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Blood Orange Macaroons

2011 May 10

I am such a sucker for citrus. Oranges and me: BFFs.  Now, I heartily support eating locally and seasonally. Really, I do.

Farmers’ markets and me: BFFs.

But then there’s citrus. This smack-dab-in-the-Midwest-no-orange-grove-to-be-found girl breaks the rules for citrus. Oranges, lemons and limes, I must have them. And when blood oranges and honey tangerines hit the grocery chains, I’m right there. (Yes, that would be me, the one with the cart blocking your access to these treasures.)

Here’s the thing about citrus: it’s a cook’s and baker’s ally in the kitchen. It flavors everything from salads and dressings to meat marinades to sweets and desserts. An orange-almond macaroon makes perfect sense to this citrus-lovin’ girl.

I first made these tender almond morsels in early Spring, when a warm snap prompted Mother Nature to come alive in bloom, both trees (hello, cherry blossoms) and lawn. Blue violets are common in my area — my neighbors treat them as weeds, but I [heart] the deep purple patches they create among the green.

Oh! Big tip to share: you can make confectioners’ sugar (a.k.a. powdered or icing sugar) at home. Take regular granulated sugar (natural cane or raw sugar is perfectly fine) and grind it in your food processor or blender until it reaches powder form. You’ll want to make only what you’ll use immediately, as it easily absorbs moisture, clumping together in hard knots.

Commercial confectioners’ sugar is mixed with a small percentage of cornstarch, which serves as an anti-caking agent for longer storage. This step is unnecessary for small quantities, and the absence of cornstarch is helpful when baking for someone with corn sensitivities.

Even though blood orange juice is a deep red, like wine, the smallish quantity will not color the almond-based dough. It is, however, enough to add a hint of citrus tang, which plays so well with the sweetness of the almond paste.

Blood Orange Macaroons

adapted from

Heidi Swanson’s recipe called for limoncello, which I happen to have on hand. Lemon juice is a fine substitute — I’ve made them both ways.

1 large egg white
14 oz almond paste (make sure you purchase paste and not marzipan)
1/2 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted, plus extra for surface and coating
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract
1 teaspoon blood orange zest
1 teaspoon lemon zest
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed blood orange juice
1 tablespoon limoncello (or freshly squeezed lemon juice or additional blood orange juice)
1/2 teaspoon fine grain sea salt

Line one half sheet or two smaller baking sheets with parchment paper or a silicone mat and set aside. Beat the egg white, the almond paste, confectioners’ sugar, and almond extract together, until creamy, about 2 minutes.

Add the zests, blood orange juice, limoncello and salt and beat until combined, another 30 seconds.

Place some extra confectioners’ sugar into a small bowl. Spread a generous handful of confectioners’ sugar over a clean surface, then turn out the dough onto it. Shape and roll the dough into two 3/4-inch thick logs, roughly 18 inches long. Cut each log into 1″ wide pieces. Dip each piece into the sugar bowl, coating it thoroughly.

Transfer the macaroons to the prepared baking sheet(s). These cookies will not spread during baking, so you can arrange them very closely together. Let stand for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350F / 180C degrees. Use three fingers to gently pinch each piece of dough to form an irregular pyramid shape, or leave them pillow shaped. Bake until pale golden, 15-17 minutes. Transfer the cookies from the baking sheet(s) to wire racks, and let cool completely. These cookies keep well in an air-tight container for a week.

Makes 3 dozen two-bite cookies.

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