I notice that the two spellings are often used interchangeably when referring to the colorful French cookies. There is a difference and it's time we set the record straight. A French macaron refers to the pastel colored confections, once found only in patisserie cases in France, now available partout. As soon as you see something in the freezer section of Trader Joes, you know it's mainstream. I'm not complaining either! Their pumpkin macarons are quite good. And all you have to do is thaw them. When I first tried them I thought, surely you must have to at least bake these. Nope. Just thaw and eat. Leave it to an American grocery store chain to turn a French delicacy into a ready-to-eat dessert. Freezer to table!
One of my favorite local places to buy macarons also happens to be the best French bakery in town: Patisserie 46. Fun fact: P46 Owner and Chef John Kraus recently won a well-deserved bronze medal in this year's Coupe du Monde de la Pâtisserie (yes, that's a thing).
So what are macarons exactly and how are they different from macaroons? Both cookies are delightfully chewy, especially the coconut macaroons. They have similar ingredients: egg whites and sugar. But after that they go in rather different directions. Macarons are made from finely ground almonds, and have a ganache filling that holds the two meringue-like cookies together. They're also adorable and come in just about every flavor imaginable from salted caramel to green tea. I have yet to try my hand at homemade macarons because they just seem like a lot of work.
Unlike their labor-intensive French counterpart, macaroons are ridiculously easy to make. Six simple ingredients, one bowl, parchment paper and a baking sheet. That's all you need! If you have a bag of shredded coconut laying around, I'd definitely recommend making these.
I didn't always like coconut. When I was little I firmly eschewed all desserts made with the sweetened flakes. Even seven layer bars! No amount of chocolate could disguise the texture and flavor. My aunt would look at my incredulously and say "If you're a Diesslin, you like coconut." Growing up my mom would eat coconut straight out of the bag and I never understood why. Now I do the same thing, sometimes sprinkling it on my bowl of cereal.
For my first attempt at macaroons I went with this recipe from the Kitchn, mostly because it seemed the easiest. I whisked the egg whites, sugar, salt and vanilla with a fork instead of a mixer. That way you don't have to deal with beating the egg whites "until they form soft peaks" and you end up with a chewier, denser cookie. Win-win. I also "folded" in more coconut than the three cups called for in the original recipe. Then use a spoon to scoop out little pieces on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper.
Bake the cookies at 325 degrees for about 15 minutes. Pull them from the oven and set them on a wire rack to cool. Or if you're impatient like me, stick them in the fridge so they cool faster. You could stop there if you like plain macaroons. But why settle for macaroons when you could have macaroons dipped in chocolate?!
So delicious and so easy! I love how you can make these ahead of time and store them in the fridge for later.