Martha’s Macaroons

Treat your friends and fam­ily to a snack fit for a pres­id­ent.

Hip, hip, huzzah! On Pres­id­ent’s Day, we shout out a hearty hur­rah to George, our first pres­id­ent. We set aside a day in Feb­ru­ary each year to hon­or our Found­ing Fath­ers, and so we should. But wait. What about Martha?

We all know that be­hind every suc­cess­ful man there’s a great wo­man. Martha was George’s. She was quite a good catch, by George! With a great busi­ness savvy, she ran a huge, thriv­ing to­bacco plant­a­tion, left to her by her first hus­band. Col­on­el George mar­ried 27-year-old Martha Dandridge Custis, and the rest is his­tory. She was smart, wealthy and a very good cook. George mar­ried well.

Martha took care of George. She made sure he had all kinds of fish, and In­di­an hoe cakes (corn­meal pan­cakes), swim­ming in honey and but­ter, both of which he loved. The couple en­joyed mocha cof­fee from the Red Sea, port and Madeira wine, port­er beer, ale, cheese from Eng­land, French brandy, olives, capers, cur­rants, coconuts, fruits, nuts, limes and turtle. Martha kept quite a kit­chen.

This winter would have been a won­der­ful year for one of their fa­vor­ite desserts – ice cream. Wash­ing­ton ac­tu­ally had chunks of ice re­moved from the river and kept in his ice house to be mixed later with cream, sug­ar and fruit. Por­tions were lim­ited.

Martha had in­her­ited a cook­book, a fam­ily heir­loom, from her first moth­er-in-law. She used it for 50 years be­fore passing it to grand­daugh­ter Nelly Parke Custis. Martha was known to bake and cook on oc­ca­sion but cook­ing was or­din­ar­ily done by ser­vants. She did, per­son­ally, su­per­vise her whole staff, es­pe­cially in the kit­chen and din­ing rooms. 

Be­sides be­ing known for her fam­ous pound cake that used 40 eggs and five pounds of flour (al­most as fam­ous as Stock’s), Martha’s re­cipes in­cluded: fruit pre­serves, fruit­cakes, sug­ar cake and cook­ies, ginger bread, ma­car­oons, lady fin­gers, cheese cake, pies, tarts, and ice cream. Rose wa­ter was a fa­vor­ite fla­vor­ing agent back in her day. She didn’t use vanilla ex­tract or bak­ing powder, be­cause they were not avail­able yet. 

In a nod to “shout out” equal­ity, this column cel­eb­rates our first First Lady with a bar-cook­ie ver­sion of ma­car­oons that in­cludes chocol­ate. Martha would have called them “mack­roons.”


Bot­tom Lay­er:

1 cup semi­sweet chocol­ate chips

l/4 cup but­ter (l/2 stick)

½ cup crushed chocol­ate gra­ham crack­ers (3 whole crack­ers)

1 cup sliced al­monds


3 egg whites

1 cup sug­ar

2 tsp. vanilla ex­tract

½ tsp. al­mond ex­tract

3 cups coconut

¾ cup flour

Chocol­ate Top­ping:

1½ cups semi-sweet, milk or dark chocol­ate chips

- Heat oven to 350 de­grees.

- Line 13” x 9” pan with foil and spray foil with non­stick cook­ing spray or use non­stick foil.     

Bot­tom Lay­er:

- Mi­crowave chocol­ate chips and but­ter for 30 seconds, stir, mi­crowave again 20-30 seconds or un­til melted. Avoid burn­ing chocol­ate.

- Stir in crumbs and al­monds.

- Spread mix­ture evenly to cov­er the bot­tom of foil-lined pan.

- Re­fri­ger­ate 15 minutes or un­til set.

Ma­car­oon Filling:

- Mean­while, in large bowl, beat egg whites un­til soft peaks form. Gradu­ally add sug­ar, beat­ing un­til stiff peaks form.

- Add vanilla and al­mond ex­tracts and blend well.  

- Stir in coconut and flour un­til well mixed.

- Spread filling evenly over chocol­ate-al­mond bot­tom lay­er.

- Bake 20-25 minutes or un­til lightly browned and cen­ter is set when lightly touched.

Chocol­ate Top­ping:

- Re­move pan from oven and dis­trib­ute chocol­ate chips evenly over ma­car­oon mix­ture.

- If chips won’t spread eas­ily, re­turn pan to oven for 30 seconds (be vi­gil­ant – chocol­ate burns if left too long in oven) so chocol­ate will melt and be spread­able.

- Smooth melted chocol­ate chips evenly over ma­car­oons.

- Cool and re­fri­ger­ate pan for a few hours.

- Cut in­to bars.

Al­ways held and car­ried in Martha’s heart, George will not be for­got­ten soon by us, either. We carry him around daily (with any luck, he’s hanging with his friend, Ben) in our wal­lets, and we are glad to see his face every time we “pass the buck.”

Eat well, live long, en­joy!

(Ques­tions or tips can be sent to Donna Zit­ter Bor­de­lon at Whats­cook­in­ or in care of the North­east Times, 2512 Met­ro­pol­it­an Drive, Tre­vose, PA 19053.)

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