Macaroon Manifesto

Do you like mak-uh-ROONs or mak-ah-rohns?When you think of macaroons, what do you envision? Do you see the chewy, dense coconut macaroons, originating in Scotland? Or maybe you’re thinking about the almond-amaretti type that originated in Venice. The pastel-colored French macaron (mak-ah-rohn) has a new-found popularity. All three macaroons can be found in your local bakeries, cafés, supermarkets — even Starbucks and McDonald’s has tested the market.

Of the three varieties described above, the French macaron is stealing all the headlines. While the coconut macaroon comes in a close second in popularity to the French macaron, I believe the almond/amaretti macaroon will survive the test of time and it’s still my favorite.

Whatever the recipe or ingredients, macaroons/macarons have a long European history that dates back to the 18th century in Italian monasteries. The word macaron in Italian translates to “fine paste.” The almond macaroon/amaretti recipe most often uses almond paste, hence the name. Amaretti translates to “little bitter things,” referring to the almonds.

These little treats don’t lend themselves well to supermarket mass production, so stop by your local bakery or café and see what everyone’s talking about. Let’s just hope its sudden rise in popularity doesn’t take it down the same path as the once former star, the croissant, now reduced to a breakfast sandwich in mass markets. Happy Baking!

French Macarons

The French macaron is the most delicate and most difficult to make of the three varieties. The preparation is more about technique than it is the recipe. The best way to start is with a good recipe — and remember, practice makes perfect.

2 1/4 cups ground almond meal or flour

2 cups powdered sugar

5 egg whites

1/3 superfine sugar

Pinch sea salt

Pinch cream of tartar

Using a fine sieve or strainer, sift the almond meal and the powdered sugar together into a large stainless steel bowl.

Combine the sugar, salt and cream of tartar together and mix well.

Start whipping the egg whites on medium speed until light and frothy. Start adding the sugar mixture one tablespoon at a time. Switch to high speed and whip till stiff peaks form.

Fold meringue mixture into almond mixture, folding gently but thoroughly.

Mixture can be piped as is, as a light tan color, or the mixture can be colored pink or yellow to coordinate with flavors. Colors should be pastel and not fluorescent.

Pipe into small rounds about the size of a quarter. Let set at room temperature for about one half hour to form a crust on top of the macarons. Bake at 300 degrees for about 18 minutes.

When completely cool, remove paper from bottom of macarons. Sandwich the pink macarons with a dab of raspberry jam, the plain ones with a dab of ganache and the pastel yellow macarons with lemon curd, etc.

Note: It’s best advised to not make these French macarons when it’s raining because the high humidity will keep the macarons from drying and getting a crust before baking. The results will be less than perfection.

Almond Macaroons

8 ounces almond paste

1 cup superfine sugar

1 large egg whites

Combine the almond paste and sugar together on medium speed until mixture is smooth. Add the egg whites one at a time and mix well. Place mixture in a pastry bag and pipe the size of a quarter onto parchment-lined sheet pans. If needed, you can use a damp paper towel to smooth the tops after piping. Sprinkle granulated sugar on top of cookies before baking. Bake at 350 degrees for about 18 minutes. Cookies should be golden brown, makes about 30 macaroons.

Let cool completely before trying to remove. Hint: Remove the paper from the bottom of the cookies; don’t remove the cookies from the paper.

Coconut Macaroons

4 cups shredded coconut

1 cup sweetened condensed milk

(not one can)

Pinch sea salt

Splash vanilla extract

That’s it — combine the ingredients and let sit for about 10 minutes for the coconut to absorb all the milk. Portion into small uniform macaroons using an ice cream scoop. Set on parchment-lined sheet pans and bake at 350 degrees until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Makes about 30 macaroons.

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