Thursday, May 8, 2014

Chewy Almond Macaroons --Gluten and Dairy Free! From Saveur Magazine and Yewande Komolafe

Photo Copywright: Saveur Magazine/Bonnier Publications 

One of the joys of the Internet, is the arrival, almost daily, of recipes from my favorite Food magazines, one of which is Saveur. A few weeks ago, a recipe for Macaroons landed in my email box.  I sent it on to Andrew and the next weekend he made a batch.  They were moist, and chewy and deeply, richly almond-y.  They were also completely gluten-free containing not even a dusting of flour.  And they were also dairy-free—there’s not so much as a smidgen of butter in them. I don’t go out of my way to zero in on gluten-free recipes but maybe I should.  My friend Hugh informed me that he’s lost 27 lbs. since he went on a gluten-free diet.  So there are clearly benefits for those omnivores among us with no gluten allergies at all.

         I’ve lived in New York a very long time and I’m not alone in associating Macaroons with Passover.  I never thought to wonder why but these cookies aroused my curiosity.   As it turns out, the Macaroon macaroons, having no flour or leavening, make the perfect Pesach treat.  Larousse Gastronomique gives credit for the cookie to France (Bien Sur!) reporting that the earliest recipe traces back to a convent in Commercy, France in the year 791 AD.  The Italians however may have an even stronger claim.  When Catherine de Medici married King Henri II of France in 1533, she brought her Italian pastry chefs with her.  It’s unclear whether the first macaroon was made in Italy or France but Italy seems to have a stronger claim to the cookie because its name is derived from the Italian word ‘ammaccare’ which means ‘to crush’.  This is a reference to the almond paste, which is crushed in order to make the confection.  Almonds had a long history in Italy, having been brought to Venice by Arab invaders in the 7th Century.
Yewande Komolafe
         Wherever they came from, macaroons for Passover spread all over Europe.  By the end of the 19th century, especially here in North America, coconut replaced the almond purely because the almond version was fragile and hard to transport.  Saveur’s recipe is from a Nigerian-American pastry chef named Yewande Komolafe.   You may never have heard her name but you have almost surely heard of Momofuku Milk Bar, Chef David Chang’s adventurous bakery that’s up to 6 locations in the City, including the latest one that opened last week at Madison Square Market in Madison Square Park.  Pastry Chef Komolafe ‘staged’ in France and the macaroon recipe was given to her by a French boulanger .  The cookie is intensely flavored, with a crunchy exterior and chew-y amaretto-flavored interior.  But what amazes me—the non-baker—is
Roan, Zoe and Blythe bake while
their Mom looks on.
how incredibly easy and fun they are to make.
  You don’t even need a mixer, using your hands to knead all the ingredients together.  Just don’t over mix and you’ll end up with a perfect cookie.  I had a whole kitchen crew make them.  As you can see, siblings Blythe, Roan and Zoe loved making macaroons and did a great job with them.  Off we went to Easter lunch, armed with our cookies. Here is the recipe:  

Chewy Almond Macaroons from Saveur Magazine and Yewande Komolafe
Makes about 20 Macaroons. 
18 oz. almond paste (not marzipan; see note)
½ cup superfine sugar
½ tsp. salt
4 tbsp. amaretto liqueur
1 cup powdered sugar

Preheat oven to 375°F. Combine the almond paste, sugar and salt in a large mixing bowl and, using your hands, knead together until mixture is just incorporated. 

Add in the liqueur and gently work it into the paste to form a smooth dough.

Sift the powdered sugar into a mixing bowl. 

Using a ½ oz. metal scoop, scoop out individual portions of the dough and place each in the bowl of powdered sugar. 

Coat each ball completely with powdered sugar and place on a parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving a 1-inch space between each macaroon. Pinch together the sides of each macaroon with your fingers and thumb, leaving a finger-indented well in the center like a little volcano. Let the macaroons sit out for 20 minutes to dry out. Bake until golden brown, about 10–12 minutes. Remove from oven and let cool completely. Serve immediately, or store in an airtight container.

Note: Almond paste is similar to marzipan but contains less sugar and no fillers. (Some versions of almond paste do contain cream or eggs; to make this recipe vegan, ensure that your almond paste contains no eggs or dairy.) Marzipan will not work for this recipe.


  1. Andrew made us some and they were delicious.

  2. I hope I can wait until they are baked.. even the raw dough looks amazing! Thank you Monte!

    1. Dear Ana, I thought of you when I was posting this. You will love these! All best, Monte