Easter Bird Nests Treat

Adapted from Two Peas and Their Pod.
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2/3 cup Sweetened condensed milk (about 1/2 can)
1 Egg white
1 1/2 tsp Vanilla
1/8 tsp Salt
1 1/2 c. Sweetened coconut flakes
2 c. Unsweetened coconut flakes
1/2 c. Dulce de leche
Cadbury Mini Chocolate eggs (or other Easter eggs)

Preheat the oven to 325°F.  Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg white with vanilla and salt for about 30 seconds.  Then stir in the condensed milk until well combined.

Mix in the coconut flakes.

Using a cookie dough scoop, take about 1 tbsp of dough, slightly packed, and place onto the baking sheet.  Gently flatten the top with your hand.

Bake for 15-17 min, until the bottom edges are golden brown.  Remove the nest from the oven and immediately press down the center with your thumb to make an indentation.  Allow the cookies to cool for about 10 min and transfer them onto a cooling rack.

Add about 1/2 tsp of dulce de leche in the center of each nest and decorate with 2 mini eggs.

Makes 24-30 nests.

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My comments:

I was sitting on the floor on Wednesday night, packing up a bunch of treat bags for the kids in my son's daycare, when I realized how much fun holidays are with little kids in our lives.  I really enjoyed filling the mini plastic eggs with toys and wrapping up homemade treats for the children (or should I say, their parents).  I am doing an Easter egg hunt with my two little monkeys on Sunday plus we are doing a huge belated Easter egg hunt with my friends and their children next weekend.  I may have plastic eggs and mini toys coming out of my ying-yang but I was basking in holiday glory.

I expected the other parents at daycare will be preparing treat bags for everyone and I knew their bags will be filled with loads of candies and chocolate.  I decided that I will fill our bags with toys and only give out homebaked treats as I did with their Valentine's Day celebration.  I saw these bird nest cookies on Two Peas and Their Pod and I knew these would be perfect for our Easter treat.  They are easy to make and super-duper cute!!

A new kid joined our daycare a few weeks ago.  Given her age, I figured she probably has not been introduced to nuts, so I opted for dulce de leche instead of Nutella spread for the centers.  Mmm mmm MMM!!  So Yummy!!  I Love Dulce de Leche!! Dulce de leche is a wonderful substitute for the Nutella because it is actually a caramelized version of condensed milk.  OMG! that stuff is just so darn good!!

The bird nests turned out so well that I made a second batch for my coworkers the next day.  Those nests were a big hit!!  I did, however, used Nutella for my coworkers.  I had to try the Nutella version and this is a perfect excuse for buying Nutella, which is something I never keep around because it is considered dangerous goods in this house.

I found a few tricks that worked well for me in this recipe:
  1. I highly recommend a cookie dough scoop for this.  (This is one of those kitchen gadgets I own but rarely use.)  The cookie dough is wet and the coconut flakes tend to stick to the fingers.  Once I drop the ball of dough onto the baking sheet, I gently pressed down the top of the dough ball with the bottom of my scoop; I didn't even need to get my hands dirty.
  2. I tried tightly, gently and no packing of the dough into the scoop.  I found the gently packing worked best.  The consistency of freshly baked cookie varies with the degree of "packness" of the dough.  The tightly packed cookie dough gave a firmer cookie which made it harder to press down to form the depression in the center.  Without the dough packing, the freshly baked cookie is too soft and it starts to fall apart a bit when you make the depression.  A gently packed dough produces a cookie that is soft enough to press down easily without falling apart and loses its shape.
  3. I lied in my instructions when I told you to press down the center of the cookie with your thumb - I used the back of a plastic, disposable syringe.  When you have kids, you end up with lots of those lying around because you receive one of those with every liquid prescription drug (for accurate measurements).  I needed something round a diameter of ~1.5cm.  The back of the syringe (where your thumb rests) is the perfect shape and size.  If you don't have a syringe, the thumb would work well (as long as you don't mind the HOT cookie) or the back end of a stirring spoon would do too!
  4. It's really up to you whether you want to use sweetened or unsweetened coconuts.  The sweetened coconut is a little more moist compared to the unsweetened.  So I didn't want to substitute all the coconut with unsweetened flakes, in fear that my cookies would turn out too dry.  These are essentially glorified macaroons and you need the moisture.  However, I did find the dough very moist and the cookies were not dry at all.  So next time, I will try using a 100% unsweetened coconut flakes and I think it should still taste pretty good.
I have always loved macaroons.  I think this is definitely a keeper recipe, a delicious treat I can make in a pinch.  I used to think that macaroons are hard to make but it totally is not!!

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