May 31 is Macaroon Day, the perfect time to try baking this simple but delectable treat that requires only five ingredients. Though they are most often made with coconut nowadays (as in this recipe from Martha Stewart), the cookies' main ingredient was originally almond paste. The name "macaroon" actually comes from the Italian maccherone, which means paste. Since they are unleavened, macaroons became a popular Passover treat with Jews first in Italy and then throughout Europe, but they're great to be enjoyed any time of the year. Try one of Martha Stewart's three variations: coconut, chocolate-chunk, and chocolate.
Makes about 1 dozen macaroons
Note: You can also use sweetened shredded coconut as long as you reduce the sugar in the recipe from 3/4 cup to 1 tablespoon.
3/4 cup sugar
2 1/2 cups shredded unsweetened coconut
3 to 4 large egg whites
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. In a large bowl, combine sugar, coconut, 3 egg whites, vanilla, and salt. Using your hands, mix well, completely combining ingredients. The additional egg white may be added, a little at a time, if the mixture is dry and doesn't hold together.
3. Use a small ice cream scoop or 2 tablespoons to form mounds; place on prepared baking sheet, spacing about 1 inch apart. Dampen your hands with water if necessary, and pinch mounds to create a pyramid shape.
4. Bake until golden brown, rotating halfway through, 16 to 17 minutes. Let cool on a wire rack. Cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.
Follow the recipe for Coconut Macaroons, adding 1/2 cup coarsely chopped semisweet chocolate to the other ingredients. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until golden brown, 15 to 20 minutes.
Place 4 ounces finely chopped semisweet chocolate in a heatproof bowl or the top of a double boiler set over a pan of simmering water. Stir until chocolate has melted; set aside to cool. Follow instructions for Coconut Macaroons, increasing coconut to 2 2/3 cups and combining all ingredients with cooled chocolate and 1/4 cup sifted unsweetened cocoa powder. The baking time should be about the same; you will know the cookies are done when they are just firm to the touch but still soft in the middle.