Never was there a cookie so simple and yet so confusing as the macaroon. Ever find yourself in an argument as to whether it is pronounced mah-kah-ROON or mah-kah-ROHN? Whether it is made of coconut or almond? Italian or French? One cookie or two? Needless to say, when I announced that I was making Mojito Macaroons for my newest baking project, it sparked quite a bit of a debate in my household. So let’s set the record straight with a little history lesson on this perplexing cookie.
According to most sources (although it has been somewhat debated), the origin of the macaroon can be traced back to Italy, where these flourless, unleavened cookies went by the name of amaretti. The original confections had a hard exterior and chewy interior that came from a mixture of two ingredients: egg whites and almond paste. Over time, however, bakers began experimenting with ingredients and developing a number of variations on the original cookie. And thus the macaroon confusion began.
FRANCE: Ground Almond. In 1533, the Italian macaroon was introduced into the French culture by the pastry chef of Catherine de Medici, the Italian wife of King Henry II. There, finely ground almonds were substituted for the original almond paste, producing a very lightweight, meringue-like cookie. In the 20th century, these confections were stacked into the elegant, ganache-filled cookie sandwiches that are seen in many bakeries today (in France the sandwiched cookie goes by the name of “macaron parisien” while the traditional single cookie is simply called “macaron”).
US/UK: Coconut. In the 19th century, shredded coconut was used as an alternative to almond paste in America, producing a much softer and chewier cookie. After its introduction, the coconut macaroon became extremely popular in the European Jewish community as it offered the perfect unleavened treat for Passover. Today, the coconut version remains the most common form of macaroon in the United States and the British Isles. Although it is possible to find coconut macaroons in France, they go under the name of “congolais.”
OTHER: Although almond and coconut are by far the most popular versions of macaroons, other cultures have added their own spin. In Spain, “carajitos” are macaroons that are made of ground hazelnut instead of almond. Meanwhile, macaroon-like cookies in India have cashews as the preferred ingredient of choice.
So in conclusion, both macarons and macaroons have an unleavened, egg-white base, but the French macaron (either in single or sandwich form) is made with ground almond while the American/British macaroon is made with coconut. I think we’ve got it!
So here are American macaroons in their glorious chewy, coconut-y form. Well, not just coconut. Coconut and lime. With a mint drizzle. Yes, these are mojito flavor (minus the alcohol—sorry, folks)! But don’t worry, they are still fabulous. Although macaroons are naturally very sweet, the acidity of the lime and the brightness of the mint make this cookie deliciously light and refreshing. It’s a good thing this recipe doesn’t make a huge number of cookies, because you might be in danger of eating them all.
So enough of this history lesson, let’s eat!
Yield: 8 cookies
2 cups shredded coconut
⅓ cup sugar
2 egg whites
¼ tsp vanilla
1 Tablespoon lime zest
1 Tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 cup good-quality white chocolate
½ teaspoon peppermint extract
Preheat oven to 350°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
In a medium-sized bowl, whisk together egg whites and sugar until foamy. Add in salt, vanilla, lime zest, and lime juice. Using a spatula, stir in shredded coconut.
Using a small scoop or tablespoon, scoop out and shape each cookie into a round/dome shape. Place on prepared baking sheet and bake for approximately 20 minutes, or until outsides are golden brown. Remove macaroons from oven and let cool completely (some lime juice may have leaked out during the baking process, so just use a sharp knife to cut these parts from around the cookies while they are cooling. It is easiest to do this when they are still slightly warm).
Once cookies are completely cool, place white chocolate in a microwave-safe bowl. Microwave chocolate in 30-minute increments, stirring between each, until mixture is fully melted. Whisk in peppermint extract. Dip the bottom of each macaroon in the white chocolate and place on a fresh piece of parchment paper. Drizzle tops with remaining chocolate and set aside to harden.
Erdos, Joseph. “Macaroon vs. Macaron: Two Very Different Cookies With a Linked Past.” Food Network. Hearst Communications. 31 May 2013. Web. 31 July 2013.
Jurafsky, Dan. “Macarons, Macaroons, Macaroni: The Curious History.” Slate Magazine. The Slate Group. 16 Nov. 2011. Web. 31 July 2013.
“Macaroon.” Culinary Encyclopedia. iFood.tv. Web. 31 July 2013.