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Macaroons: A dessert you won't be able to pass over

Dessert at Passover is always a problem.

You can make a nice fruit cup, of course, but then all you have is a fruit cup. Or you could make a poundcake with matzo meal, which isn’t bad but leaves you wishing you were eating a poundcake that wasn’t made with matzo meal.

The problem is that for Jews, Passover is a time to refrain from eating any leavened bread – and that also goes for dessert items such as cakes and pastries. Ice cream is out, too, because observant Jews do not eat dairy products and meat products in the same meal.

That leaves fruit cup, poundcake made from matzo meal (it’s ground-up matzos, which isn’t the same thing as flour) and, by default, macaroons.

Macaroons are not to be confused with French almond-based sandwich cookies called macarons. Macaroons, with two Os, are chewy cookies made from shredded coconut, which is not prohibited during Passover. When served at the Passover seder, they almost always come out of a can.

And they’re OK. They’re fine. They’re even kind of good, but here’s the thing: You don’t really want to eat them after Passover is over.

Macaroons are not just a Jewish food; they have been around for an unknown number of centuries. One source traces them to the year 791. Originally made from almond paste (the name is thought to come from “ammaccare,” which means “to crush” in Italian), they were probably invented in Italy before being popularized in France.

A few decades ago, they were not hard to find in America, but not many bakeries sell them these days. That leaves the ones that come out of a can – unless you make them yourself.

Homemade macaroons are wonderful. And best of all, they don’t have to be in the old, familiar flavors (original vanilla, chocolate, chocolate chip) anymore.

So I made Rocky Road Macaroons, placing two mini-marshmallows in the middle and a walnut on top, drizzling chocolate over that and then sprinkling it with chopped walnuts.

Passover never tasted like this.

Rocky Road Macaroons taste like a real dessert, something you could serve any day of the year. Chocolate and coconut go well together anyway, as any fan of Mounds bars could tell you, and marshmallows make a perfect foil.

This recipe, along with most of the others I made, came from “The Macaroon Bible” cookbook, by Dan Cohen. Cohen runs a bakery in New York called Danny Macaroons, and it apparently sells nothing but macaroons. It’s like the Baskin-Robbins of macaroons, with dozens of flavors that rotate with the season (plus some year-round favorites).

So if you’re wondering where the idea for Chocolate-Stout Macaroons came from, it came from the book. But if you’re wondering what Chocolate-Stout Macaroons taste like, let’s just say they have a deep and rich flavor that is particularly satisfying.

The flavors of chocolate and stout are slight and subdued, but they add immensely to the overall experience.

Lovers of chocolate might well be drawn more to the two-fisted hit of Double Chocolate Macaroons. These have melted chocolate mixed into the macaroons, and then have more chocolate on top.

If you prefer salted caramel, of course you can make Salted Caramel Macaroons. I went with Cohen’s recipe for the caramel on these, and, well, I had to try it several different times until I came up with a version that worked. Sort of.

The one I finally ended up with quickly hardened. I swirled it on top of the macaroons, and almost by the time I was done it had turned the consistency of hard candy.

It tasted great, but it was a little disconcerting that a macaroon should have that much crunch on the top. If you want Salted Caramel Macaroons that are chewy all the way through, you might be happier using a different caramel sauce.

Of course, to satisfy the traditionalist in me, I made regular vanilla macaroons. Actually, I made two versions of regular vanilla macaroons. One, the recipe from Cohen, has sweetened, condensed milk in it, which could not be eaten by observant Jews after a meal with meat in it.

The other, which I adapted from a recipe by Martha Stewart, is kosher in all circumstances. It’s a little drier than Cohen’s version and somewhat crisper, but it is no less delicious.

Either recipe can be used as the basis for making the more fanciful creations. Any way you make them, they will be a spectacular finish to a Passover meal, or the rest of the year, too – they’re that good.

ROCKY ROAD MACAROONS

Yield: 16 or 24 macaroons

Basic macaroon recipe

32 or 48 mini marshmallows (kosher if required)

½ cup whole walnuts, toasted

4 ounces chocolate

½ cup walnut pieces, toasted

1. Make basic macaroon recipe. Before baking, place 2 mini marshmallows in middle of each macaroon and fold up the sides to fully enclose the marshmallows. Lightly press a whole walnut into the top of each macaroon. Bake according to instructions.

2. While macaroons are cooling, melt the chocolate in a microwavable bowl in the microwave in 30-second increments, stirring after each time until melted. Or melt in a double boiler.

3. When macaroons are cool, dip the top or bottom in the melted chocolate or use a spoon to drizzle over the top. Sprinkle with the walnut pieces.

4. Macaroons will keep at room temperature for 3 to 5 days, for about 3 weeks refrigerated in an airtight container and for a few months in an airtight container in the freezer.

Per piece, kosher (16 macaroons): 148 calories; 11 g fat; 5 g saturated fat; 1 mg cholesterol; 2 g protein; 14 g carbohydrate; 11 g sugar; 2 g fiber; 92 mg sodium; 12 mg calcium

Per piece, nonkosher (24 macaroons): 157 calories; 10 g fat; 6 g saturated fat; 4 mg cholesterol; 3 g protein; 17 g carbohydrate; 14 g sugar; 2 g fiber; 78 mg sodium; 36 mg calcium

– From “The Macaroon Bible” by Dan Cohen

CHOCOLATE-STOUT MACAROONS

Yield: 16 or 24 macaroons

12 ounces stout beer

1/2 ounce chocolate

Basic macaroon recipe (made with 1/2 teaspoon vanilla)

1. Pour beer into a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat. Boil until all that is left is 2 to 4 tablespoons of stout with a syrup-like consistency.

2. Melt chocolate by placing it in a microwavable bowl in the microwave. Heat for 15-second increments, stirring after each time, until melted. Or melt in a double boiler.

3. Add reduced stout and melted chocolate to a mixing bowl before making rest of basic macaroon recipe.

4. Macaroons will keep at room temperature for 3 to 5 days, for about 3 weeks refrigerated in an airtight container and for a few months in an airtight container in the freezer.

Per piece, kosher (16 macaroons): 74 calories; 3 g fat; 3 g saturated fat; no cholesterol; 1 g protein; 9 g carbohydrate; 8 g sugar; 1 g fiber; 90 mg sodium; 2 mg calcium

Per piece, nonkosher (24 macaroons): 108 calories; 5 g fat; 4 g saturated fat; 4 mg cholesterol; 2 g protein; 13 g carbohydrate; 11 g sugar; 1 g fiber; 77 mg sodium; 29 mg calcium

– From “The Macaroon Bible,” by Dan Cohen

SALTED CARAMEL MACAROONS

Yield: 16 or 24 macaroons

Basic macaroon recipe, made with 1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 tablespoon butter or margarine (for kosher recipe)

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1. Make basic macaroon recipe.

2. While macaroons are cooling on the wire rack, make the caramel: Place the sugar in a small, heavy saucepan over medium heat. Do not disturb the sugar until it has nearly all melted. Then, stir rapidly to dissolve all the sugar and any lumps. Remove from heat, add the butter and stir rapidly. Add salt and continue to stir rapidly over low heat until the butter is fully incorporated into the caramel.

3. Acting quickly, drizzle caramel over macaroons. You will only need about half of this caramel sauce.

4. Macaroons will keep at room temperature for 3 to 5 days, for about 3 weeks refrigerated in an airtight container and for a few months in an airtight container in the freezer.

Per piece, kosher (16 macaroons): 73 calories; 3 g fat; 3 g saturated fat; no cholesterol; no protein; 11 g carbohydrate; 9 g sugar; 1 g fiber; 105 mg sodium; 1 mg calcium

Per piece, nonkosher (24 macaroons): 108 calories; 5 g fat; 4 g saturated fat; 4 mg cholesterol; 2 g protein; 15 g carbohydrate; 13 g sugar; 1 g fiber; 77 mg sodium; 29 mg calcium

– From “The Macaroon Bible” by Dan Cohen

BASIC MACAROON RECIPE – NON-KOSHER

Yield: 24 pieces

6 fluid ounces (3/4 cup) sweetened condensed milk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

14 ounces sweetened shredded coconut

2 large egg whites

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

Note: This recipe is kosher if served with dairy or pareve meals.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. In a large bowl, mix together condensed milk and vanilla. Stir in coconut and mix until thoroughly combined.

3. Add egg whites and salt to a stand mixer. Use the whisk attachment (or a hand-mixer or whisk) to beat on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form, 21/2 to 3 minutes.

4. Use a rubber spatula to gently fold egg whites into coconut mixture until just combined. Scoop 11/2-inch mounds of coconut mixture onto the prepared baking sheet about 1-inch apart.

5. Bake until macaroons are lightly golden, about 20 to25 minutes. Allow to rest on the baking sheet for 2 minutes, then remove to a wire rack to cool.

6. Macaroons will keep at room temperature for 3 to 5 days, for about 3 weeks refrigerated in an airtight container and for a few months in an airtight container in the freezer.

Per piece: 97 calories; 5 g fat; 4 g saturated fat; 3 mg cholesterol; 1 g protein; 13 g carbohydrate; 10 g sugar; 1 g fiber; 77 mg sodium; 29 mg calcium

– From “The Macaroon Bible,” by Dan Cohen

BASIC MACAROON RECIPE – KOSHER FOR PASSOVER

Yield: 16 pieces

1 large egg white

2 cups dried, sweetened, flaked coconut

3 tablespoons granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pinch of coarse salt

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2. Combine all ingredients in a food processor and pulse until just combined, scraping down sides of bowl if necessary. Scoop 1 1/2-inch mounds of coconut mixture onto the prepared baking sheet about 1-inch apart.

3. Bake until macaroons are lightly golden, about 16 to 18 minutes, rotating baking sheet halfway through cooking. Cook macaroons on a wire rack.

4. Macaroons will keep at room temperature for 3 to 5 days, for about 3 weeks refrigerated in an airtight container and for a few months in an airtight container in the freezer.

Per piece: 58 calories; 3 g fat; 3 g saturated fat; no cholesterol; no protein; 8 g carbohydrate; 6 g sugar; no fiber; 90 mg sodium; 1 mg calcium

– Adapted from a recipe by Martha Stewart

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