Yield: 30 to 35 macaroons
Jews who settled in the American South embraced and creatively adapted the new foods they found there, pairing collard greens with their griebenes and grits with their herring. On Purim and especially Passover, pecans, native to the Southern United States, lent extra richness and depth to their traditional macaroon recipes. This easy version is “pralinized” Southern-style: almonds and white sugar are swapped out, replaced by local favorites, pecans and brown sugar. To avoid disappointment, taste the pecans before you start the recipe to make sure they are fresh.
1 3/4 cups whole pecans (about 250 grams)
1 tablespoon packed dark brown sugar
2/3 cup (about 134 grams) plus 1 tablespoon granulated light brown sugar (fine Demerara sugar can be substituted)
1 cup (about 100 grams) unsweetened shredded coconut
1 teaspoon amaretto or 1/2 teaspoon almond extract
4 large egg whites
Pinch of salt
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (gas mark 4; 180 degrees C). Line a baking sheet with foil. Toss the pecans with the dark brown sugar and spread them out in a single layer on the baking sheet. Toast until very fragrant, 10 to 12 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees F (gas mark 3; 170 degrees C).
In a food processor, grind the cooled pecans with half of the light brown sugar, using the pulse motion, until finely ground. Combine the ground nuts, coconut, and amaretto or almond extract in a bowl.
Beat the egg whites in another bowl with the salt until they form soft peaks. Gradually add the remaining sugar and continue beating until stiff but not dry. Gently fold the whites into the pecan-coconut mixture.
Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. (You will probably need either to use 2 cookie sheets or work in batches.) Drop heaping tablespoons of batter on the cookie sheet about 2 inches apart. Flatten the tops slightly. Bake for about 15 minutes, until just dry to the touch and light golden with pale brown edges. This will produce macaroons that are light and moist; if you prefer a crunchier texture, increase the baking time. Remove the sheet from the oven and transfer to a rack to cool or slide the parchment paper off.
Don’t remove the macaroons until they have cooled completely, then carefully separate them. They store well in airtight containers for at least 5 days.