You say Macaron and I say Macaroon but despite the almost identical spelling and similar pronunciation, the end result is worlds apart. That didn’t use to be the case. The Macaron is a treat made popular in the streets of Paris that is a combination of egg whites and ground almond that are piped onto a baking surface and baked until they puff slightly and develop their characteristic ‘feet.’ Once cooked two of the resulting cookies are joined together with a filling and the combination and colors of the cookies and filling are endless. The Macaroon originated in Italy. Called a Maccarone in Italian, meaning ‘paste’ which refers to the original paste ingredient, it was once more similar to the Macaron; combining sugar and egg whites with ground almonds or coconut and scooped onto a tray for baking. Along the way, at least in this country, the coconut became synonymous with this treat and the rest is history.
I’m not one to jump on the latest craze, sometimes I think my independent spirit is more likely to veer far away from anything that appears to be a fad. I was admonished throughout my childhood albeit teasingly as the girl who always had to ‘do it MYSELF.’ I suppose with that streak comes a desire to be un-fad; to do my own thing. Still when I saw friends taking on the challenge of the much heralded Macaron, I couldn’t help but give them a try. I was not happy. Expensive (almond flour is simply very finely ground almonds), timely and seemingly always a question as to whether they would be successful, I tried twice with what I would have to call ‘just OK’ results and that was it, the thrill was gone. The end result simply did not warrant the time and money. Besides that? I love all things meringue (Give me a pavlova anyday!) and all things coconut so my heart belongs to the more lowly but I have always thought the more delicious of the two, the Macaroon. Besides look how elegant it looks and yes, I purposely found a plate with a French flair; Macarons have nothing on this baby!
Over the years I’ve made a few; the standard cookie size treat that you can now even find packaged in some markets. When fresh they are wonderful but most packaged products are simply too dry and the Macaroon loses one of the fundamentals of why it is so delightful. The soft, chewy interior that is discovered once you bite beyond the toasted coconut exterior. Good but not divine in any way. When I’ve made them in years past I knew they were something for immediate consumption and I’ve always had willing parties to help me in that effort.
Still, my ‘Macaroon Moment’ came at an unlikely time and place. My daughter Lauren worked at Nordstrom’s off and on through high school and college and after a short stint with Neiman Marcus after college; she was back at Nordstrom’s working in the department that did all things design. Windows, mannequins, floor displays and yes, the gigantic Christmas displays that you thought elves must have brought about over Thanksgiving Day. When she first started there, between school and work, we had to get creative to catch time with each other and I remember the first time she asked me to meet her at Nordstrom’s Cafe for lunch. What the what? I didn’t even know they had a cafe but as it turns out, that spot on the third floor became a favorite of mine.
That first lunch though? Probably the first time I tried a salad with pear, walnuts and blue cheese and it became such a favorite I’m not sure how many times I have ordered anything else. But maybe most memorable? That giant, bigger than an ice cream scoop even, Macaroon. Lightly toasted with just one half coated in semi-sweet chocolate. Certainly enough for two to share. I love desserts but seldom order them when out but my girls could always get me to cave for them, so we ordered one. It was divine. Crisp, ooey, gooey, chocalatey (an editor would have a field day with me wouldn’t they?). Not just good. Amazing. True confession? I bought another just for me after we parted. One to savor without sharing. Yes I did!
I’ve always wanted to recreate that treat, especially since my girl is not only gone from Nordstrom’s but from Denver (sob). She even gave me the Nordstrom’s cookbook as a gift several years ago and there is a recipe in there…but it never happened. So why now? Providence is a funny thing. It is as simple as having a bar of Baker’s Sweet German Chocolate sitting in my pantry next to a bag of coconut. It reminded me not only of wanting to make those Macaroons with chocolate but of German Chocolate Cake at the same time and, well, what can I say? German Chocolate Macaroons it is!
A bit more over the top than my inspiration but I’m not complaining. I’ve kept them big but added pecans to the mix and then simply drizzled with both melted chocolate and some lightly caramelized condensed milk. If you love Macaroons and love German Chocolate Cake (which, after all, is ALL about the frosting), I can promise you that you will love these.
I do and I did and I am so glad I had help in devouring them because I do believe otherwise I would have had to admit, ‘I can’t believe I ate the whole thing!’
German Chocolate Macaroons
For the Caramelized Milk Drizzle
- 1 can sweetened condensed milk (set aside 1/4 cup for Macarons)
For the Macaroons
- 1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
- 2 egg whites
- 2 Tbsp all purpose flour
- 2 Tbsp sugar
- 2 Tbsp butter, melted
- 1 tsp vanilla
- Pinch of salt
- 7 oz sweetened and shredded coconut (toast 2 oz; optional)
- 1/2 cup toasted, finely chopped pecans
For the Chocolate Drizzle
- 2 oz Baker's Sweet German Chocolate
- 2 Tbsp butter
To make the caramelized milk drizzle:
- Put the sweetened condensed milk into a saucepan on medium low heat and simmer without boiling but whisking regularly for 30 minutes or just until milk starts to darken slightly. DO NOT let burn!
For the Macaroons:
- Whisk together the sweetened condensed milk, egg whites, flour. sugar, butter, vanilla and salt in a medium bowl until well blended.
- Add the coconut and pecans and mix well. Chill dough for an hour.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Scoop coconut mixture using 1/4 cup measure; form into balls and put on parchment paper or Silpat. Bake for 20-25 minutes, just until tops are golden brown. Remove from the oven and let cool for 5 minutes.
For the chocolate drizzle:
- Melt the chocolate and butter in a small saucepan over LOW heat; stirring constantly. Keep warm on the lowest heat..
To Finish the Macaroons:
- Drizzle the macaroons with the caramelized condensed milk; refrigerate for 5 minutes.
- Finish by drizzling with the melted chocolate then refrigerate for 5 more minutes.
You may have extra of the caramelized milk; save it for some ice cream!