I think each of us ought to take a few minutes out of our busy week to speak of the macaroon. Underappreciated, sometimes even maligned, this delicious cookie is trotted out by Jews (and their confused and well meaning gentile seder guests) each Passover as an almost mournful nod to our need for sweets even at a time of flour denial.
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I believe we must stop this needless sidelining of this delicious confection immediately, and welcome it to our tables all the year around. (I also support the making of a Bûche de Noël in August.) I am referring specifically today to the French style cookies, although I have been known to down a canned coconut macaroon, discovered at the bottom of my pantry when I was in search of soba noodles, because I simply don’t feel shame.
I decided to take on the fall macaroon in honor of our neighborhood block party. First of all, block party, who knew? In Los Angeles our neighbors tended to speak to one another only in the event of a series of home invasions, or when one resident around the block was flaunting some sort of petition designed to keep people with inexpensive cars from parking on the block, which was controversial and did not involve refreshments. In Manhattan there were block parties, or so I was told, but they always seemed to happen in neighborhoods I never lived.
So in honor of this exciting development in our family life, I fixated on Oreo Macaroons, a recipe I thought would perhaps please the residents of our Northwest D.C. neighborhood -- sufficiently exciting without taking on the pretensions of, say, a pie with an elaborately-braided crust.
This may not be your idea of a weeknight recipe, and that’s fair. But it is a Sunday afternoon: do the steps in between loads of laundry, and I promise it is worth it. If you follow the steps exactly as drbabs instructs you, the amazing thing is they will come out just as she promised, down to the number of cookies it makes.
The mixing up of the dough needs to be done at a high speed, and may take a minute or two longer than you expected to form peaks. Just scrape down and keep going. Try to make them as uniform in shape as possible, because you do want them to cook evenly, and as importantly, to match one of their cookie friends when it comes times to sandwich them. I was suspicious of the need to let the cookies rest on the pan 30 minutes before putting them in, but I did it, and the cookie came out perfectly. (I was out of espresso powder so I skipped that step, leaving me with a distinctly chocolate flavored batter.)
As they cooled, I quickly mixed up the frosting, which takes all of three minutes. I chose to omit the almond extract in lieu of other flavors. I worried a little bit about being that neighbor who everyone remembers as bringing cardamom cookies to the block party, and having some children leave little spit bits of them in the moonwalk, so while I was curious as to how that would taste, I settled on cinnamon. Our author does not say how much extra flavor you should add, I went for a teaspoon.
You will have just enough frosting for a generous dollop on each sandwich cookie plus a teaspoon to lick off a spoon absently, as your children ask you if there is any left and you direct them to the deck of cards they left on the floor.
These cookies are so fun to make, and really although they take longer than your standard bake sale fare, are 100 times more special. I am now going to walk the remaining 11 of them down the block, and will report the results next week.
1/2 teaspoon espresso powder, dissolved in 1 teaspoon of hot water
1. Line 2 heavy cooking sheets with parchment.
2. In a stand mixer, using the whisk attachment, beat egg whites and salt till stiff peaks form.
3. Beat in sugar till mixture is white, shiny and stiff, but not dry.
4. Gently fold in almond meal, cocoa powder, vanilla extract, almond extract and espresso. Mix till thoroughly blended.
5. Use 2 teaspoons to drop dough onto cookie sheets. Scoop with one spoon and scrape off with the other. Place them about 1-1 1/2 inches apart. Try to make them all about the same size. Smooth the tops with the back of a spoon.
6. Let the cookies sit on the cookie sheet for about 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350.
7. Arrange 2 oven racks so that the oven is divided into thirds. Bake the cookies at 350 for 10 minutes. The tops should be dry and the cookies should still be soft. Turn the oven off and leave the cookies in the oven for another 10 minutes.
8. Cool cookies on wire racks. Gently remove the cookies from the parchment.
1/2 stick unsalted butter, room temperature
1/2-3/4 cup confectioner's sugar (adjusted to taste for sweetness)
1 pinch of kosher salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon almond extract (optional)
orange zest, cardamom, cinnamon, or any other flavor of your choice (optional)
1. Beat the butter, sugar and salt till smooth. Add vanilla and almond extracts (and other flavors) and beat on high speed till ingredients are blended, smooth and have the consistency of icing.
2. Spread buttercream evenly on flat side of one cookie and top with another cookie of equal size. Do this with all the cookies.
3. Serve with milk. Vanilla ice cream. Good coffee. Enjoy.
By day, Jennifer Steinhauer, aka Jenny, covers Congress for The New York Times. By night, she is an obsessive cook.
A New Way to Dinner, co-authored by Food52's founders Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs, is an indispensable playbook for stress-free meal-planning (hint: cook foundational dishes on the weekend and mix and match ‘em through the week).