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Making It Work: Baking for Project Runway

coconutbrownies1So, I was invited to a Project Runway party on Thursday, and when I volunteered to bring something, I got tapped for cookies. While I racked my brain to come up with something thematically as lovely as such items as Wendy Pepper’d Steak, Stella’s Fruit Leatha, and Where’s Andrae? Red Lobster Rolls, I could not for the life of me dredge up a witty cookie. Fie.

And, since I didn’t quite have the time, energy, or cookie cutters to produce sugar cookies iced to look the always stylin’, ever-pregnant Heidi Klum, I decided to focus on making something that delivered in other, slightly less glamorous ways. And then, remembering that another guest was making black and white cookies, it occurred that building on her riff of black and white–which is ALWAYS fashionable–would be fun.

Of course, since black and white cookies–those Seinfeldian, quintessentially NYC treats of cakey cookie and bicolor frosting–were already taken, I thought a brownie base layered with moist creamy coconut macaroon would be good. Since this was a smaller to-d0, I turned to a favorite brownie recipe with a much smaller yield than my usual. Chilled briefly after cooling to ensure neat cutting, these were the perfectly stylish little sweets that even Nina-Garcia-Fashion-Director-of-Marie-Claire-magazine would approve of (if not actually eat…).

Coconut Macaroon Brownies
Adapted from Judy Rosenberg & Rose Levy Beranbaum
Makes 16 2 x 2 squares

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Position a rack in the middle of the oven. Put a cookie sheet on the rack. Butter an 8 x 8 square pan, line with parchment, butter again, and dust evenly with flour, knocking out any excess. Set prepared pan aside.

Coconut Layer

3 1/2 c shredded coconut
7 fl oz (9 3/4 oz) sweetened condensed milk
2 tbs cornstarch
1 tsp lemon juice
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
pinch salt

In a medium bowl, mix together all ingredients. It should be just moist enough to stick together. If necessary, add an extra tbs of sweetened condensed milk. Set aside.

Brownie Batter

3 1/2 oz unsweetened chocolate
12 tbs unsalted butter
1 1/2 c sugar
1/2 tsp salt
3 large eggs, room temperature
3/4 c plus 2 tbs flour

Roughly chop the chocolate and place it and the butter in a medium bowl. Melt together over a double boiler, or in the microwave using short bursts of power and stirring regularly. Remove from heat/microwave before chocolate is completely melted, stirring, untill residual heat has melted chocolate completely and the mixture is smooth. Set aside to cool.

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine sugar and salt. Blend in chocolate mixture, about 25 seconds, and scrape down the bowl. Add the vanilla. With the mixture on medium-low, add the eggs one at a time, beating for 15 seconds after each addition. Scrape down the bowl. With the mixer on low, add the flour and mix for 20 seconds. Remove bowl from mixer and finish folding the mixture together with a spatula.

Using a small offset spatula, spread 1/2 of the brownie batter into the prepared pan. Using clean, wet hands, pat handfuls of the coconut mixture into 1 cm thick slabs and place them on top of the brownie batter. Fill in any spots with remaining coconut mixture and gently pat down to compress evenly. Spread remaining brownie batter over the coconut layer.

Put in the preheated oven on the cookie sheet and bake for ~50 minutes till top is set and a cake tester inserted into the center comes out with a moist crumb. Cool on wire rack 1/2 hour, remove from pan and put back on rack till completely cool. For prettier cuts, wrap tightly with plastic wrap and chill at least 2 hours before portioning into 16 pieces.

Notes & Variations
This recipe can also be done using a hand mixer. Rose, from whence the coconut layer comes, specified roasting and shredding the coconut oneself. As we are still operating under snow-straitened circumstances, I used sweetened shredded from a bag. And, frankly, I might have done so anyway. It seemed fine, particularly as a component of a larger whole, though fresh coconut is probably more noticeably delicious on its own.

Beranbaum, Rose Levy. Rose’s Chrismas Cookies. (New York: William Morrow & Company) 1990.

Rosenberg, Judy. Rosie’s Bakery All-Butter Fresh Cream Sugar-Packed No Holds Barred Baking Book. (New York: Workman) 1991.

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