Coconut macaroons and macarons. Take away a vowel and you end up with an entirely different treat. In recent years consumers have been fixated on the fussy, creme-filled macaron with one “o.” However, long before the macaron craze there were the sweet, domed cookies known as macaroons.
First appearing in print in the 17th century, early macaroons consisted of chopped almonds, sugar and egg whites. Sound a bit like the crispy yet chewy, sweetly bitter amaretti? Depending on the food historian with whom you speak, they’re believed to be the inspiration for this Italian cookie or vice versa.
In the early days macaroons were served alongside wine and liqueurs and eaten as a light snack. As time passed, they became part of dessert offerings. They also began to feature ingredients and flavors beyond almonds, including chocolate, cinnamon, lemon and coconut.
Who first replaced the chopped almonds with shredded coconut—the French, Eastern Europeans, Americans—is up for debate. Why they substituted coconut for nuts is no mystery. Crumbly almond meringue cookies don’t travel or keep as well as chewy, pliable coconut ones do. It’s a sensible reason for the creation of a wonderful sweet.
Since these cookies lack a leavening agent, they are a nice Passover treat for Jewish friends. They likewise will be enjoyed by any coconut-loving friends or family.
Makes 3 dozen cookies
1/4 cup granulated sugar
3 1/3 cups sweetened shredded coconut
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
3 egg whites
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.
In a large bowl mix together the sugar, coconut and salt. Pour the melted butter over the coconut and stir until coated.
In a separate bowl whisk the eggs whites until foamy, about 1 minute. Add them to the coconut and stir until well combined.
Using a tablespoon or a small disher, form equal-sized balls and place them in rows on the parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown. Allow the cookies to cool for 5 minutes before removing them from the pans and cooling them completely on wire racks.