The word "macaroon" is used to describe a wide variety of light, baked goods. The word comes from the Italian maccarone, meaning paste; the earliest recorded macaroons were made from almond paste and egg whites, similar to amaretti. Some historians claim macaroons can be traced back to Italian monasteries where they were modeled after the monks' belly buttons. Italian Jews adopted the macaroon because it has no flour or leavening so can be eaten during Passover. Soon it was introduced to other European Jews and became popular year-round. Some cooks added coconut to recipes, occasionally replacing the almonds altogether. Today, what exactly a "macaroon" refers to varies from country to country. Coconut macaroons are the most popular type in North America, Britain, Germany, and the Netherlands, partly because they're easier to make and transport than the fragile almond meringues.
The three principle ingredients in traditional coconut macaroons are coconut, egg whites, and sugar. To me, as well as to many others, the use of coconut milk makes these macaroons even better and more coconut-intense than the traditional type. The coconut flavor is so delicious you may not want to disturb it with chocolate, but I like to half-dip the macaroons to create a more elegant and appealing look, and to break up the coconut intensity without covering it up. And although it may be overkill, I like to add a dash of orange oil or zest to the chocolate. In my opinion, the flavor combination of coconut, chocolate, and orange is unbeatable.
Makes about 2 dozen small cookies
Prep time: 15 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
1/2 can coconut milk (about 3/4 cup, 200 g)
1/3 cup (100 g) maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons arrowroot powder (or cornstarch)
1/4 cup brown rice flour (substitute any type of flour—its used mainly as a thickener here)
1 tablespoon vanilla
2 tablespoons unrefined cane sugar or brown sugar
2 cups (160 g) unsweetened shredded coconut (the finer the better unless you want a very chewy macaroon)
1/2 cup vegan chocolate chips or 3 oz (85g) chopped chocolate
1/4 teaspoon orange oil or zest of 1 orange
Stir together the coconut milk, maple syrup, and salt in a medium stainless-steel saucepan. Heat until it's just about to boil, then reduce heat to low. Whisk in the arrowroot powder and brown rice flour until there are no more lumps, then add the vanilla. Continue to cook, whisking often, until thickened. Remove from heat.
Preheat oven to 350F.
Stir in the sugar, then the coconut flakes. Pack a tablespoon-measure with batter and place on a greased or parchment-lined cookie sheet, and mold slightly with your hands to form a circular mound (or whatever shape you want—the shape will not change much after baking). Bake for 18-20 minutes, or until the edges are well browned. They should have a crusty outside and soft center.
If you want to dip them in chocolate, fill a small saucepan an inch or two high with water and place a small, heat-proof bowl on top to create a double boiler. Bring water to a boil, then reduce to barely simmering. Place the chocolate in the bowl (and orange oil or zest, if using) and with a spatula, gently stir until consistently creamy, then remove from heat. You might want to add half the orange oil and taste it, adding a few drops at a time, until you get the desired intensity, as orange oils seem to vary in strength from brand to brand. To half-dip, roll half of the top of each macaroon in the melted chocolate. The chocolate will harden if the macaroons are left at room temperature for a few hours. If you're pressed for time, set the cookie sheet in the fridge.