Macaroons are traditional at Passover because they can be made without any leavening or flour. A cookie that is gluten-free, contains no butter, oil or other added fat, and is Passover–friendly. What more could a person want out of a tiny morsel at this time of year? Good taste, that’s what.
When I was a kid, we used to get macaroons out of a canister. Their chewy consistency and size were fine. But even though they came in 3 flavors (almond, coconut and chocolate coconut), all the varieties tasted virtually the same – or rather they were all so sweet that any other taste was drowned out.
I was determined to improve on those macaroons. My dream was a cross between a macaroon and a meringue, light but flavorful. After a few false starts, I got it right and my daughter named them Meringuroons. You could add a bit of chopped chocolate or even dip them in melted chocolate once they have cooled, but I preferred to keep them delicate and tasting only – and most definitely – of coconut and almonds.
As with spices, roasting or toasting an ingredient like nuts or coconut intensifies the ingredient’s smell and taste. (See my post on roasting cumin seeds.) The aroma and taste difference (between the raw and roasted or toasted version) is striking, especially when those flavors shine through, as they do in these macaroons. If you can’t imagine what I mean, try a test before you do this recipe. Smell and taste a bit of the raw chopped almonds and coconut, then toast a bit more of those ingredients – you smell and taste the difference, don’t you?
Coconut-Almond Macaroons a/k/a Meringuroons
Makes about 4 dozen small cookies Cost – $5
- 1 cup (4½ ounces) of slivered almonds, lightly toasted and ground
- 1 cup (3 ½ ounces) of shredded or flaked (sweetened) coconut, half lightly toasted
- 3 egg whites
- ½ cup (4 ounces) sugar
- ¼ teaspoon almond extract
- Food processor (not pictured)
- Measuring cups (or scale)
- Measuring spoon
- Medium-size bowl
- 2 teaspoons
- Small pitcher (or a clean, empty plastic water bottle) and small bowl for separating eggs
- Baking sheet and parchment or silicone mat
- Wire rack for cooling
- Pre-heat the oven to 325 degrees.
- Toast the almonds and half the coconut (separately) at 325 degrees. Watch them carefully so they don’t burn and occasionally gently move them to help toast them evenly. I used a toaster oven and it took about 8 minutes for the nuts and 6-7 minutes for the coconut.
- Grind the almonds well in the food processor until they are uniform, tiny nuggets. They don’t get smooth and powdery.
- Separate the eggs by the fun method with an empty plastic water bottle or the old fashioned way. In either case, separate each additional egg separately from the ones you’ve already done, so that if the yolk breaks, it doesn’t contaminate the whites you already have separated. Egg whites will not expand when beaten if they contain even one drop of yolk.
- Put the yolks aside for another use and beat the egg whites at low speed until they begin to foam, about 2 minutes. Gradually raise the speed to medium and continue beating until they are stiff but not dry. After about 4 minutes, add the almond extract and gradually add the sugar. Be patient. It took me about 15 minutes to beat the egg whites to the proper consistency with my hand beater. If you rush the process by using a high speed, the egg whites will rise, but they will be less stable and more inclined to lose their volume.
- Once the egg whites are stiff, gradually fold in the toasted and ground almonds with the spatula, making sweeping motions as you start the spatula moving from the bottom of the bowl and take the egg whites over the almonds a few times.
- Then add all of the coconut and again gently fold until the ingredients are basically combined. Don’t get concerned if you find a bit of nuts hiding unmixed in a corner. You can gently incorporate them. The trick is to avoid rapid, vigorous mixing because that will deflate the egg whites.
- Using two teaspoons, one to grab a bit of the mixture and the other to push it off the first spoon, place small mounds on a cookie sheet lined with a silicone mat or parchment paper.
- Bake for 20 minutes if you like them a bit chewy and 30 minutes if you prefer a drier, crunchier cookie. When done, the cookies should be at least lightly browned.
- Let the cookies rest on the cookie sheet for a few minutes before transferring them to a wire rack to completely cool. In this picture the top two rows baked longer and are crunchier, while the bottom ones are the chewier kind.
I hope you’ll enjoy these cookies – whether or not you observe Passover.