Poor macaroons. I always felt a little bad for the sad pile of coconut macaroons languishing in the corner of holiday cookie platters. On the buffet of
glitzy, glamorous cookies, no one ever seemed to choose the lowly coconut macaroon. Oddly moist, yet also dry. Tooth-achingly sweet. Golden grooves that lure you in with the promise of caramelization and crunch, but disappointingly delivers neither. For me, there was always a more enticing caloric option on the cookie table.
It wasn’t until I was an adult when I finally tried a macaroon that didn’t come out of a Manischewitz canister. I was in a forgettable “French” café in NYC grabbing a coffee when it called to me from the bakery case. Unlike the coconut macaroon of my youth, this one was golden and glossy with a gorgeous little skirt of crispy-looking coconut goodness. I couldn’t resist!
Deliciously crunchy on the outside and chewy-moist on the inside, it was seriously tasty. A single bite of perfection completely banished from my mind the disdained coconut macaroon of my youth. I love when that happens, don’t you?!
Just in time for Passover, here’s a great macaroon recipe you can make right at home. Leave those Manischewitz macaroons back on the shelf!
The orange zest and orange blossom water gives these macaroons a little citrusy, floral lift that makes them extra special! Also, there’s enough salt in them to give these babies a little needed backbone and depth. Otherwise, it’s just a gorgeous pile of sweetness. Boys (and girls!), here’s a lesson in life. Never settle for just a pretty package with one-dimensional sweetness. Choose someone with a little bit of salt!
My favorite part of macaroons is the crispy little “skirt.” Sexy, no?
To increase the crisp-to-chewy ratio, I made 1-tablespoon heaps of batter rather than 2-tablespoon heaps. Also, don’t worry too much about forming the right shape – there is no right shape! But I do like the pyramid points (crispy tops!), so I pinch the tops of my coconut heaps just so they’re not too rounded. They’re kind of like abstract pyramids. Perfectly gorgeous without trying too hard. Isn’t that what we all aim for? 😉
Coconut Orange Blossom Macaroons
(adapted from Alice Medrich)
4 large egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
Rounded 1/4 teaspoon salt
3 cups sweetened, dried shredded coconut or 3 1/2 cups unsweetened dried flaked, not shredded, coconut (also known as coconut chips) [I used sweentened coconut flakes, plus a handful of leftover coconut chips from Trader Joe’s]
1/2 teaspoon orange blossom water (increase to 1 tsp for a stronger orange blossom flavor) (or 1 tsp pure vanilla extract)
Orange zest from about ½ of a large orange (~2 heaping teaspoons)
Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper. In a stainless steel (or heat-proof) mixing bowl, whisk the egg whites, sugar, and salt together. Then add the coconut and mix thoroughly.
Set the bowl directly in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir the mixture with a silicone spatula, scraping the bottom to prevent burning, until the mixture is very hot to the touch and the egg whites have thickened slightly and turned from translucent to opaque, 5 to 7 minutes.
Add orange blossom water and orange zest, combine well. Set the batter aside for 30 minutes to let the coconut absorb more of the goop.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven. Using 2 tablespoons of batter [I used 1 tablespoon of batter], make attractive heaps 2 inches apart on the lined cookie sheets. Pinch the top of the heaps to form a pyramid top.
Bake for 5 minutes, just until the coconut tips begin to color. Then, rotate the pans from top to bottom and from front to back.
Lower the temperature to 325 degrees F and bake for a total of 15 minutes more, rotating the pans from top to bottom and from front to back every 5 minutes until the coconut mounds are nicely golden brown.
Let cool completely before gently peeling the parchment away from each cookie. The cookies are best on the day they are baked. The exterior is crisp and chewy and the interior soft and moist. Although the crispy edges will soften, the cookies remain delicious stored in an airtight container for 4 to 5 days.