Did you know that May 31st is National Macaroon Day? I didn’t. I came across it on the internet. And apparently June 3rd is National Chocolate Macaroon Day in Scotland. I wish every day were a National Cookie Day!
The first time I ever tasted a macaroon I was working at the Art Center College of Design in Los Angeles. My Dad was an alumnus and became a very well-known food photographer. It was pretty exciting when I went there for a job. Not only did the personal interviewer remember him, but there were students who followed his work. Naturally I ended up being friends with all of them.
But back to the cookie. As most schools do, Art Center had a cafeteria and every Wednesday fresh macaroons were baked. Up to that time I had never tried one. The day I did I was hooked. Every week I would get in there at lunch time and snag two for a snack. Though I haven’t eaten many since leaving LA, I do enjoy having one once in a while. And for as much as I love cookies, I had never tried making macaroons until just this past Easter holiday. How did I go so long without baking these??
A little history first…According to an online site called ‘Foodimentary’, the original macaroon was a “small sweet cake consisting largely of ground almonds” similar to Italian amaretti, possibly dating back to an Italian monastery in the 16th century. The name comes from the Italian word “Maccarone’, that means paste. Macaroons are also a common food during the Passover too. In America they became so popular that a day was dedicated to them. (Is there a National Chocolate Chip Cookie or Oreo day? Hmmm…) Here, the coconut macaroon is made from a combination of ground almonds, coconut, sugar and other ingredients making a soft-centered cookie covered in coconut, whereas in Scotland, the cookie has a thick center and is covered in chocolate and roasted coconut and made with a potato! There is also the French variety that are the pretty pastel-colored cookies with the buttercream filling in the middle. Following are recipes for the common macaroon and the Scottish variety. The French recipe is very long so am not including it here. You can find recipes for them on the web. All most definitely need to be made before heading to your boat!
Our American Macaroon (Ina Garten’s very easy recipe and SO good!)
14 ounces sweetened shredded coconut
14 ounces sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
Preheat the oven to 325º. Combine the coconut, condensed milk, and vanilla in a large bowl. Whip the egg whites and salt on high speed in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment until they make medium-firm peaks. Carefully fold the egg whites into the coconut mixture. Drop the batter onto sheet pans lined with parchment paper using either a 1-3/4-inch diameter ice cream scoop, or 2 teaspoons. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until golden brown. Cool and serve. Makes 20-22 cookies.
Scottish Macaroon Bars
4 oz. potato, boiled, peeled and mashed
16 oz. (1 box) powdered sugar
12 oz. Dark Chocolate
4 oz. Bobs Red Mill Desiccated Coconut (dried coconut)
Place cooled mashed potato in a bowl and begin adding powdered sugar, a little at a time. Continue adding the sugar and mixing well, and soon it will have a fondant texture. Add enough sugar so that it comes together and is very stiff.
Line a baking sheet (which will fit into your freezer) with greaseproof/wax paper or a silicone baking mat. Shape mixture into a rectangle on the sheet and place in the freezer for about 4 hours or longer.
Prepare the coconut, by placing half of it on a baking sheet in a preheated 300 ºF oven for 5 minutes. Stir the coconut and continue to monitor closely as it will brown quickly. Remove from the oven when golden brown; cool and mix with the other half of untoasted coconut and transfer to a plate for dipping.
Remove the macaroons from the freezer and cut into your preferred size and shape, but keep in the freezer until ready to dip. When you are ready to finish the macaroons, melt the chocolate. Dip each piece into the chocolate, and immediately coat with the shredded coconut. Place on a tray to set. Keep in a cool, dry place, preferably in a tin, and consume within 7 to 10 days.