Equal time for macaroons

Having just celebrated a special day for chocolate chip cookies, the month of May indulges us with another sweet treat tomorrow: National Macaroon Day. Do not confuse these with the French macaron, which has no coconut and is decidedly more complicated to make. The name derives from the Italian “maccarone” that refers to the almond paste originally used in the recipe. What I love about macaroons is their almost foolproof make-and-bake simplicity, often with as little as three ingredients (egg whites, coconut, and almonds) as well as their ability to be made in advance. Macaroons can also be flourless for those who prefer gluten-free options, and their texture can be either crispy or chewy. Versions around the world include the addition of ginger or cinnamon, substituting cashews or hazelnuts for the almonds, and the ever-popular chocolate-dipped macaroon. As with other cookies, mixing by hand and using parchment-lined cookie sheets are recommended.

Coconut Macaroons

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First, we turn to the pastry masters of Vienna, Austria, for a crisp cookie with a hint of lemon, perfect for tea time. These can be made up to three days in advance and stored in an airtight container at room temperature. Recipe from “Kaffeehaus” by Rick Rodgers; makes about 30 macaroons.

3 large egg whites, at room temperature

1-1/4 cups confectioners’ sugar

2 cups shredded sweetened coconut

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Grated zest of 1 lemon

Position racks in center and top third of oven and preheat to 325 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, beat egg whites with a handheld electric mixer on high speed until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in the sugar until stiff, shiny peaks form. Fold in the coconut, flour and lemon zest. Transfer mixture to a pastry bag fitted with a 7/16th-inch-wide plain tip and pipe 1-1/2 inch mounds on the sheets, about an inch apart. (Alternatively, you can drop mounds using two spoons if you don’t have a pastry bag.) Bake until edges are firm and cookies are lightly browned, about 30 minutes. Cool completely on cookie sheets.

Fudgy Coconut Macaroons

These flourless cookies have a moist, chewy texture; the secret is in not over-baking them. Macaroons can be refrigerated up to a week or frozen. Recipe from “Fast &Festive Meals for the Jewish Holidays” by Marlene Sorosky; makes 36 macaroons.

1 can (15 ounces) regular or low fat sweetened condensed milk

2 ounces (2 squares) unsweetened chocolate, chopped

2 cups shredded coconut

1/4 teaspoon instant coffee granules, dissolved in 1 tablespoon boiling water

Dash of salt

1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease or spray a cushioned baking sheet*; set aside. In a medium microwave-safe bowl, microwave milk and chocolate on high power for 3 to 4 minutes or until melted and smooth. (Don’t overcook; mixture may become granular.) Stir in coconut, coffee, salt and nuts. Drop batter by teaspoonfuls onto prepared baking sheet. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes or until bottoms are set. They will be very soft, but will firm up as they cool. Remove from oven; immediately transfer to waxed paper-lined trays to cool completely.

*If not using a cushioned baking sheet, place 1 baking sheet on top of another to create a double pan.

Almond Macaroons

Traditionally, ground almonds or almond paste are used in macaroons. Chef Luchetti prefers sliced almonds to give the cookies extra texture and crunch. Recipe from “Four-Star Desserts” by award-winning baker, Emily Luchetti; makes about 20 cookies.

3 cups (12 ounces) sliced almonds, toasted

1-1/4 cups granulated sugar

1/2 cup (about 4) egg whites

1 tablespoon honey

3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon almond extract

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

Pinch of salt

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In a food processor, finely grind 1/3 cup of the sliced almonds with the sugar; set aside. In a bowl, lightly beat egg whites until frothy; stir in the ground almond-sugar mixture, honey, vanilla and almond extracts. Heat egg mixture in a double boiler over simmering water, stirring frequently, until hot. Remove mixture from stove; stir in the flour, salt and remaining 2-2/3 cups sliced almonds. Refrigerate mixture for 2 hours, until cold.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Using 1-1/2 tablespoons batter for each macaroon, place them 2 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake until golden brown, 10 to 15 minutes. Cool on baking sheets, then remove and store in an airtight container at room temperature up to several days.