Macaroons are pale gold coconut confections, half-cookie, half-cake. No one knows exactly who made the first one or in what country, but French bakers were praised for these confections as early as the17th century.
Creole Cookery, printed in New Orleans in 1885, calls for two ounces of almonds pounded in a mortar until they become a stiff paste. To that, the white of an egg, beaten stiff, is added, followed by sifted refined sugar to form a stiff dough.
Soon bakers swapped the almond paste for shredded coconut. Coconut macaroons were favorites of many Jews during Passover because they are unleavened. There are many variations on coconut macaroons.
This recipe aims for meringue-like macaroons. The consistency changes, however, depending on the amount of coconut used and the extent that the baker beats the egg whites.
I put a few chocolate chips in the center of my macaroons before baking, but you can also put almonds in the centers, or mix with chopped dried fruit.
3 cups sweetened, shredded coconut*
4 large egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
STEP BY STEP:
- Put an oven rack in the bottom third of the oven and preheat to 350°F.
- Toast the coconut (optional). To toast, spread coconut on a baking sheet and toast for about five minutes. Let cool slightly.
- Whisk the egg whites in a standing mixer until they hold soft peaks. Gradually add the sugar until the peaks are stiff. By hand, mix in the vanilla and salt. Fold in the shredded coconut.
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Using wet hands to prevent sticking, shape the mixture into 1 1/2 inch balls. Space them about an inch apart on the baking sheet.
- Bake for about 15 minutes until golden.
- Let cool on the baking sheet for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. Store in an airtight container.
* I used two cups of sweetened coconut and 1 cup of unsweetened coconut and the results were plenty sweet enough.