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Macaroons are a popular confection worldwide. Their composition varies by region, as well. In some countries, they are light and similar to a meringue, while in the United States, they are dense and chewy and usually contain coconut.
Macaroons have an interesting history. They first appeared in Italy in the late 18th century, possibly in a monastery. The recipe was carried on by a pair of Carmelite nuns in hiding during the French Revolution. The European Jewish community consequently picked up the recipe, and macaroons are now a frequent celebration food at festivals like Passover and Purim. They are a perfect Kosher food, since they contain egg whites, coconut and sugar, without relying on any leavening, meat or milk products. Therefore, they can be eaten with any meal, for any occasion.
Some macaroons are similar to American cookies. They are crisp and may be flavored with almond or coconut. Other macaroons combine the delicate texture of a meringue with the added body of dates or coconut. Some meringues are rolled in chocolate, while this is considered anathema in other regions.
One good recipe for American macaroons calls for the whites of four large eggs, 1/2 cup sugar, 1 cup lightly sweetened and toasted coconut and a pinch of salt. The cook beats the egg whites and salt together until the mixture forms very stiff peaks, adding the sugar in three parts. The cook then folds the coconut gently into the mixture, using a rubber spatula. The cookies are dropped by teaspoonfuls on to a parchment lined cookie sheet, leaving about 2 inches (5 centimeters) between cookies. They are baked at 350°F (177°C) for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown. The inside should remain moist.
Other recipes for macaroons of various kinds can be found online. Recipes are also available for macaroon cakes and puddings. In the United States, any recipe with the word “macaroon” in the title usually calls for coconut. Macaroons can be purchased ready-made at bakeries and in some stores. They can also be purchased from gourmet food distributors online
To keep the nice round shape, macaroons should be placed into the oven as soon as they are scooped onto the baking sheet. Ice cream scoop can also be used for dropping the cookie mixture onto the baking sheet.