People tell me all the time that they don’t bake because it doesn’t allow for improvising. I’m here to tell you that assumption about baking being all about precision is a big ol’ myth. At least half of the recipes in my archives started from a place of improvisation.
Now, could I have improvised so much when I first started baking? Probably not. The key is developing a few solid base recipes and paying attention to what different ingredients do—after that, it’s trying new things, like working with what you already have and fending off your crippling fear of failure. It’s the same with improvising during “regular” cooking, or in music or in theatre or in musical theatre. You’ve got to know the rules before you can bend them. But then, bend away, and if it doesn’t work, bend another way.The base recipe for these Coconutdoodles has been on here once already this year. It looks different there, filled with pecans and white chocolate chips, but the recipe is almost *exactly* the same otherwise. Same with last year’s Funfetti Cookies—take out the white chocolate chips and rainbow sprinkles and you have a blank slate sugar cookie recipe.That’s right, a blank slate. A new start. A place to improvise by adding that random half-bag of coconut you have leftover from…well, I don’t remember what, but that’s beside the point. The point (!) is to load up that dough with as much coconut as it can take, then blitz the rest into a powder with some sugar and roll your cookie dough balls in it, snickerdoodle-style. But it’s coconut, so…Coconutdoodles.Coconutdoodles bake up super thick and puffy, and while the sugary coconut-crusted exteriors don’t really toast, they do get extra crispy. Oh, and the insides are super chewy and loaded with an obscene amount of coconut. Ob-scene. I really thought it might be too much, or that it might make the cookies crumbly, but it‘s the exact right amount and these cookies stay soft for days. I know because I ate this whole batch myself. That was weeks ago and I’m still sad that they’re gone.But you know what? I have this blank slate sugar cookie dough, and I’ve got another half-bag of coconut, and heaven knows I’ve got time to make cookies this weekend. I’ll save my crippling fear of failure for next weekend.
makes about 2.5 dozen cookies
3 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon Kosher or sea salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
1 1/4 cups granulated sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon coconut extract (optional, but recommended)
2 cups sweetened flaked coconut
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup sweetened flaked coconut
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together flour, cornstarch, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
In a large mixing bowl, use an electric mixer to cream butter until fluffy and lighter in color. Beat in granulated sugar. Mix in eggs one at a time, followed by vanilla. Add dry ingredients in two installments, beating until combined. Use a silicone spatula or wooden spoon to fold in coconut. Cover dough with plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours, or up to 3 days.
Preheat oven to 350F. Line two baking sheets with parchment. Set aside.
Make the coating. Combine granulated sugar and coconut in a food processor. Pulse 10-15 times or until mixture is snowy (no big pieces of coconut). Do not over-process, as mixture can become a paste. Place coating in a shallow bowl.
Scoop chilled dough in 2 tablespoon increments, and roll into balls. Roll each dough ball in the coating mixture. Place dough balls at least two inches apart on prepared baking sheets. Bake cookies 10-11 minutes, until puffy. Let cool on baking sheets for five minutes before removing to a rack to cool completely. Repeat process with any remaining dough, letting the baking sheets come back to room temperature between batches.
Cookies will keep extremely well in an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week.