Tempering Chocolate, or “Le meglio è l’inimico del bene”

When I was teaching food writing at Westminster College, each of the students (some of whom were pretty good cooks) and I went around the circle and shared a cooking tip. Sharp knives, vinaigrette, tearing lettuce, home brew kombucha, etc.

My tip was that every one who likes to cook and bake should learn to temper chocolate. One student said, “they make it sound complicated” to which I responded, “yes, and that’s why people who actually have mastered far more complex tasks avoid it.” In fact, I read a cook book by Giada de Laurentiis which contained a recipe for fig and almond butter-filled chocolate bites. Her recipe called for adding oil to chocolate chips and then dipping the balls in this– then storing the bites in the refrigerator. Why on earth melt chips, which are designed not to melt, and then add OIL? Why not temper the chocolate so that the bon bons don’t have a finger-marking gooey smear? (For that matter, why do home candy makers settle for chocolate without cocoa butter, made with palm or coconut oil? It’s easier to use, but not that much easier, and the flavor suffers. Real chocolate, as opposed to “coating products,” tastes better. Plus, the snap you get from tempered chocolate is better.)

So, a few weekends ago I had friends over to make cookies. One of the cookies (Elise Lebkuchen) is covered in dark chocolate. I wanted my friends to see how easy it is to temper chocolate, the difference it makes in the finished product, and the way in which this one technique opens the door to more professional candy and cookie baking.

I usually use 72% bittersweet. Melt as much as you can work with in 15 minutes–start with eight ounces until you get the hang of it. You can easily remelt and retemper what’s leftover. Imagine dried fruit soaked in eau de vie or brandy, combined perhaps with roasted nuts, becoming quick little chocolate clusters. You can soak the cherries in Kirsch overnight (or fast soak in the microwave) and then dry them on a paper towel. Or prunes soaked in Armagnac brandy. Pistachios and apricots snipped into sixths. You get the idea–you can also just use nuts OR dried fruit and if you will be using the treats within a few hours, you can use fresh fruit, say raspberries or blackberries. You can also drizzle the tempered chocolate over cookies or make lacy designs with it, say by putting the tempered chocolate into a plastic bag, snipping off a triangle at the end, and writing “Happy Birthday” on a piece of foil or silicone liner. Once it has hardened, place it on a cake or plate.

The amount of cacao in the chocolate determines the tempering temperature–milk chocolate requires a lower temperature and white chocolate, which is just cocoa butter and sugar, even lower. In any case, tempered chocolate will harden within a minute or two when in contact with the cookie or dried fruit or… Steven Hill, a chef at 209 1/2 in DC in 1981, taught me to make chocolate ganache-filled candy. He piped the ganache into little mounds or pieces, froze them, and then dipped the pieces into tempered chocolate. We offered them to diners as a special “friandise” at holiday time. I ate a lot of them.

Because I’m impatient, I melt chocolate in the microwave instead of the safer way, in a double boiler over simmering water. In the microwave, you can zap the chopped chocolate at one minute, then 15 second intervals. Take the temperature with an instant read thermometer after each minute and stir well. You want the bittersweet (72% cacao) chocolate to reach 120 degrees Fahrenheit, and then cool down to 80 before you dip or coat with it. (Perfect tempering demands you bring it back up to 88 degrees, but I don’t do this. ) Don’t panic if the thermometer reaches a few degrees more or less. Depending on the temperature of the room, the cooling can take 15-25 minutes. To speed the process, stir in some finely chopped chocolate and stir until it, too, melts. You can put the bowl in a cool place (but take care to keep stirring so the sides don’t congeal before the rest).Your tempered chocolate might have a few streaks or not be absolutely shiny, but here, the perfect is the enemy of the good. And if you mess up, you can always remelt the chocolate or use it for brownies.. The Valrhona website says that holding the chocolate for a longer time at just above (88-89) the dipping temperature makes better coating. I’ve never done this, but now that I have an induction range, I might try. But if it turns out to be hassle, I’ll be satisfied with “good enough” tempering.

When the chocolate has cooled to 80 degrees, dump in the nuts and/or fruit, stir well to coat, and working fast, scoop teaspoons or tablespoons of the mixture onto parchment, silicone, foil, or a flat plate. I suggest starting with 8 ounces of chocolate so you can finish making the clumps before the chocolate hardens. When the chocolate is too stiff to work with (say when you see it harden on your fingers or on the spoon), then let it cool and begin the tempering process all over again.

The bon bons in the photo are prunes soaked in whisky (that’s what I had) for a few days and then filled with a roasted hazelnut, just before I dipped them with a fork. They don’t need to be refrigerated. They remain edible a long time, because each of the components is shelf stable. Be sure to dry the fruit well on a paper towel and let the pieces sit on the counter a few hours before coating in chocolate so that your chocolate doesn’t get alcohol in it. You can use a fork to dip, or buy a special tool that looks like a loop. Remember that you can remelt and reuse any chocolate. If you are a perfectionist, see the Valrhona website for more instruction.

But why not make some holiday chocolates right now? Trust me, you will reach “good enough” skill level on your first or second try.

Individual Japanese Cheesecakes

What makes them “Japanese,” you might wonder. Well, Japanese cakes are leavened with whipped egg whites, and are delicately flavored. If you like chiffon cakes, sponge cakes, and cheesecakes, this is your dessert. It’s like eating a lemon and vanilla flavored cloud. You could flavor it otherwise (I’ll offer ideas below) but try this version first.

I made this cake in the 9 inch version about five times, messing with a spring form pan, wasting aluminum foil to keep it from leaking and parchment to keep it from sticking. Once the cake “fell” (but I ate it anyway–even fallen it tastes like a good cheesecake.) Now I’ve made the individual versions three times and I’ll never go back. So much easier, even fool proof. ( Note that you must taste the mixture before you bake it in order to adjust the flavoring. I’ll give you guidelines, but there’s no substitute for tasting it yourself.)

1/2 cup milk or half and half

2 Tbs. butter

8 ounces cream cheese

1/3 cup sugar, divided

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/4 cup AP flour (cornstarch and flour=50 grams together, if you have a scale, and it’s OK to sub gf flour)

flavoring: 1-2 tsp vanilla extract (or scant tsp paste), 7 drops lemon essential oil, 1/2 tsp. lemon crystals, 1/4 tsp salt

5 or 6 eggs, separated into a small bowl of yolks and a beating bowl for whites. Use 5 eggs if they are extra large, and 6 if they are large.

1/2 tsp cream of tartar

Preheat oven (NOT CONVECT) to bake at 330F and spray 9 custard cups with Baker’s Joy (or grease and flour). Baker’s Joy comes in generic brands as well, often termed “baking spray with flour.” Find a baking pan or two big enough to hold all the cups and deep enough to fill with at least 1 inch of water. (You won’t fill it with water until it’s in the oven.)

In a saucepan on very low heat, melt the cream cheese and butter in the milk (or half and half), with about half the sugar. You don’t want it to cook, just to dissolve well enough so you can whisk it smooth. Let cool to room temperature. Beat in the cornstarch and flour, then whisk in the egg yolks. Add the flavorings and taste: do you want it more lemony or more vanilla-y? This is a subtle cake, but flavorings vary in intensities. If you’re using high quality vanilla paste (no sugar added) you’ll need less. Essential oils are different. You can use a different citrus, for example lime or grapefruit. TruLemon is a company that makes good quality lemon, lime, and grapefruit crystals. I prefer crystals and essential oil to using grated rind because the latter spoils the smooth texture of the cakes. This is how it looks at this stage:

Whip the egg whites until foamy, add the cream of tartar, and continue beating until mixture holds a peak while adding the remainder of the sugar.

Fold about 1/3 of the sweetened, beaten egg whites into the flavored yolk mixture, mix well, then fold in the rest of the egg whites.

This is the batter ready to be baked. Spoon it into the prepared custard cups and place the cups into a pan (or two) big enough to hold them, and place into the preheated oven.

Use a pitcher to carefully pour hot water around the cups, at least to a height of one inch.

Bake for 20 minutes. This is how they will look:

Reduce the temperature to 265 and bake another 10-15 minutes, or until a tester comes out clean. The cakes will fall a little, either now or once you take them out of the oven, but they’ll still be fluffy and cloud like. I use tongs to remove them from the oven and water bath one by one, because I don’t want to risk dumping the hot water over the cakes or myself. (Remove the pan from the oven once it has cooled.)

Once the custard cups are barely warm, reverse them onto your palm or a plate or cooling rack. The cakes are wonderful warm, but can also be chilled for a more traditional cheesecake. Serve with fruit puree or fresh fruit, or both. The cakes stay fresh in the refrigerator for about a week–with a caveat: seal airtight because otherwise they’ll pick up scents from items in your refrigerator.

Other flavor options: matcha tea, cocoa powder, instant coffee, fruit powders (I order them from nuts.com). The flavorings are added to the cream cheese/egg yolk mixture. I eat a couple of these for breakfast each day (until they are gone and I begin to think about making the the next batch.)


In restaurants, I want everything (food, service, décor) to be both interesting and considered—and better, or at least as good, as I can do at home. Our favorite restaurant in Salt Lake had beautiful chairs that were torture to sit in, so we’d ask for a booth. My last meal there ended with a cocoa cake that had too much baking soda—yuk—and I’m pretty sure the pastry chef had no idea. Under a different pastry chef, the desserts had been excellent. Restaurants get lazy when they are the only show in town,  when customers don’t complain, and when they can’t hire skilled workers. 

I also expect to learn something when eating out: a new ingredient, combination, technique: a surprise or three. Surprises in food are like surprises in poetry—a pleasurable resetting of expectations, another way of thinking. At a recent meal out, I ordered the “apple tatin” expecting a new version of an apple-forward dessert. The re-imagined dessert featured whipped cream, two disks of pastry, and a small ring of pectin-set cooked apple. The pastry was stodgy, the whipped cream overwhelmed the fruit. It looked nice but I only ate a few bites. In excellent restaurants, surprises are managed by the chef—surely I was not the only eater who did not enjoy that dessert? Someone else must have complained about the pastry, not buttery or caramelly, more like a flavorless cookie, or left it on their plate? But maybe the chef doesn’t look at the plates on their way to the dish room or just maybe other diners thought it was fine. Yet good food is not determined solely by personal taste, and anyway, taste can be trained. It’s not a person’s palate that determines whether something is good, but techniques and ingredients. Those pastry disks were overworked. When I cook at home, I trouble shoot/correct my ingredients or technique. Too-wet sweet potato gnocchi made me vow to try including a russet or potato starch in the dough the next time. At home, guests are forgiving (or at least too polite to complain).

One highly touted hotel restaurant has a Vietnamese chef—I had dreams of a Slanted Door in DC, but we got Popeye’s with coconut milk and pandan, fried food carelessly executed. I had the classic pork with rice noodles and salad. The salad consisted of wide pieces of cucumber on leaf lettuce. Why not daikon and carrot julienne in rice vinegar? If a dish is classic, the reinterpretation should be at least as good as the original. The pork was fatty and gristly, the rice noodles mushy.  Other new  restaurants in our neighborhood have not made us want to return. One interpretation of bacon-wrapped scallops consisted of a slice of raw lardon around a scallop. The vegetables were overcooked and uniformly seasoned with gritty dried herbs and too much salt.  

There’s also the sense of value—allied to “better than I can make at home”: at Oyster Oyster, the restaurant Washington Post Critic Tom Sietsema thinks is the best in the city, we paid $370 for two people, with three glasses of wine. The service was superb, and I asked the server “how is this made” about more than one dish. That pecan mousse with the candy carrot coating! Everything was both delicious and inventive—yet because the kitchen had imposed so many restrictions on itself: local, sustainable, seasonal, vegan, their fall menu featuring root vegetables (celeriac, kohlrabi, sweet potato, beets, mushrooms) and grains had us asking ourselves the next day: was it worth it? No, alas. One or more unusual and expensive ingredients can make the difference. Even a vegan restaurant can offer something hard-to-get.

Because I worked in restaurants as a server and hostess I understand the need to turn tables, to make a profit. Since we like to eat early—5 pm–if we walk in, I promise the host that we’ll be out in an hour if necessary. Yet we’ve had hosts tell us, an entirely empty restaurant behind them, that they can’t seat us because of reservations. Or tell us that a particular table is reserved (here’s looking at you, Bombay Club). 

Restaurant service should be unobtrusive. Vivid in my memory is one server who explained (without my asking) what a caper was (and actually got it wrong), and the server at Sundance’s Tree Room, who, when I told him the cherry sorbet had been made with salt instead of sugar, said, “no it hasn’t.”  Another waiter at that same establishment on another visit insisted (after my initial inquiry and after the dish had been served) that the blue cheese was not goat (anyone who dislikes goat cheese recognizes it; I can imagine ski dude carelessness creates problems for people with allergies or sensitivities). Another variety of obtrusiveness is over-describing and recommending. At the restaurant with the failed apple tatin, a server interrupted us to explain how everything was made. In most cases, it was obvious, and anyway no one cared. How hard it is to get all the aspects perfect: food, décor, service!

Two new DC restaurants deserve accolades: 

I’ve eaten at Rania three times since it opened in October, each time with delight. (My wife says, when she leaves town, “please don’t go without me.”) On 11th street close to Pennsylvania Avenue, it used to be a bar. Now it offers 3 or 4 course prix fixe  ($75 or $95) menus of inventive Indian food, with enough choices to please both vegetarians and meat eaters. Meals start with an amuse bouche, a deep fried murukku garnished with trout roe or a vegetable. The beef eater in our group raved about the short ribs. I ordered the chicken korma (meatballs) twice because of the white truffle shaved on top, the morel garnish. (That’s the photo at the top of this post.) Fresh oysters were slightly warmed from a creamy sauce with wasabi fire in it. Diners can choose two side dishes from a list of eight, including three kinds of bread, raita, rice pilaf, and black or yellow lentil dal. If you’re eating with others, the side dishes offer more tastes in the classic Indian style. Don’t skip dessert: what could have been an ordinary mango sorbet was made extraordinary by frozen fennel granita. The pastry chef employs all manner of French and Asian pastry techniques, including homemade marshmallows, puff pastry, and friandises (sweet little bites with the bill). Eating there is worth every penny. https://www.raniadc.com

While Rania is not as well-known as it should be, the newest Chang restaurant at 1200 19th Street NW, perhaps because of Peter Chang’s reputation, has gotten wide press. Everything’s good, but the crisp-fried cauliflower is superb. Succulent pig’s feet. Slightly too salty duck hot and sour soup. I love tofu skin because the texture is chewy, more chewy than al dente noodles, and it’s tofu that is somewhat hard to find in restaurants. Chang Chang serves it prepared very simply, with sauteed bok choy in a light soy sauce, an example of good ingredients and technique. At Chang Chang  the desserts are also good—my favorite is the passion fruit pie on a rice crust garnished with black pepper spiced (surprise!) meringue. I also appreciate the selection of loose leaf teas and nonalcoholic drinks, for example lavender kombucha. Every item on the menu has been considered—no decision fatigue here, no “ho hum.” Lovely service, the three times we ate there, with servers  considerate about turning down the music (loud music just makes diners eat faster), and thoughtful about not rushing us.

It’s a tough business, the restaurant business. But then, some diners notice perfection–and rave about it.

Creamy Vegan Celery Root Soup

Final Stage of soup below:

I don’t usually post soup recipes (because most soups don’t need a recipe), but I was especially pleased with something I discovered making this creamy vegan soup. It’s light yet richly flavored, and creamy (because of the soaked cashews). It has protein! It’s a good receptacle for any mildly flavored vegetable scraps you might have. You’ll need apple and/or white wine to add acid and verve.

I used 4 pounds of celery root (after peeling), 2 leeks, 1 bunch green onions and a few scraps of shallots, 3 Tbs avocado oil, 1/2 bunch parsley, 2 peeled and cored apples, 1 1/2 cups of leftover champagne, and 1 pound of raw cashews, soaked. Filtered water. White pepper, nutmeg, and salt.

Saute the leeks/onions in oil a few minutes, add the cubed celery root, then the apples and parsley or whatever vegetable scraps you want to use up (make sure they don’t have strong flavors–you want the celery root to shine), and the soaked (an hour, drain soaking water) cashews. Simmer with water or wine or a combination (at least 1 quart) and a teaspoon of salt for about 40 minutes, or until the celery root is soft. Add seasoning: about 2 tsp each ground white pepper and nutmeg, and 3 more tsp salt. Add the seasoning in stages BEFORE you blend, so there’s no grit. Add filtered water if it’s too thick. Keep tasting until it’s a bit spicy. If you correct the seasoning, do this in small amount of the soup in the blender, blend again, and then stir into the larger amount. It took me three tries to get the right amount of pepper, nutmeg, and salt.

I love the creamy color of the soup and the fresh taste. Don’t be tempted to use vegetable stock or garlic or anything that could overwhelm the celery root. You could garnish with some minced chives or parsley or lovage and a swirl of extra virgin olive or avocado oil.

Chocolate Cream Caramels

Like many things I make, this batch of candy resulted from my own craving. Why buy caramels if they are likely to be too sweet, stale, expensive, or all three? These scratched the itch and were easy, even without a candy thermometer.

1 pint heavy cream

2 1/2 cups sugar

1 cup corn syrup

1/2 tsp salt

10 ounces bittersweet chocolate (I used 75%, you could make them more bitter by using a higher cocoa percentage.)

I stick unsalted butter

1 tsp. vanilla extract

flaky sea salt for garnish

Line an 8×13 (or so) pan with parchment paper. (The smaller the pan, the higher the caramels.) Spray the parchment with cooking spray.

Whisking constantly, simmer the cream, sugar, corn syrup and salt until it thickens slightly and reaches 220 degrees, 10-15 minutes.. Off the heat, whisk in the butter and chocolate. Cook (and whisk) until it reaches “firm ball” stage (240 degrees)–this may take 20 more minutes. Be patient. You’ll see the mixture thicken yet again; the simmering bubbles will be large. To test, put a bit on a cold plate and see if it holds its shape. Stir in the vanilla and take off the heat.

Pour into the prepared pan and sprinkle the top with Maldon or other flaky salt, as desired. Allow to sit 8-12 hours in a cool place. Unmold onto cutting board and cut into squares or rectangles, then wrap each piece in parchment or wax paper.

New Kitchen!

The word “kitchen” comes from the word “to ripen,” also the root of apricot, pumpkin, charcuterie, biscuit, and ricotta. Each of these words makes my mouth water. In staring down into what will likely be my last kitchen, I have room to maneuver and room to talk to whoever is across the counter.  But not so much room that I have to walk steps with a heavy pot or platter. Rather, my last kitchen allows me to pivot and spin. The “farm sink” is deep enough to hide dirty dishes. The sink came in a box the size of a small child. In fact, I could bathe a child in the sink, or wash the cat’s litter box or a thick sweater—or several of them. In that sink I could soak my largest roasting pan, stuff a turkey, wash a bushel of apples. Repot a peace lily or a miniature Meyer lemon tree. Defrost or fast-chill two gallons of Tuscan Bean soup. A big sink—originally I wanted two, this one and a smaller one nearer to the refrigerator but positioning the plumbing drain line was complicated and this kitchen is not, after all, that big.

Still: see the grey pottery bowl in the middle of the “continent”? I bought it more than ten years ago, and it dwarfed everything it sat on until now. And the Italian tiles above the sink? 35 years ago, I bought them framed from Baltimore’s Turnover shop, and now finally they are set into the backsplash. I love the induction range, but made a mistake with the wall oven (should have gotten a model with cafe doors). And the 41 cabinets? All full.

BEAT (Bacon, Egg, Arugula, Tomato) sandwich

The last bites of the best sandwich–on my own spelt-flaxseed sourdough bread. I’ve always thought the classic BLT was a bit protein-poor–the egg changes that. And what is mayonnaise but egg and fat? I put a thin smear of mayo on the toasted bread, then layered on an egg gently fried in bacon fat, sliced tomatoes, applewood smoked bacon , and arugula. Messy to eat but utterly delicious. You could, of course, not make it open face. Even though I love bread, I love bacon and tomatoes and arugula more, and this style gives me two eating opportunities.

B2 Cookies

Biscoff cookies offered by the airlines are irresistible: crunchy, sweet, spicy. But the ingredients are terrible: sugar, flour, oil. I set out to make a better cookie with better qualities of flavor and crunch. And due to the almonds, these cookies actually contain fair amount of vitamin B2; sesame seeds contain B6 and minerals. These are a variant of Flo Braker’s Pain d’Amandes, i.e. “crunchiest almond cookies” I posted a year ago, but better. (David Leibowitz has a version, too, with twice the sugar.) Hence, B2. These contain less sugar and more flavor, more protein (from the nuts and sesame seeds).

1/2 cup water

1 stick butter (salted or not, you’ll adjust for flavor)

150 grams Turbinado sugar (do not substitute any other kind)

250 grams all purpose flour whisked together with:

1 Tbs. cinnamon, 1 tsp. cardamon, 1/2 tsp. baking soda

8 ounces sliced raw almonds

100 grams hulled white sesame seeds

Boil the water with the butter. Take off heat and stir in turbinado sugar. Add 1/2 tsp sea salt if you have used unsalted butter. Stir in flour (that has been mixed with spices and baking soda). Transfer to a large bowl and stir in sliced almonds and sesame seeds.

Pack mixture into a loaf pan that you have lined with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 24 hours (or many days, if you like). It will be like fudge.

When you are ready to bake, preheat oven to 325. Remove dough from plastic and tin and slice thinly (1/8 inch–use a large, sharp knife) and place on cookie sheets. This recipe requires all three of my large cookie sheets on three oven racks. Bake for 10-12 minutes, then remove from oven and let cool until you can turn the cookies (I use a small angled spatula or my fingers). You will see the unmelted sugar crystals sparkle–these help make the cookies so crisp. Put the turned cookies back into the oven and bake another 10-12 minutes. They will become even more crisp as they cool, but are somewhat fragile until then. Mine stay tasty for weeks when kept airtight.

If you like to cook, I predict this method for making crisp cookies and crackers will inspire you. I’ve made many variations of crackers and cookies with different kinds of flour. Used fig jam and reduced the water and sugar. Added flax seeds. I’ve cut out the “sweet”spices and used more salt and savory spices. I’ve made a gluten-free version of the cookies with chestnut flour and even less sugar (100 grams for 50 cookies) because the flour is naturally sweet. Let me know what you discover?!

Almond Pancake for One

This is my new favorite protein-packed breakfast–in under ten minutes.

Combine 1/2 cup almond flour with a pinch each of stevia and salt and 1/4 tsp baking powder.

Mix one egg with 1/4 cup milk.

Combine (gently–don’t beat) the mixtures in a bowl.

Spoon the batter into a hot frying pan. I use clarified butter, but you can use oil, cooking spray, or no grease at all if you have a nonstick pan.

Cook for about five minutes on medium high heat, using a spatula to turn the pancake once the edges are firm and it has puffed a bit.

That’s it!

Serve with a drizzle of maple syrup and/or fruit or preserves. The combination of proteins gives this breakfast staying power. I promise you won’t be hungry again in a couple of hours. You can, of course, flavor the pancake–with citrus rind or essential oil, or almond or vanilla extract. I like it plain. Use any kind of milk, and know that the recipe is forgiving, so don’t stress on exact measurements.

Sugar-free Gluten-free Coconut Macaroons

A taste for sweets is acquired through exposure (just like a preference for spicy food) and thus can also be tamed, by gradually reducing how much sugar you ingest. I routinely cut the sugar in recipes, especially when I see that it is not needed for structure. For instance, a friend recently sent me an apple cake recipe cut from a magazine that called for a cup of sugar to 1.5 cups flour, plus only one egg and a stick of melted butter. It was leavened with baking soda, like a muffin recipe. Whoah! Why make an apple dessert and cloud it with that much sugar? Why not use the sugar for structure? I suggested he reduce the sugar to 1/2 cup, cream it with the soft butter, use 3 separated eggs (i.e. whip the egg whites for natural leavening), reduce the flour to 1 cup, and use baking powder instead of soda. This produced a more refined cake with better nutrition and flavor.

If you want to try reducing sugar in what you bake, look at similar recipes and see what the standard amount is in relation to the flour. You might notice that European recipes use less sugar. Often you can cut 20% and sometimes as much as 50% as in my example above. When the sugar is reduced, other flavors become more prominent.

Another way to reduce sugar calories is to substitute sugar alcohols such as erythritol and xylitol (a common sweetener in chewing gum because it does not cause tooth decay). Plant-derived sugar alcohols are much more expensive than sugar and they can cause bloating and diarrhea if consumed in excess, but they do not require insulin and thus do not spike your blood sugar. Their flavor is closer to sugar than the sweetening provided by stevia or monk fruit.

These macaroons would be appropriate for folks trying to reduce their sugar calories or counting carbohydrates (each macaroon has about 3 grams of carbs, from the coconut and the erythritol). They taste chewy and rich, and to my taste much better than commercial or other homemade macaroons which contain so much sugar. Other recipes use sweetened coconut and then add even more sugar in the form of sweetened condensed milk. These macaroons are naturally gluten-free.

I like the contrast between the bitter chocolate and the sweet coconut, but the topping is optional. The recipe makes about 25.

6 egg whites

1/4 tsp. salt

1/2 to 3/4 cup powdered erythritol, depending on how sweet you like your sweets!

1/2 tsp. almond extract

1 tsp. vanilla extract

8 ounces unsweetened coconut flakes

1-2 ounces unsweetened chocolate

Beat the egg whites with salt until foamy, then add the erythritol and the extracts. Stir in the coconut flakes and let the mixture sit for 20-30 minutes to allow the coconut to be hydrated.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Line a baking sheet with parchment. Use a small ice cream scoop (or teaspoon) to make mounds on parchment. Bake in preheated oven 15-18 minutes or until lightly brown. Let cool.

If desired, temper 1-2 ounces unsweetened chocolate (melt, stir, and bring temperature to 110 degrees, then cool to 80 degrees) before drizzling on the macaroons.