Bake Passover Macaroons with Dan Cohen's Macaroon Bible

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

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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.

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