Of all the treats I routinely make for Christmas, these may be my favorite—and they don’t even have chocolate in them. Almost every recipe I’ve tried from Carole Walter’s Great Cookies has been spectacular, but this is the most delicious and unique of the lot, and has earned an ardent following among those who’ve tasted the result.
It’s hard for me to detail what makes these cookies so fantastic without wanting to run to the kitchen and bake a batch for inspiration, but I’ll try to break it down for you from memory:
- They’re a coconut lover’s dream—not only is coconut mixed into the dough and then rolled onto the outside of the cookies, but coconut extract also adds a megahit of flavor. They’re like coconut macaroons that have ascended to a higher plane.
- Excellent use of apricots. I don’t especially like dried fruit in cookies, but the apricots taste great with the coconut and look so prettily stained-glass-like when the roll of dough is sliced.
- The texture: moist, tender, buttery, and a little chewy inside, surrounded by a crisp shell of browned coconut.
- The unusual egg yolk/milk wash that’s painted on the cookies just before baking gives them a sunny yellow color that makes me think of Easter.
Come to think of it, there’s nothing particularly Christmasy about these cookies; Christmas just happens to be the time when I’m in the mood to put a little more effort into my baking. And these do require more effort than your traditional drop cookie; you’ve got to divide the dough, roll it into logs, paint them with egg white, roll them in coconut, chill them, slice them, and then paint them with the egg yolk. But this technique is what makes them so special, and besides, having to chill the dough means you can divide the work over multiple days if you want to—I mixed it up and formed the logs one weekend, stuck them in the freezer, and then sliced and baked the next weekend.
1 10-ounce package sweetened, flaked coconut
2¼ cups all-purpose flour, spooned in and leveled
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
½ cup (6 ounces) dried apricots, chopped into ⅛-inch pieces
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, slightly firm
¾ cup sugar
1 large egg
1½ teaspoons vanilla extract
½ teaspoon coconut extract
1 large egg white
2 teaspoons water
1 large egg yolk
1 teaspoon half-and-half or milk
1. Place the coconut in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse five or six times, then process until finely chopped. Set aside.
2. Strain together the flour, baking soda, and salt in a small bowl. Remove 2 tablespoons of the dry ingredients and toss with the apricots in a second small bowl. Set aside.
3. In the large bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the butter on medium-low speed. Pour in the sugar in a steady stream, and mix for 1 to 2 minutes. Add the egg and mix for 1 minute longer, scraping down the bowl as needed. Mix in the extracts.
4. Reduce the mixer speed to low and blend in 1¾ cups of coconut. Add the dry ingredients in 2 additions, mixing only to combine after each addition. Using a large rubber spatula, mix in the apricots.
5. Shape the dough into three logs, each measuring about 8 inches long and 1½ inches in diameter. Place the remaining coconut on a 15-inch sheet of wax paper. Whisk together the egg white and the water in a small bowl. Brush one log of dough with the egg wash, then place the log on the coconut, positioning it so that the length of the log is parallel to the short sides of the wax paper. Grasp each side of the wax paper, lift the paper off the counter, and, moving your hands up and down, roll the log to coat it with the coconut. Wrap the log in plastic, twisting the ends of the wrap tightly to secure. Repeat with the remaining two logs, and then refrigerate all three for at least 1 hour or until firm. (This dough will keep in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or may be frozen for 1 month.)
6. When ready to bake, preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
7. Using a sharp knife with a thin blade, slice each log of dough into ⅜-inch-thick slices, turning the log every two or three cuts to maintain the shape, and place on ungreased baking sheets about 2 inches apart. If the dough tears when slicing, press it back together.
8. Using a fork, mix the egg yolk and the half-and-half or milk in a shallow bowl, then lightly brush the tops of the cookies with the glaze.
9. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges (to ensure even browning, rotate the baking sheets from top to bottom and back to front near the end of the baking time). Do not overbake. Remove from the oven and let stand for 1 minute before loosening with a thin metal spatula. Transfer to cooling racks.
Yields: 6 dozen 2-inch cookies
Time: 1¼ hours, plus 1 hour chilling
Leftover potential: High; can be frozen