Unsurprisingly, macaroons and macarons, the two cookies that are separated only by an extra “o” have very similar origins—sweet branches of the same tree, if you will. The ground almond, egg white, and sugar recipe Catherine de Medici possibly brought to France to kick-start the macaron evolution is the same one colonists brought to the New World. First Lady Martha Washington had a recipe for “mackaroons”—most French words ending in “-on” received an extra “o” when translating to English, such as balloon and cartoon—in her family’s handwritten cookbook, featuring the usual ingredients, plus an addition of rose water and musk, a nod toward the dessert’s Arabian roots. But come the late 1800s, a new ingredient rose to prominence in the United States: coconut. Bakers substituted the novelty item—newly packaged and sold as desiccated (dried out) coconut flakes—for ground almonds, creating an instantly iconic cookie. A flourless treat that could be enjoyed during Passover, the recipe became particularly popular within Jewish communities. In fact, the first Jewish cookbook published in the US, Esther Levy’s Jewish Cookery Book, describes making “Cocoanut Macaroons” as follows: “To one grated cocoanut add its weight in sugar, and the white of one egg, beaten to a snow; stir it well, and cook a little; then wet your hands and mould it into small oval cakes; grease a paper and lay them on; bake in a gentle oven.” Little has changed from this original recipe, except for the decadent addition of sweetened condensed milk and a final dip in chocolate.
With just a touch of aromatic orange zest mixed in with the creamy condensed milk and flaked coconut base, these classic macaroons pair notes of chocolate and citrus within their sweet snowball packages.
- 1 (14-ounce) can (397 grams) sweetened condensed milk
- 2 teaspoons (8 grams) vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon (2 grams) tightly packed orange zest
- 2½ cups (258 grams) sweetened flaked coconut
- 2 cups (146 grams) unsweetened flaked coconut
- 2 large egg whites (60 grams)
- ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
- 4 ounces (113 grams) 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate baking bar, finely chopped ½ teaspoon (2 grams) coconut oil
- Garnish: flaked sea salt
- Preheat oven to 325°F (170°C). Line 2 rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper.
- In a large bowl, stir together condensed milk, vanilla, and orange zest; add flaked coconuts, and stir until well combined.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat egg whites and kosher salt at medium-high speed until stiff peaks form, 3 to 4 minutes. Gently fold egg white mixture into coconut mixture until well combined. Using a 1½-tablespoon spring-loaded scoop, scoop mixture, and place at least 1 inch apart on prepared pans.
- Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes. Let cool completely on pans on wire racks.
- Place a large wire rack over a large parchment-lined rimmed baking sheet; spray with cooking spray.
- In a small microwave-safe bowl, heat chocolate and oil on high in 10-second intervals, stirring between each, until chocolate is melted and mixture is smooth. Dip bottoms of macaroons in chocolate mixture, letting excess drip off. Place on prepared rack. Alternately, spoon chocolate mixture into a small pastry bag or resealable plastic bag; cut a ¼-inch opening in tip or corner. Place cooled macaroons on prepared rack; drizzle with chocolate mixture as desired. Refrigerate until chocolate is set, about 20 minutes. Using a large offset spatula, loosen dipped macaroons from wire rack, if necessary. Just before serving, garnish with sea salt, if desired.