There is a snowdrift of coconut swirling around my worktable. A ginormous commercial mixing bowl is filled to capacity with a medley of unsweetened shred, desiccated chip, and sweetened flake coconut. Although the ingredients sound more like packing materials than cookie fixings, they will ultimately bake up into appropriate Passover dessert fare. Keeping track of the macaroons sprinting from my one-ounce scoop onto parchment lined sheet pans is a challenge. I scribble numbers on wax paper with a coconut covered Sharpie marker. It’s not the Sharpie’s fault; everything I touch leaves behind a coconut fingerprint. My macaroon tracking system is imperfect to be sure, but the hope is the numbers will correspond to a detailed master list of holiday orders. As I scoop, I’m contemplating Variations on a Theme of Coconut.
A gentleman enroute to the restroom pauses by my table, glances at the bowl and asks, “Whatcha got there?”
“Macaroons,” I reply, without looking up.
“Oh,” he responds knowingly. “The pastel-y ones, the pretty ones, with the filling. What kind of filling?” he implores.
“Not macaron,” I reply. “Macarooooon.” My emphasis on “ooooon” is unmistakable but he doesn’t get it.
Nooo,” I continue. “Mac-a-rooooon. Coconut, not almond. Scooped, not filled. For Passover.”
“Enjoy your holiday,” he says and walks away.
In my fantasy world, I call after him. “HEY! Don’t come waltzing back here again until you learn the difference between macarons and macaroons! This is not difficult stuff, pal. Both cookies share European lineage, but the macaron is typically made with almond flour, egg whites, and sugar. In a macaroon, coconut plays the starring role, supported by sweetened condensed milk and egg whites. You could say macarons walk the fashion cookie runway, strutting about in pastels, accessorizing with buttercream, ganache, or jam. Macaroons are more casual Friday, less fashionista, a comfortable cookie that doesn’t wear make-up. The macaron is jewel-like, to be nibbled; the macaroon is a chewy cookie, chock full of history and tradition. Both cookies laugh in the face of leavening, relying simply on egg whites for lift. Made without flour, both the macaron and the macaroon are gluten-free. (Imagine their popularity, based on that fact alone.) If macarons could talk, they would boast a distinctive French accent. If macaroons were doing the talking, I suspect they would gesture with their hands while offering grandfatherly advice. No doubt, macaroons would tell you not to worry about the other kids, particularly the macarons.
In trying not to touch my face with a coconut-covered glove, I realize there’s something about this whole macaroon process that makes my nose itch. I’m fairly certain it’s from residual coconut fumes congregating around my face. Setting down the purple scoop, I use my left hand to remove the food service glove from my right hand and reach into my pocket, fumbling about for a Kleenex. There is none to be found, but now there’s a wad of coconut in my pocket. I don a fresh pair of gloves, give the macaroon mix a little stir, and return to my coconut reverie.
The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that macarons can be patronizing, a touch condescending towards macaroons. Macarons demand pristine packaging with elaborate wax paper liners and sweeping bows. Macaroons fit agreeably inside a no-frills bakery box or a humble brown paper bag. There’s a lot of pomp associated with macarons and honestly, aren’t they just sandwich cookies all dressed up, with no particular place to go? Macaroons have a destination, a Seder, and they better not show up late.
Macaroons border on, dare-I-say, dowdiness. They’re happy-go-lucky in their coconut selves, and for decades, enjoyed little embellishment other than the occasional drizzle of dark chocolate. Macaroons will jostle together in airtight containers, packaged without bells and whistles, arriving at the Passover dessert table in fine fiddle. You don’t tiptoe around macaroons the way you tiptoe around macarons.
According to my Sharpie marker and wax paper/scrap paper, I believe Friday’s and Saturday’s macaroon orders are complete. That’s critical at this stage of the double holiday weekend. After a thousand macaroons, I’m beginning to feel just the slightest bit flakey. Unfortunately, many of my peeps, (not the marshmallow variety) will come barging into the bakery today and tomorrow, desperately seeking macaroons. My purple handled scoop has many macaroon miles still to travel. I am counting down the hours between now and 4 pm on Saturday. If you're looking for me, just follow the trail of coconut.
Professional Pie-isms & Seasonal Sarcasm