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Bake Passover Macaroons with Dan Cohen's Macaroon Bible

Salted caramel macaroons
Salted caramel macaroons
All photos © Alice Gao, courtesy Houghton Mifflin Harcourt

Publishers love to send us cookbooks here at Fork in the Road, and often those books come straight from the chefs at some of New York's best restaurants. So we decided to share the love, and each week, we'll feature a new book, a recipe, and a few thoughts on cooking from the authors. Check back every Tuesday for a new book.

The Macaroon Bible By Dan Cohen, 152 pages, Houghton Mifflin Harcourt, $17.99

Dan Cohen never thought he would write a cookbook; never thought he'd make macaroons for a living. In fact, despite growing up in a Jewish household on Long Island, the Danny Macaroons owner and founder never really ate macaroons as a child.

He went off to college, and before returning home for Passover one spring, a friend was incredulous that he didn't grow up with the cookie. He went home and asked his mom about it, and she said he could make them himself if he wanted them. He did, and it became a family tradition. He began selling the cookies after a new coffee shop opened up in his neighborhood with no food, and he brought a plate to the shop as a bribe, in hopes of scoring free coffee. The cookies were so good, the shop asked for a standing order.

Thus began a thriving business based in coconut, and with Passover approaching, we thought it apt to give the unleavened coconut treat its due. Cohen's book came out last December, and it's a sweet treatise, written with flourish and whimsy, with the ins and outs of cookie making broken down into helpful photos and fun illustrations, a must for any coconut connoisseur or cookie fanatic.

Below, we chat with Cohen about the origins of a cookie, DIY caramel, and getting the right consistency.

Where did you get the original recipe for your macaroons? It's evolved quite a bit, even since I started [selling macaroons]. But even in the last htree years it's evolved a lot. But that original recipe, when I came from college and asked my mom why we never had macaroons for Passover, and she said, "I don't really know, but if you want them you should make them," I just pulled recipes from all of the place -- some that used condensed milk, some that didn't, and just tried to figure out a ratio and ingredient combination that seemed to make the most sense; I don't even remember where they were pulled from, probably some from the web, maybe a couple from cookbooks around the house.

What is one early digression you made when you started to experiment with dressing up the macaroon? Believe it or not, I thought the salted caramel was a crazy thing to do. I saw something online about a salted caramel macaroon, and there's no doubt in my mind that they were talking about French macarons. But I misunderstood it, and thought they were talking about coconut macaroons, and thought, well, maybe that's kind of a weird thing to do, but maybe it's good. So I started watching videos of people making caramel, because I did not go to culinary school, and I definitely didn't know how to do that at all. So I went to my stove and started messing around and, ultimately, worked out how to do that, and it was pretty awesome. It was really with that flavor that I started to think about what else I could put in or on a macaroon, or what other flavors might work. That, and then the spiced pumpkin one, which was the first on that was really different from the base macaroon, and that just came because I was so annoyed with all those people freaking out about spiced pumpkin lattes at Starbucks every fall...Like, why the hell not.

What must any would-be macaroon baker know about this particular cookie? I'm torn between saying, "It doesn't matter, whatever you do will be fine," and saying that really, a lot of it is about moisture content. You have to make sure they're not too wet, not too dry. If you're making a coconut macaroon, it's important that the mixture is wet enough but not soupy at all, and not too dry. It's needs to be in that zone of good moisture, and within that zone, you can do anything you want; doesn't matter what shape, or what size, they'll come out well. But that's really a matter of paying attention to what you do; I've opened up a can of condensed milk that has literally been orange; straight up orange, not that yellow milky color, and every time you open up a can, or a bag of coconut, it's a little bit different. Your eggs will be a little different, so it's a matter of paying attention to those ingredients and being consistent with what you've got.

Can you share any favored spring recipes, or recipes you especially like for Passover? There are a bunch that I really, really love. The chocolate-banana-nut ones are always at the top of my list for favorites. It's not super seasonal, since you can get bananas year-round, but they're just really awesome. I also really love the triple almond and amaretto macaroons. Those are surprisingly awesome; it's basically like you add some almonds, and some almond butter and some amaretto, and it doesn't really seem like those three would make something that's all that special, but they're really great. I've also just started making some with amarena cherries, for Easter, and those are really good. Those aren't in the book, but if you wanted to make them, you would just swap the chocolate ganache for the cherries in the chocolate bomb recipe. Cherry bombs!

On the next page, Cohen shares a recipe.

 

Chocolate bombs
Chocolate bombs

CHOCOLATE/CHERRY BOMBS Yield: 24 two-inch macaroons

When I was in seventh or eighth grade, there was a kid named Fritz. Fritz had a brother named Franz. Every Monday, Franz would ask me for $20 and promise to pay me back $40 the following Friday. Sure enough, every Friday Franz would give me $40. I never asked any questions -- this went on for months until Franz left school. I still don't know what Franz did with my money or why he doubled it for letting him use it for four days, but I can tell you this: The chocolate ganache inside these macaroons is very much like getting an extra $20 every Friday.

MACAROONS: One 14-ounce can sweetened condensed milk 1 teaspoon vanilla extract One 14-ounce bag sweetened shredded coconut 2 large egg whites 1⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt 4 ounces chocolate ganache (see Note below)

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F with a rack in the center of the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment.

2. In an extra-large bowl, measure out 10 1⁄2 ounces by weight of the condensed milk. If you don't have a scale, use approximately 8 ounces (1 cup) by liquid measure. Add the vanilla and incorporate with a rubber spatula. Add the coconut to the condensed milk mixture and combine until thoroughly mixed.

3. Add the egg whites and salt to the bowl of a stand mixer (or small bowl if you're using a hand beater) and whip on medium-high until very stiff peaks form, 2 1⁄2 to 3 minutes.

4. Using a rubber spatula, gently fold the whipped egg whites into the coconut mixture. After it's combined, push the mixture into one big blob to make it easier for you to portion out the macaroons.

5. Dip 2 spoons into a small bowl of water, shake them off, form the mixture into balls approximately 1 1⁄2 inches in diameter, and place them on the baking sheet about 1 inch apart. (You can also form them by hand, but be sure to wet your fingers frequently.)

6. Make a well in the center of each macaroon and fill with the ganache. Fold the sides of each macaroon up and over the ganache to hide it in the center. Place the sheet into the oven to bake for 19 to 23 minutes. After about 20 minutes, start checking for coloring. Look for an even, light golden color and for the undersides to be nicely tanned.

7. Remove from the oven and let the sheet rest on a cooling rack, leaving the macaroons on the sheet until they're cool enough for you to pull off (about 2 minutes depending on how sensitive your fingers are). Transfer the macaroons to the cooling rack to let cool completely. The macaroons will keep at room temperature for 3 to 5 days, for about 3 weeks in an airtight container in the fridge, and for a few months if stored in an airtight container in the freezer.

Note: To make the chocolate ganache, add 4 ounces dark chocolate to a large bowl. Heat 3 ounces (6 tablespoons) heavy cream in a saucepan until hot but not boiling. Remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate, whisking constantly until the chocolate is completely melted. Let cool before using. This makes about 7 ounces.

Or, for springy cherry bombs, substitute an equal amount of amarena cherries.

Excerpted from Macaroon Bible, © 2013 by Dan Cohen. Reproduced by permission of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt. All rights reserved.

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