Macaron or Macaroon? Well, May 31 is definitely National Macaroon Day and it’s most assuredly an American holiday since the macaroon is definitely an American cookie! However, the confusion is natural. The origins of macaron and macaroon are the same and many of the ingredients overlap. Both use a fair amount of sugar to make these delightful confections. Both use egg whites to make the cookies rise and give them a light texture. However, the French macaron (which actually originated in Italy) uses almond flour at its base while the American macaroon uses shredded coconut to great effect.
We have Mrs. Esther Levy to thank for popularizing the great macaroon. In 1871 Mrs. Levy published the First Jewish American Cookbook. She originally published this recipe in the chapter of “cakes” as there was not a chapter on cookies.However, it’s understandable — as the texture of a macaroon isn’t very cookie like. It is soft and a little chewy, more like a cake than a cookie. However, the bite-size serving is most definitely cookie-like.
Macaroons deserve to be celebrated and recognized for their own characteristics. Coconut was substituted for almond flour when the first coconut palms planted in Florida began to yield fruit. Thus macaroons are not only tasty little delights, they were an early exercise in the locavore movement, eating produce grown close to home.
National Macaroon Day Activities
Whether you make them from scratch or use the shortcut of using sweetened condensed milk, it’s a simple recipe to make and you can have homemade macaroons ready to eat from scratch in less than an hour. If you are making them from scratch, be sure to have a kitchen mixer or hand mixer with a balloon whisk attachment to make the egg whites impossibly light and fluffy. The better you do at this step, the better the overall cookie will taste. Be warned: don’t make these when you are home alone or you may not be able to stop yourself from eating every last one.
Don’t be daunted by the fact that you don’t know how to separate your egg whites from your egg yolks. Or maybe you only use your oven to store shoes, because you never cook. Don’t be deterred from celebrating National Macaroon Day! Although most commonly seen in stores around spring, you can either buy them at your local grocery or order them online. There are a number of companies that make them in a range of prices and a variety of flavors!
Celebrate Mrs. Levy’s contribution
While we have Esther Levy to thank for getting coconut macaroons the attention they deserve, we can thank her too for informing people about Jewish cooking in the U.S. Make your family a whole Jewish feast. Be warned: Jewish food is comfort food at its best and you may have difficulty getting any guests to leave. Start with some chicken soup with matzo balls, braise a beautiful brisket complete with potatoes, carrots and gravy, and end this hearty repast with some beautiful and traditional coconut macaroons.
Why We Love National Macaroon Day
They are delicious
How to describe a coconut macaroon? They have great texture from the shredded coconut. They are sweet, and when the sugar in the cookie around the edges is cooked just right, it caramelizes. They are both chewy and soft, like a pastry, but your eyes tell you that clearly, based on size and portability, it must be a cookie! Best of all they are insanely easy to make. You can use shredded coconut, vanilla extract, egg whites and sugar — or you can cheat and use just sweetened condensed milk and shredded coconut.
Macaroons are gluten-free
Long before gluten was even recognized, macaroons were being made by Jewish housewives for their Passover celebrations. The lack of any kind of leavening agent meant it satisfied the dietary laws that rule Passover. It was just a happy accident that they are so tasty as well. So if you or a friend are doing a gluten-free diet or someone is allergic to gluten, you can look like a hero by serving macaroons. Once you taste them, you’ll know it’s not a sacrifice, but you don’t have to share that little fact.
Dress them up or dress them down
Macaroons have grown in versatility over the years. There’s the child-friendly chocolate chip macaroon or the elegant-enough-for-a-tea-party chocolate-dipped macaroon. There are even red velvet macaroons! You can bring a whole plate when you receive an invitation to an elegant and intimate dinner or you can whip up a batch and keep it around for the kids to snack on. They are the perfect anytime, anywhere cookie.