The problem with Franco-American food trends, like the current one with macarons—those pastel puffs of sweet air that seem to be everywhere—is that its good ol' American predecessor, the macaroon, gets forgotten. The truth is, though, we never stopped loving the coconut macaroon. In fact, we craved its dense, moist chew. Retrofit the macaroon as a bite-size sandwich filled with a pucker-worthy tart lime curd, and you've caught a new trend headed straight for the stars.
Melt butter in a 1- to 2-quart heavy saucepan over medium-low heat, then cook over low heat, swirling pan occasionally, until butter has a nutty aroma and is a rich brown color, and bottom of pan is speckled with browned bits of the milk solids, 8 to 10 minutes.
2Transfer to a bowl, including browned milk solids on bottom, and chill until almost firm, about 30 minutes
3Whisk together flour and cornstarch in a bowl.
4Beat together butter and sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium-high speed until pale and fluffy, then beat in egg, salt, and vanilla.
5Add flour mixture and mix on low speed until just combined well.
6Form dough into 2 balls and flatten each into a 6-inch disk. Chill disks, wrapped in plastic wrap, until firmer, but not hard, 15 to 30 minutes.
7Heat oven to 350°F with rack in middle position. Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
8Roll out 1 disk of dough (keep remaining dough chilled) between 2 large sheets of wax paper 1/8 inch thick (this is when the rolling pin rings are really helpful).
9Freeze or chill dough on a baking sheet or tray until firm, 5 to 15 minutes, then cut out as many cookies as possible from dough
10Transfer cookies to lined baking sheet, arranging cookies about 1 inch apart. If the cookies become too warm to transfer, freeze or chill until firm (see Cooks' notes).
11Bake cookies, 1 sheet at a time, until edges are golden, 8 to 10 minutes, then transfer to racks to cool completely
12Meanwhile, gather scraps of dough and repeat cookie process above. Parchment can be reused, but make sure baking sheet cools between batches. Make more cookies with remaining dough.
Beat together all ingredients in a large bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until just combined, about 1 minute.
14Increase speed to high and continue to beat until icing holds stiff peaks, about 3 minutes in a stand mixer or 10 minutes with a handheld
15If not using icing immediately, cover surface with a dampened paper towel, then cover bowl with plastic wrap.
16Transfer icing to a heavy-duty resealable bag and press out excess air. Snip a 1/8-inch opening in bottom corner of bag, then twist bag firmly just above icing and decoratively pipe icing onto cookies
17If desired, sprinkle with sanding sugars or colorful sea salts while icing is still wet. (For tinted icing, see Cooks' notes.)
18Let icing dry completely (about 1 hour) before storing cookies.
19Cooks' notes: •Dough can be chilled up to 3 days.
•Rolling pin rings allow you to roll out your dough to an even thickness without bothering with rulers. And an evenly rolled-out dough makes for evenly baked cookies.
•For the sharpest, cleanest edges, freeze or chill cut cookies until firm before baking.
•Cookies keep, layered between sheets of wax paper or parchment, in a metal cookie tin at room temperature 1 week.
•Meringue powder can be found in the baking section of large craft stores, such as Michael's, or on Amazon.com.
•Icing can be made 1 day ahead and chilled, its surface covered with dampened paper towel and bowl covered with plastic wrap.
•To tint icing, transfer 1/4 cup icing to a small bowl for each color and tint with food coloring. Spoon each color of icing into a resealable bag, pressing out excess air, and proceed as described above.