Sephardic Almond Macaroons
Macaroons are one of Passover’s go-to sweets, whether delicate puffs of unadulterated egg whites and sugar or chewy mounds of shredded coconut. These almond macaroons bake up more like a cookie with a slightly crisp outside and satisfying chewy texture. The combination of no flour and no leavening makes these cookies perfect for Passover, although they are one of my year-round favorites. Cooking with ground nuts and nut pastes was popular in medieval Jewish and Islamic cultures across Iberia, North Africa and the Mediterranean. At the time, beaten eggs and egg whites were the primary way to leaven baked goods. When the Inquisition forced the Jews to convert to Christianity or leave Spain with few possessions, the fleeing Jews carried with them recipes like this one.
- 2 cups almond meal
- ¾ cup granulated sugar
- Pinch of salt
- 4 large egg whites
- Scant ½ teaspoon almond extract
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Confectioners' sugar for dusting (optional)
- About 24 whole almonds or almond slices (optional)
- Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Position oven racks in the middle of the oven. Line 2 large baking sheets pans with parchment paper (preferred) or lightly grease the pans.
- Use a whisk to combine almond meal, sugar and salt in a mixing bowl. Add egg whites and extracts and whisk together just until well blended. Do not over-mix once the whites are added. (Alternatively, in a food processor with the metal blade, pulse to combine almond meal with granulated sugar and salt. Add egg whites and extracts, and pulse a few times. Stop to scrape down the side and anything stuck on the bottom. Pulse a few more times just until the mixture is well blended and a bit lighter.)
- Drop the mixture by full teaspoon about 2 inches apart on baking sheet. Use the back of the spoon to gently swirl the mound into rounded shapes about 2 to 2½ inches in diameter. Gently lay 1 almond or almond slice onto each cookie if desired.
- Bake in the middle of oven. After 10 minutes, turn the baking sheet and bake another 10 minutes or until pale golden on the bottom edges. Cool on the sheets for about 10 minutes, then gently transfer macaroons to racks and cool completely. Macaroons keep 4 days in an airtight container at room temperature or about a week in the refrigerator. When storing, separate layers in a container with parchment paper.