Macaroons

Beyond Manischewitz's wildest dreams.

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For most of my life, I loathed macaroons–and from the evidence I gathered, so did the rest of my family. Every year around Passover, an aluminum cylinder of Manischewitz coconut macaroons would show up amongst the overflowing bags of Passover foods my mother brought home from Chicago's kosher supermarket. And every year as our family transitioned back into our normal cereal and English muffin routine, the cylinder would remain, virtually untouched.Reading Elizabeth Hafkin Pleck's book, Celebrating the Family: Ethnicity, Consumer Culture and Family Rituals, I finally understood why the macaroons returned year after year. According to Pleck, macaroons along with kosher-for-Passover chocolates, matzah ball mixes, and other packaged foods, were part of a mid-20th century campaign by kosher companies to capitalize on the Jewish holiday market.

These products made it easier for families to observe Passover's restrictions, and somehow captivated the hearts of American Jews. By the 1950s, Pleck writes, “Barton's chocolate tin and Streit's aluminum container for macaroons [had become] cultural objects in themselves.” No wonder the macaroons kept showing up in my home. Despite my family's shared loathing of the tinny, cloyingly sweet cookies, they were so iconic that the holiday simply did not feel complete without them.

Traditional macaroons originated in 16th-century Venice (possibly in a monastery), and are typically made with ground almonds. They also rarely contain dairy; their pareve status helps to explain why Jewish communities began to incorporate macaroons as a favorite dessert. The coconut version, which is most popular in America, first gained esteem in the 19th century, and was further popularized by companies like Streit's and Manischewitz. The older dense and chewy macaroon with ground nuts, and the newer macaroon textured with shredded coconut, are held together in the same cookie family by the inclusion of sugar and egg whites in the mix.

Ingredients

  1. 3 1/2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut
  2. 1/8 teaspoon salt
  3. scant 1/4 teaspoon orange extract
  4. 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
  5. 1 egg white
  6. 2/3 cup sweetened condensed milk
  7. 1/2 cup semisweet chocolate chips

Directions

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Stir together the condensed milk, egg white, vanilla, orange extract, and salt in a medium bowl until well combined. Fold in the coconut, followed by the chocolate chips. Drop tablespoonfuls onto the baking sheet, leaving about 2 inches between each cookie.

Bake until cookies are lightly brown, 20-25 minutes. Allow to cool, then peel cookies from parchment. Store in an airtight container.

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Leah Koenig is a writer and cookbook author whose work has been published in The New York Times Magazine, Saveur, CHOW, Food Arts, Tablet, Gastronomica, and Every Day with Rachael Ray. Leah writes a monthly food column for The Forward and a bimonthly column for Saveur.com called “One Ingredient, Many Ways.” She is the former Editor-in-Chief of the award-winning blog, The Jew & The Carrot, and she is a frequent contributor to MyJewishLearning.com, where her recipes are very popular, and highly praised. Her first cookbook, The Hadassah Everyday Cookbook: Daily Meals for the Contemporary Jewish Kitchen, was published by Rizzoli in 2011. The book was named one of the “Best Books of 2011? by Library Journal and The Kitchn called it “a big, beautiful book that is also down-to-earth and completely accessible.”

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