on the inside, salty and crunchy on the outside... Salted Caramel Coconut Macaroons

The recipe for these macaroons I think will appeal to the masses though. Unlike Almond Joy bars, these are more of a cookie than a candy. They are baked up so the coconut flavor is more toasted and yields a crispy texture. I use store bought dulce de leche in place of the classic condensed milk to amp up the toasted flavor with the nutty caramel of the dulce. And of course, everything is made better with a dusting of flaky sea salt. No almonds included in this guy. Just a classic coconut macaroon amped up a bit! Have a favorite candy bar that you might like me to replicate? Comment below and I will work my kitchen magic!

Happy Eating!!

The Recipe: Salted Caramel Coconut Macaroons

~yields 24 macaroons

The Bits and Bobs:

1-14oz bag                                  sweetened, shredded coconut

3/4 cup + 2 tbsp                        dulce de leche (can buy premade in the store)

3/4 tsp                                       vanilla extract

2                                                egg whites

1/4 tsp (heaping)                       table salt

                                                  flaky sea salt for finishing

  4 oz                                         dark chocolate, melted (optional)

The How-tos:

Preheat the oven to 325*F. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

In a big bowl mix together the coconut, dulce de leche, and vanilla until well combined. In a separate bowl, whisk or beat with an electric mixer the egg whites and salt together until you get stiff peaks. Fold the egg whites into the coconut mixture until evenly distributed.  

Scoop heaping tablespoon mounds of the mixture onto the baking sheet, leaving space in between each ball.  Bake for 25 minutes or until edges and tops are golden brown, rotating the pans once during the baking time.  Sprinkle with a bit of the flaky sea salt when removed from the oven if not planning to use any chocolate. Allow to cool completely.

If using the chocolate, melt in the microwave for 45 seconds or over a double boiler until smooth. Drizzle or dip each macaroon with the melted chocolate then sprinkle with the sea salt. Allow to set up in the fridge for 30 minutes or so.