Behold: The Macaroon!
If there is a pizza cognition theory, there is undoubtedly a cookie cognition theory too. And if there is a cookie cognition theory, mine would inevitably place the classic Italian pitzel front and center. Buttery, slightly sweet, and with a strong taste of anise and eggs, the pitzels ol’ Grandma Nettina made on that Cold War era machine were half the reason for getting up on Christmas morning (the other half, of course, being a buttload of presents delivered by Santa himself, aka ol’ Grandpa Nettina).
My childhood was filled with other cookie encounters, of course, but they usually revolved around chocolate chip or Oreo variants, and seldom ever included anything that failed to include butter, chocolate, or some kind of cream filling. And if they did – for instance, Grandma’s rum balls – they were unquestionably ‘adult’ cookies, surely the work of old people on diets who had lost their taste buds, sanity, or – God forbid – their teeth.
Looking back on a childhood filled with the kinds of conceptions of foods that would make Tommy Pickles look like a regular Jay Rayner, I can identify that at some point I placed the macaroon on the list of ‘adult’ cookies not to be trifled with. Even as I aged, and my father began what would become a yearly obsession with perfecting Sarah Foster’s Macaroon recipe, I remained tied to my childhood conceptions of ‘exotic’ cookies, in the process convincing myself I not only disliked coconut, but playing the role of Ebenezer Scrooge when it came to my family’s Christmastime baking habits.
Well bah humbug to me, because a macaroon is a beautiful thing. Case in point, the Two-Bite brand cookies they sell at a number of grocery stores, including Whole Foods. Now, to be fair, these aren’t the Sarah Foster kind of gigantic, richly sweet macaroons that my father makes. His rendition – which I finally allowed to guide my Christmas cookie tasting odyssey this past Holiday season – is damn good, but these Two-Bite cookies are remarkable for something you can get in the store.
With a chewy, grainy texture that allows you to suck up the floral notes of the toasted anise in every bite, their bright taste and crispy outside texture create a delicate and crispy crumb that will leave you wishing you had a smaller mouth and/or more restraint. Oh well, I guess that’s why they sell them by the tub.