French macarons may be all the rage, but don’t dismiss the humble macaroon, which is derived from marzipan — a smooth paste of blanched almonds and sugar that, when mixed with egg white and baked, turns into chewy little gems. And macaroons are a heck of a lot easier to make than a DIY Ladurée project.
Marzipan and Macaroons
It wasn’t always so simple. My aunt Hanna once told me a story about the massapan that her mother, my Iraqi grandmother, use to make. It was a lot of work, she said, so Hanna herself, who loves to bake, never bothered with it.
Massapan? Never heard of it. A quick visit to Claudia Roden’s Book of Jewish Food revealed it to be marzipan, or almond paste, the centuries-old crossroads sweet brought to Spain by the Arabs and adopted by Spanish Jews before their expulsion in 1492. Marzipan also has a long tradition in central and northern Europe and Scandinavia.
I'll say it was a lot of work, blanching the almonds and grinding them by hand with sugar. Today I'm glad we have food processors that take us from almond to macaroon in one step. I call these "rustic" because I use skin-on (natural) almonds, which impart a richer flavor and color, and because you are more likely to find well-grown, small-farmed almonds in this unprocessed way.
These gluten-free, orange-scented macaroons are nice any time of year and perfect for Passover. Dress them up with a drizzle of melted 70 percent chocolate and they’ll hold their own against their elegant French cousin.
These chewy little cookies are quite addicting, and I loved the burst of citrus flavor that came through. You do need a food processor to grind the almonds, but the batter does come together quickly, and I love that the recipe doesn't use any butter or oil. Don't skimp on the orange zest — it's what really makes these cookies delicious!
- Christine, December 2015
Rustic Almond-Orange Macaroons
2 large egg whites, beaten to blend
Ground cinnamon or cardamom or garam masala, for dusting (optional)
Line 2 sheet pans with parchment paper. Place 1/4 cup (50 grams) of the sugar in the work bowl of a food processor fitted with metal S blade. Using a Microplane grater or a five-hole zester, and working over the bowl of the processor, remove the zest from 1 of the oranges, catching the zest and the spray of citrus oils in the bowl. Pulse until the sugar is tinted pale orange and looks a little damp from the citrus oil.
Add the remaining 3/4 cup (150 grams) sugar and the almonds to the work bowl and process until the almonds are very finely ground, the mixture has started to pack together, and the volume in the bowl has reduced by about half, 2 to 3 minutes.
Scrape down the sides of the work bowl; add the flower water, almond extract, and salt; and pulse to blend. With motor running, slowly pour the egg whites through the feed tube. At first, the mixture will form a ball. Continue processing until a tan, sticky dough forms, 15 to 30 seconds. Using the five-hole zester, and working over the processor, remove the zest from the second orange, catching both the zest and the spray of citrus oils in the processor. Pulse briefly to distribute evenly.
Drop the dough by generous teaspoons onto the prepared pans, spacing them about 2 inches (5 centimeters) apart. Dust the cookies with the spice, if using. Let stand for 30 minutes before baking. The cookies will spread a bit and dry. Adjust oven racks to middle and upper third. Preheat oven to 300°F (150°C).
Bake the cookies, switching the pans top to bottom and front to back halfway through baking to ensure even baking, until they are puffed and pale beige and beginning to color a little around the edges, about 25 minutes. Let cookies cool completely on the pans on wire racks before peeling them from the paper. Store cookies in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 1 week.
Reprinted with permission from The Seasonal Jewish Kitchen by Amelia Saltsman, copyright (c) 2015. Published by Sterling Epicure, an imprint of Sterling Publishing Co., Inc.