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My Favorite Desserts

Coconut Macaroons Coconut Macaroons

The pretty lights have come down, the ornaments are packed away for another year, and you're wondering why your sister-in-law's pumpkin pie didn't taste like it usually does (did she add a new ingredient?). For me, January is a bit of a letdown. The After-Christmas Doldrums have set in. So, like Julie Andrews in "The Sound of Music", I'm remembering my favorite things so I won't feel so bad. Some of my favorite chocolate treats, that is.

It wasn't easy narrowing it down. I love chocolate in just about any recipe. My choices are some of the ones that stood out because they brought back memories, two of them even going back to my childhood. Even though I enjoy these foods, it's the memories that make them special.

The first bite of a coconut macaroon takes me back to my preteen days in San Antonio. Whenever we shopped at the big Sears store downtown (it's now the Main Library), the part I looked forward to was the stop at the candy counter. They sold cookies, chocolates, and popcorn, but I loved their coconut macaroons best of all. They were sweet, moist, and wonderfully chewy. Dad would give me one and then close the bag and place it on the front car seat between him and my mom. Pleas for just one more fell on deaf ears. "They're for the whole family, not just you," I was told. When we got home, he would put the bag on the top shelf of a cabinet, high enough so that I couldn’t reach it. Darn!

When I got older and started helping mom cook, we found a recipe for coconut macaroons that was pretty close to the ones we'd bought at Sears. A few years ago, I experimented with dipping the bottom of the cookies in melted chocolate. Talk about making something perfect even better!

Chocolate-Dipped Coconut Macaroons

  • 2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk (not evaporated milk)
  • 1 extra-large egg white
  • 1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 3-1/2 cups (14 ounces) sweetened shredded coconut
  • 10 ounces bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
Preheat the oven to 325°F. Place an oven rack in the center position. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or aluminum foil.

In a large mixing bowl, whisk the sweetened condensed milk and the egg white together. Whisk in the vanilla and salt. Use a wooden spoon to stir in the coconut, mixing well to coat the coconut thoroughly with the milk mixture. Press portions of the dough into a 1-tablespoon measuring spoon. Remove the dough from the spoon, round it with your fingers, and place on the prepared baking sheet. Leave a 1-inch space between dough balls.

Bake for 20 minutes, or until the slightly irregular surfaces of the cookies are lightly browned and the bottoms are golden brown. Let the cookies rest on the pan for 10 minutes, then transfer to a baking sheet lined with waxed paper.

Melt the bittersweet chocolate in a medium-size metal bowl set over, but not touching, a pan of simmering water. Another way to melt the chocolate is to place it in a microwave-safe bowl in a microwave oven.

When the cookies are cool, and the chocolate is warm and smooth, hold a macaroon by the top and dip the bottom in the melted chocolate so that the chocolate comes about 1/4-inch up the base of the cookie. Let the excess chocolate drip back into the bowl, or use a kitchen knife to smooth off the excess. As they are dipped, return the macaroons to the lined (and now cool) baking sheet. When the chocolate has set, store the macaroons in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week. Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

This next recipe is a bit embarrassing. Yes, I love chocolate, but I had never thought about having any for breakfast. One day, I woke up with a craving and couldn't wait for lunch. I had been thinking about making pancakes, so I threw caution to the wind and added chocolate chips. When I looked at a cookbook later, I found a recipe for chocolate butter. What a perfect addition to these pancakes! If you want to try the butter, make it ahead of time so it will be well chilled when the pancakes are ready to serve.

Chocolate Chip Pancakes

Pancake Batter
  • 1-1/2 cups unbleached flour
  • 4 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 extra-large eggs
  • 1 cup (8 ounces) milk
  • 6 tablespoons (3 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup semisweet mini chocolate chips
  • 2 to 3 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened, for greasing the cooking surface (if using a regular skillet)
  • Chocolate Butter (see recipe)
Chocolate Butter
  • 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1/3 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-processed cocoa powder
  • Pinch of salt
For the butter: Place the butter, confectioners' sugar, cocoa powder, and salt in the bowl of a food processor. Process until well mixed. Scrape the mixture onto a piece of plastic wrap and use the wrap to help shape the butter into a 1-inch diameter roll. Wrap well and chill until firm. This should take about 2 hours in the refrigerator, or 30 minutes in the freezer.

For the pancakes: Preheat the oven to 200°F. You'll be putting the cooked pancakes in the oven to keep warm, so have a large cookie sheet or ovenproof platter ready.

Sift the flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt together into a large mixing bowl. In a medium-size mixing bowl, stir the eggs to break them up, then stir in the milk and melted butter. Add the egg mixture to the dry ingredients. Stir with a wooden spoon just until the mixture is moistened and there are no large lumps. Stir in the chocolate chips.

Place about 1 tablespoon of the softened butter in a heavy, 12-inch skillet or griddle. (I use a non-stick coated skillet. If you do, too, you won't need to use the butter.) Heat the skillet over medium-high heat until the butter melts and foams. Reduce heat to medium and drop the batter into the skillet in 1/4-cup portions. Leave some space between the pancakes so that the edges will brown. You should be able to cook 4 pancakes at a time. (I cook fewer – usually 2 – at a time because I like to give them plenty of space. It makes it easier for me to flip them over, too.).

Cook the pancakes until the edges are brown and crisp. The top surface should be covered with tiny bubbles, and the bottom should be golden. Turn the pancakes over and cook for another 2 minutes, or until the bottoms are golden brown.

Transfer the pancakes to the cookie sheet or platter in a single layer and place in the oven to keep warm. Add more butter to the skillet (if using butter) and cook the remaining batter. Serve with the chocolate butter. Makes twelve 4-inch pancakes.

I Love Luby's Desserts

This is another dessert I've loved as long as I can remember. My family ate at Luby's Cafeteria so often that, after my dad died, I bought a copy of their cookbook and donated it to our local library in my dad's memory. Dad had his favorite foods, but he wasn't into chocolate.

I don't remember the first time I tasted Luby's Chocolate Icebox Pie, but I was hooked. It has been a favorite ever since. Know how even a taste of a food you ate when you were a kid can take you back? That's what happens with me when I take my first bite of this luscious pie. If you're not lucky enough to have a Luby's within driving distance, here's the recipe. By the way, you can buy your own copy of the cookbook (it includes this recipe), or by calling 1-877-GO LUBYS.

Luby's Chocolate Icebox Pie

  • 2-1/2 cups milk
  • 1-1/3 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
  • 1 tablespoon butter
  • 7 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 3 extra-large egg yolks
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 cup miniature marshmallows
  • 1 baked 9-inch pie shell
  • Sweetened whipped cream
  • Chocolate curls or shavings for garnish, if desired
In a medium saucepan, combine 2 cups of milk, sugar, cocoa, and butter. Bring just to a boil over medium heat. In a medium bowl, mix together cornstarch and remaining 1/2 cup milk until cornstarch is completely dissolved. Then whisk in egg yolks and vanilla extract until well blended. Whisking constantly, gradually add egg and milk mixture to saucepan. Cook, stirring constantly, about 2 minutes or until mixture is thickened and smooth.

Remove from heat. Stir in marshmallows until melted. Pour into pie shell. Press plastic wrap directly onto filling and refrigerate at least 4 hours. To serve, remove plastic wrap, top pie with whipped cream, and chocolate curls or shavings, if desired. Makes one 9-inch pie.

Indulge! After all the holiday activities, you deserve it. I give you permission! Chill out and treat yourself. Remember, Valentine's Day dinner is just around the corner.

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