When I was about seven or eight, I watched The Parent Trap II with my brother and our cousins. The storyline isn’t that important (best friends want their single parents to marry, and — coincidence? — one of those parents is a twin played by Hayley Mills) but what stuck with me for some reason was a scene early on in the movie where the two young girls bake cookies. They had a huge mixing bowl on a kitchen countertop, and the two kept on throwing in what seemed to me to be the craziest ingredients into their dough: marshmallows! Cap’n Crunch! M&Ms! pretzels! Then the girls formed their cookies and put them in the oven, and all I could think was, Gross.
I really think that that movie is what turned me off of baking. Interestingly enough, it didn’t turn me off of cookies.
In the time that’s passed since The Parent Trap II, I’ve made my peace with baking, and with what my seven-year-old self would have thought to be gross cookie ingredients. As a seven-year-old, for example, I never would’ve even considered eating anything with coconut in it; like my former teacher Steve Almond wrote in his excellent book Candyfreak, “Oddly, it isn’t the flavor of coconut that troubles me, but the texture… I feel as if I’m chewing on a sweetened cuticle.”
I like coconut, I really do, but its cuticleness just drives me bananas. I think that’s why I’m so surprised that I adore these cookies as much as I do. The trick, with these not-overwhelmingly-sweet cookies, is toasting the cuticle out of the coconut and amping up the richness of its natural flavor. As a result, you get these little soft bites of truly intense coconuttiness — which just so happens to pair quite nicely with a luxe dark chocolate, I might add.
Have these cookies changed my mind about coconut? Perhaps not. But they’ve definitely got me thinking about coconut a bit more, and with something like a smile on my face.
Toasted Coconut Chocolate Chunk Cookies, from Cooking Light
Makes about twenty-five cookies
1 cup flaked sweetened coconut
1 cup all-purpose flour
½ teaspoon baking powder
¼ teaspoon baking soda
1/8 teaspoon salt
¾ cup packed brown sugar
¼ cup unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg
2 ounces dark chocolate (70% cacao), chopped
- Preheat oven to 350°.
- Arrange coconut in a single layer in a small baking pan. Bake at 350° for 7 minutes or until lightly toasted, stirring once. Set aside to cool.
- Weigh or lightly spoon flour into a dry measuring cup; level with a knife. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt in a medium bowl; stir with a whisk until blended. Place sugar and butter in a large bowl; beat with a mixer at medium speed until well blended. Beat in vanilla and egg. Add flour mixture, beating at low speed just until combined. Stir in toasted coconut and chocolate.
- Drop by level tablespoons 2 inches apart onto baking sheets coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350° for 10 minutes or until bottoms of cookies just begin to brown. Remove from pan, and cool completely on wire racks.