One of the greatest gifts that we can give is good food. That is especially true during these trying times. 

With so many of us suffering from income-reductions, diminished food supplies or, God help us, illness, perhaps there’s no better time to bake something special for Mother’s Day.

My mother, who is marking her seventh Mother’s Day in heaven, absolutely adored anything coconut. That likely is why my mind turned toward macaroons.

One of the most coco-nutty cookies you can find, macaroons also are often confused with their sweet sister, the macaron.

With one single vowel to differentiate them, macaroons are decidedly different than macarons.

A rustic-shaped cookie, made from a single dollop of coconut-filled dough, the macaroon is almost a complete opposite of macarons, which are far more precisely made, and feature two airy sandwich cookies sandwiched together by a sweet, creamy filling that is often dyed into bright hues. 

What is interesting is that while the rustic-shaped macaroon and the more precisely-made macaron look and taste completely different, they are sisters that come from the same “mother” recipe: the original Italian macaroon.

Known in Italy and France by the early 1300s, the original macaroon was made from chopped almonds and egg whites.

Producing its first “daughter” when shredded coconut started to become widely available in the U.S. in the 19th century, it was used to replace the almonds in the recipe with coconut. A second “daughter” cookie was born in Paris, replacing almond paste with smoother almond flour and powdered sugar, and the addition of a creamy filling.

The original mother recipe appeared in print as early as 1725 (Robert Smith’s “Court Cookery,” or “The Complete English Cook”) and called for egg whites and ground almond. Cookbooks also help to record that the addition of coconut was first added to the ground almonds before it eventually replaced almonds altogether. 

Potato starch sometimes was added to the recipe to help give the macaroon more body. 

Macarons were given an additional “lift” by the addition of brightly colored hues, making this sweet little cookie even more eye-appealing.

Creating an interesting family of fabulous cookie flavors, all distinctly different and delicious in their own right, here are recipes for this special treat.

Enjoy and Happy Mother’s Day!

Email Laurakurella@yahoo.com. Read Laura Kurella’s blog, “Kurella’s Kitchen Encounters,” at www.sturgisjournal.com.

Original Italian macaroon

Prep: 4 minutes; Cook: 30 minutes; Total: 34 minutes; Yield: 30 cookies

3 cups of blanched slivered almonds

1 1/4 cup sugar

3 egg whites

Preheat oven to 300 degrees and line baking sheets with parchment paper. In a food processor add almonds and process until coarsely ground. Add sugar and process until mixture becomes very finely ground. While processor is running, add egg whites one at a time, and continue to process until smooth dough is formed.

Using a teaspoon measure, drop dollops of dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Dust top of dough with sugar, if desired, then bake for 20 to 24 minutes, or until cookies become lightly golden brown. Cool completely and store in a cool, dry place. (Note: I usually under-bake mine since I like them chewy. If that's your preference, bake them for about 20-24 minutes.)

Crisp ‘n’ chewy coconut macaroons

Prep: 10 minutes; Bake: 20 minutes; Total: 30 minutes; Yield: 18 servings.

1-1/3 cups sweetened shredded coconut

1/3 cup sugar

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon salt

2 large egg whites, room temperature

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

In a small bowl, combine the coconut, sugar, flour, and salt. Add egg whites and vanilla; mix well. Drop by rounded teaspoonfuls onto greased baking sheets. Bake at 325 degrees for 18-20 minutes or until golden brown. Cool on a wire rack.

Marvelous French macarons

Prep: 30 minutes; Rest: 1 hour; Cook: 20 minutes; Total: 1 hr., 50 minutes; Yield: 30 cookies

Cookie:

1 3/4 cups powdered sugar

1 cup almond flour

1 teaspoon unrefined salt, divided use

3 egg whites, room temperature

1/4 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

2 drops food coloring (optional)

Filling:

1 cup unsalted butter, room temperature

3 cups powdered sugar

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

3 tablespoons heavy cream

For cookie: In the bowl of a food processor, combine powdered sugar, almond flour, and 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Process until extra fine. Move contents to a large bowl. In a separate large bowl, using a hand mixer, beat egg whites with the remaining 1/2 teaspoon of salt until soft peaks form. With mixer running, gradually add granulated sugar until fully incorporated. Continue to beat until stiff peaks form (you should be able to turn the bowl upside down without anything falling out). Add vanilla and beat until incorporated. Add food coloring, if using, and beat until just combined. Add about one third of the almond flour mixture to beaten egg whites and, using a spatula, gently fold in until combined. Add another third of the almond flour mixture and fold in. With last addition of almond flour continue to fold slowly until batter falls into ribbons and you can make a figure eight while holding the spatula up. Transfer batter into a piping bag fitted with a round tip. Pipe macaron batter onto the parchment paper in 1 1/2-inch circles, spacing at least 1-inch apart. Tap baking sheet on a flat surface 5 times to release any air bubbles then let pan rest at room temperature for 30 minutes to 1 hour, or until dry to the touch. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Bake macarons for 17 minutes, or until the “feet” are well-risen, and the macarons no longer stick to the parchment paper. Transfer macarons to a wire rack to cool completely before filling.

For filling: In a large mixing bowl, beat butter until light and fluffy. Add powdered sugar and beat until fully incorporated. Add vanilla, beating to combine. Add cream, 1 tablespoon at a time, and beat until desired consistency is reached. Transfer filling to a piping bag fitted with a round tip. Add a dollop of filling to one macaron shell and top it with another macaron shell to create a sandwich. Repeat with remaining macaron shells and buttercream. Place in an airtight container for 24 hours to “bloom.” Enjoy!