Passover Almond Macaroons
In Jewish homes in France and all around the world, recipes for macaroons have been handed down from mother to daughter for centuries. Jewish macaroons are descended from the Ladino marunchinos and almendredas, both terms for almond cookies. In fact, during the Inquisition, historian David Gitlitz told me, crypto-Jews were accused of having bought almond cookies from the Jewish quarter in Barbastro, in Aragón. The modern Jewish macaroon is specifically associated with Boulay, a town about twenty-five miles north of Nancy. It seems that a Jewish wine salesman named Bines Lazard opened in 1854 Maison Lazard, along with his wife, Françoise, and their son Léopold, where they sold macaroons, matzo, and wholesale wine. In 1989, the folklorist Auricoste de Lazarque tasted their macaroons, and proclaimed them the best in France, making the company enormously successful. During World War I, the Lazard family sold the wine business, and in 1932, they abandoned the matzo trade. Some thirty years later, the business, which included its secret recipe for macaroons, was sold to Jean Alexandre, who opened a shop in Boulay where macarons de Boulay are baked and sold to this day. Made from the traditional mixture of almonds, sugar and egg whites, they are slightly robust, a departure from the flat and shiny French macaroons that are so popular today. Although the Alexandres would not give me their secret recipe, Yves Alexandre (no relation), from Strasbourg, had me taste his, which are very similar but made by hand, rather than machine.
- 4 large egg whites
- 1¼ cups sugar
- 2 cups ground almonds or almond flour
- ¼ teaspoon almond extract
- Preheat the oven to 300 degrees, and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Whip the egg whites to almost-stiff peaks in the bowl of an electric mixer. In another bowl, stir together the sugar, ground almonds and almond extract. Fold the sugar-and-almond mixture gently into the egg whites in three batches. Drop teaspoons of the batter onto the baking sheet, and bake for about 15 minutes, or until just dry.
- Reprinted with permission from Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France by Joan Nathan (Knopf, 2010).