Coconut macaroons are an absolute delight for the coconut lovers ! But then the thing about coconuts is that you either love coconut or you hate it. Most Indians are fond of coconut as coconut is a native fruit. However coconut macaroons are not indigenous. For that matter, macaroons itself are not from India. Macaroons are small cookies made from ground nuts like almonds, pistachios, hazelnuts or coconut.
History of macaroons is very interesting. The name comes from the Italian word maccarone or maccherone meaning paste which was the almond paste used originally. This word maccarone is derived from ammaccare which means to crush in Italian. Historians have traced back the origins of macaroons to an Italian Monastery in the 8th or 9th century. There are also some references suggesting that it was Arabs who introduced the Italians with this sweet cookie. Ground almonds were mainly used and today’s amaretti cookies are the Italian version of macaroons. The Jewish in Italy accepted macaroons as their festive food as these were the cookies that were made without flour, yeast, baking powder or soda. Instead they were leavened by egg whites and hence ideal for their 8 days festival of Passover.
In 1500s, macaroons found their way to France where they underwent a change with the French touch. It is said that Catherine De Medici, from the prominent Medici family of Italy married into the French royalty and introduced France to macaroons. The French chefs and patissier added their touch and transformed the hearty macaroons to the present day dainty and chic sandwich cookie called macaron. Please not the single ‘o’.
As bakers and patissiers experimented with the macaroons, they tried different nuts. Coconut was thus introduced into the macaroons along side nuts. In fact coconut completely replaced the nuts. Thus arrived the coconut macaroons! Thanks to the Portuguese explorer Vasco Da Gama, coconut became easily available around the world.
Every country has their versions of macaroons depending upon what nut is available. In fact, you would be surprised to know that India also has its version made from cashew nuts called Thoothkudi macaroons. Philippines, Puerto Rico, Dominican Republic have their versions of coconut macaroons. Coconut macaroons are very popular in the US and the UK. Spanish macaroons are made with hazelnuts, so on and so forth.
Coconut adds that extra textural element to the macaroons. A good coconut macaroon is crunchy on the outside and chewy in the middle. Dried coconut, either shredded or desiccated can be used to make these dainty cookies. My version of coconut macaroons have candied pineapple and hence I like to call them Pina Colada Macaroons, so very tropical! So indulge your self with these divine morsels by making them yourself.
- Egg Whites – 2
- Caster Sugar – 50 g
- Lemon Juice – 1/4 tsp
- Icing Sugar – 60 g
- Desiccated coconut – 150 g
- Candied pineapple – 50 g
- Pineapple essence – 1/4 tsp
- Dark chocolate – 50 g
- Mix together coconut, icing sugar and finely chopped candied pineapple.
- In another bowl beat egg whites till frothy. Add the lemon juice and gradually add caster sugar while continuing to beat the whites, till stiff shiny peaks are formed.
- Fold in the coconut mixture and pineapple essence.
- Place one heaped tea spoon of the mixture on a baking tray one inch apart and bake in a preheated oven at 160 degrees C for about 15 minutes or till golden in colour. Cool.
- Drizzle melted dark chocolate. Once the chocolate sets, store in an airtight container.
I assure you that if you are a coconut lover you will love these bite sized cookies. I have used desiccated coconut, but you could also use shredded or grated dried coconut with the brown skin removed. Another variation would be chocolate coconut macaroons. Add a tbsp of un-sweetened cocoa powder to the coconut mix. Drizzle white chocolate over the baked cookies instead of dark chocolate to give a beautiful contrast. Avoid the chopped pineapple as well as the pineapple essence in the chocolate version.
These macaroons are made with such less number of ingredients and are simple to make. They have all the goodness of coconut and egg whites. They are absolutely gluten free making them healthy snacks indeed! By the way, May 31st is the national Macaroon day of the US and it is coming soon. So bake these healthy cookies for your friends and family.