Although we live more than 400 miles away from one another, I still am very close to my best friend from high school. We email, Facebook and talk on the phone several times per week. I spent as much time at her house growing up as I did my own. She was raised in part by her grandparents who became my surrogate grandparents. J’s grandfather died about 10 years ago, but her grandmother is still thriving and just turned 90 yesterday.
J’s family traveled from all over the country to come celebrate their matriarch’s big day. Gram no longer has immediate family in the area, so D and I check in on her and help her out when needed. Gram didn’t want anyone making a fuss. Just having her family in town was all she needed to feel special. She chose the Olive Garden as the place to celebrate. It may have seemed an odd choice, but it was what Gram wanted and that’s what was important. They don’t take reservations, so we had to wait more than an hour to seat the 12 guests. It was worth the wait to see the joy on her face to be surrounded by her progeny. We felt blessed to be included.
I wanted to bake something for her birthday to show her how much she means to me. She has always made me feel welcome and during my turbulent teens, her home was often a sanctuary. Gram loves coconut, so I made her some macaroons. I found the following recipe in Bon Appetit. While it was rich and more decadent than other macaroons, it was also quite delicious. The orange zest takes these little gems to new heights.
- 1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
- 3/4 cup sugar
- 1/8 teaspoon salt
- 2 teaspoons finely grated orange peel (use a Microplane to zest the orange)
- 3 large eggs
- 24 ounces sweetened flaked coconut (about 6 cups firmly packed. This is about 1 1/2 bags)
- 6 ounces bittersweet chocolate, melted ( I used a Belgian chocolate from Trader Joe’s)
- Position rack in center of oven; preheat to 325°F. Line 3 large rimmed baking sheets with parchment. Using electric mixer, beat butter in large bowl until smooth. Add sugar and salt; beat until blended. Beat in orange peel, then eggs, 1 at a time. Mix in coconut. Drop batter onto sheets by tablespoonfuls, spacing 1 1/2 inches apart. ( I wanted a neater cookie, so using wet hands I rolled the cookies to form little spheres.)
- Bake macaroons, 1 sheet at a time, until golden on bottom and browned in spots, 25 to 30 minutes. Cool completely on sheets.
- Using fork, drizzle chocolate over macaroons. Chill on sheets until chocolate is firm, about 30 minutes.