Citizens, today is the 2nd day of Passover (Pesach in Hebrew) and as you may be aware, Jews do not eat anything with leavening during this time. Coconut macaroons are a staple on most Jewish Pesach tables, and this is my version!
A macaroon is a small biscuit or cookie, typically made from ground almonds (the original main ingredient), coconut or other nuts (or even potato), with sugar and sometimes flavorings (e.g. honey, vanilla, spices), food coloring, glace cherries, jam or a chocolate coating – or a combination of these or other ingredients.
Some recipes call for sweetened condensed milk. They are sometimes baked on edible rice paper placed on a baking tray.
The name “macaroon” comes from the Italian maccarone or maccherone meaning “paste”, referring to the original almond paste ingredient; this word itself derives from ammaccare, meaning “to crush”.
Culinary historians write that macaroons can be traced to an Italian monastery of the 8th or 9th century. The monks came to France in 1533, joined by the pastry chefs of Catherine de’ Medici, wife of King Henri II.
Later, two Benedictine nuns, Sister Marguerite and Sister Marie-Elisabeth, came to Nancy seeking asylum during the French Revolution. The two women paid for their housing by baking and selling these cookies, and thus became known as the “Macaroon Sisters”.
Italian Jews later adopted the cookie because it has no flour or leavening (macaroons are leavened by egg whites) and can be eaten during the eight-day observation of Passover. It was introduced to other European Jews and became popular as a year-round sweet.
Recipes for these treats (also spelled “mackaroon”, “maccaroon” and “mackaroom”) appear in recipe books at least as early as 1725 (Robert Smith’s Court Cookery, or the Complete English Cook), and use egg whites and almond paste.
Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management includes a typical traditional recipe. Over time, coconut was added to the ground almonds and, in certain recipes, replaced them. Potato starch is also sometimes included in the recipe, to give the cookies more body.
Coconut macaroons are a delicious dessert – but I’ve upped the gourmet ante by adding a touch of Frangelico, a delicious hazelnut and herb liqueur from Italy that I am inordinately fond of.
You can optionally dip half of it in chocolate – either way, my macaroons are sweet, slightly nutty and simply delicious! You can also leave out the Frangelico to make a classic style of macaroon, if you prefer.
I wish a very happy Pesach to my Jewish readers!
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