Macaroons, Two Ways

Spring, Sweet Recipes • 11 Jun 2009


This year’s Passover has already matriculated, yet my unadulterated love for the iconic macaroon perseveres.

Macaroons have become the hallmark finish to the Passover feast, leavened with silken egg whites rather than the taboo flour that’s temporarily outlawed by observant Jews.

Whether you prefer almond or coconut macaroons is an age-old debate, though many traditionalists argue that almond macaroons are the only sacrosanct version of the cookie.

Though I obsess over everything and anything touched by almonds, there’s something sublimely knockout about Mark Bittman’s coconut macaroons with caramelized sugar, custardy egg whites and textured coconut flakes. Like a perfect almond macaroon, they unfold in a symphony of sensations: moist on the tongue, sweet to the taste and chewy to the teeth.

Meanwhile, Cooks Illustrated almond macaroons have a gossamer thin, crisp shell with a pillowy, yet chewy center, slightly reminiscent of elegant French macaroons; earthy like almonds themselves, yet sweet as if lovingly caressed with honey.

As the macaroons bake, you will notice the air tinged with an ambient perfume of sugary sweetness, a therapeutic and relaxing aroma that coddles the mind and stirs the stomach.

Both version of the cookie are refined, yet comfortably nourishing and familiar.

Mark Bittman’s Coconut Macaroons

1 cup sugar
3 cups shredded unsweetened coconut
3 egg whites, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch salt

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees. Combine all ingredients in a large bowl and mix well with a rubber spatula or your hands.

2. Use a non-stick baking sheet, or line a baking sheet with parchment paper. To make the pyramids, wet your hands and scoop out a rounded tablespoon of the mixture into the palm of one hand. Using your other hand, press in gently on both sides of the mixture, bringing the macaroon to a point. Continue pressing with your thumb and forefinger on both sides until you have an even shape. For cubes, start as you would for the pyramids, then gently press equally on all sides, turning the macaroon to square off each side. You can use a butter knife to gently smooth the sides of the pyramids and cubes if you like. For balls, roll the mixture between your palms gently until round.

3. Place each macaroon about an inch apart on the baking sheet. Bake until light brown, about 15 minutes. Remove the baking sheet and cool on a rack for at least 30 minutes before eating. These keep well in a covered container for up to 3 days.

Yield: Makes 2 dozen cookies.

Cooks Illustrated Almond Macaroons

7 ounces almond paste or 7 ounces blanched almonds
6 ounces blanched almond (silvered or whole)
1 1/4 cups sugar (regular or vanilla)
3 egg whites from 3 large eggs
1 tablespoons Amaretto (optional)
1 teaspoon almond extract

1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Cover two cookie sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

2. Place almonds into the bowl of a food processor and process until roughly chopped. Add the sugar and continue to process until the almonds are finely ground. Crumble in the almond paste (if using) and continue to process until the paste is pulverized and you have a fairly uniform mixture. If you are not using almond paste, process until the almonds are fine and crumbly but not powdery, about 1 minute to 90 seconds.

3. Add the egg whites, extract, and Amaretto and continue to process until the dough is smooth and begins to form into a ball at the edge of the processor blades. Remove from the food processor and allow mixture to stand for 20 minutes.

4. Drop level tablespoons of the mixture onto your prepared parchment paper leaving about 1 1/2 inches of space between each cookie. For an even prettier cookie, gently roll the dough into a ball.

5. Bake for 20-25 minute, rotating the cookie sheets top to bottom and side to side during the baking process. The cookies should be golden on top but should not be over baked as they will have a tendency to harden.

6. Remove cookies from the oven and allow to cool completely on the parchment paper. To make removal easier, scrape the cookie off with a table knife or thin spatula to reduce the chance of tearing. Once cooled the cookies can be stored air tight for up to 4 days or frozen for 1-3 months.

Yield: Makes about 3 dozen cookies.

4 Responses

  1. Cynthia Mamer

    Do you have the recipe for the filling for Cooks Illustrated Almond Macaroons?

    A restaurant I go to makes these macaroons and has some type of butter filling between each macaroons. I don’t know if Cooks Illustrated gives this recipe or if the restaurant made up their own.

    I don’t have the money to join Cooks Illustrated right now so any help you can provide will be greatly appreciated.

    I guess I can always go back and ask the cook at the restaurant what they put in the middle.

    Thanks for any help,


    • Hi Cynthia. I don’t have the recipe for a filling for CI’s Almond Macaroons. They might be French-style macaroons which is typically filled with buttercream. The ones are make are much simpler and traditionally Jewish. I love the blog and she has over a dozen recipes for French Macaroons.

  2. Karen Cohen

    Macaroons, Two ways looks great, I can’t wait to try them! Just one question can the coconut recipe be frozen?

    • I have never tried to freeze them, Karen, but I don’t see why not! I would think they would freeze just fine. One thing I often do is freeze just one cookie or muffin and the next day thaw it at room temperature to see how they fare. If everything seems copacetic and they maintain their integrity, I’ll throw a whole batch in the freezer.

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