This article comes from my second father, Michael Lynch. A retired pastry chef, Michael always prepares the most wonderfully delicious morsels for the holidays. His coconut macarron recipe is one of the best and one of my favorites. Bon appetit!
If it’s Christmas, It must be Macaroons
BY MICHAEL LYNCH
Macaroons have become for me, my wife and daughters, an annual drumbeat, a marker of the season, smaller than a breadbox, more reliable than the weather, small jewels that we never tire of. Of course I speak of the incomparable Coconut Macaroon.
Having recently brought forth a batch of 6 dozen for my companies Christmas cookie exchange, I posted some photos on Facebook and immediately received 4 requests for recipes! And two requests for samples!!
There is some rare magic in these small confections. I probably wolfed down about 10% of the batch myself, between raw dough and finished product. I have made them for probably 20 years, never tiring of them, and have built a reputation riding on their aromatic, rhapsodic flavor and uniquely satisfying texture. From wild bacchanalian solstice fetes to intimate, highly cultured Christmas teas, these confections have united the immensely disparate subcultures that have faceted my life. Such is their great power, borne of a similarly variegated and impressive past.
Macaroons, from the Italian “maccarone” and “maccare”, meaning “paste” and “to pound” respectively, denoting the cookies as well as pasta and dumplings, have their murky genesis in medieval Venetian monasteries, after almonds were introduced to Italy by Arab travelers.
They came to France when Catherine de Medici married King Henry II in 1533, her large retinue including pastry chefs credited by lore with bringing all manner of new foods and confections. From there, they conquered France. One apocryphal story tells of a convent in the city of Nancy, where, in the late 18th century, the nuns were forbidden to eat meat, so started making macaroons because, made from nuts, they were nutritious!! After the closing of the convent in the wake of the French Revolution, two of the sisters began selling the cookies in the streets to make a living. They went down in history as “les Soeurs Macarons” (The Macaroon Sisters). A street in modern day Nancy bears that name.
Originally consisting of ground almond paste, egg whites and flavorings such as rose or orange blossom water (again, from the Arabs), Italian Jews adopted the cookie because its flourless, unleavened character made it kosher for Passover. Coconut was added as it spread through the European Jewish communities and the jewel as we know it today was born.
For me, coconut macaroons are a delicious reminder of my days as a pastry chef, 20 years in all. Today I toil, as so many, in front of a computer screen, tormented by the small digital world of which I am network administrator. The nebulous nature of such work is so completely opposite of the wonderfully concrete quality of being a pastry chef. As the years go by, more and more I realize what I loved most about pastry work, besides the obvious wallowing in vast quantities of every conceivable morsel of deliciousness known to man, is that, at the end of the work day, and this time of year that would often be a 12 or 14 hour slog, I could look at all the little jewels of my creation, lined up on sheet pans and cake racks, the product of my labor. Ever delightful and various shapes, sizes, colors and textures, this is what my day, my time on earth wrought.
It was always an immensely satisfying thing, to pause for a second, in my chefs jacket and pants splattered with chocolate, crusted with dough, dusted in flour and confectioner’s sugar, tired and ragged, wishing I was home with my family, but a warm, deeply contented fulfillment, however evanescent, gone tomorrow, though ultimately leaving a smile on someone’s face, a bit of joy in someone’s life.
And so, as I dip these last macaroons in chocolate, from Philly’s own Lore’s Chocolates, I am both reminded of, and once again able to delight in, the very real meaning of the season.
Michael's Christmas Macaroons
Yield: 4 dozen
8 oz. Almond Paste
2 oz. Egg Whites
14 oz. Sugar, granulated
6 oz. Egg Whites
21 oz Coconut, macaroon cut, unsweetened
2 oz. Confectioners Sugar
1 tbsp. Vanilla Extract
½ cup Honey
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Combine almond paste and egg whites by hand or in mixer until smooth. Add sugar, salt and remaining egg whites together and heat over a double boiler, stirring occasionally, to 140 degrees. Stir in coconut, confectioner’s sugar, vanilla and honey to heated mixture.
Scoop roughly 40 tablespoon sized dollops on to pastry sheet and let sit for ½ hour. Bake at 375 degrees for 15 - 20 min, until lightly browned. Enjoy!