The history of macarons

History of Macarons
Just the sight of these brightly coloured, impossibly light treats is enough to make your mouth water.
The varieties are endless.  And (mostly) delicious. Traditional flavours like salted caramel, blueberry, pistachio, vanilla, chocolate and raspberry are always popular. More innovative chefs have experimented with green tea, wasabi and foie gras. There has even been a Vegemite macaron!

Macaron or Macaroon?

Well, first, let’s clear up the confusion about their pronunciation and spelling.  Macaron or macaroon? While some experts say they are interchangeable, most agree an extra “o” makes all the difference! Both macarons and macaroons are confections, and both names are derived from ammaccare, which is Italian for “to crush”. But that’s where the similarities end.

Macaroon which rhymes with “soon” and is a dense shredded coconut biscuit.  Macaron rhymes with “ron”, but drop the “n” for the French pronunciation. This wonderful light French delight is created by sandwiching two meringue based biscuits together with jam, buttercream or ganache filling.

The Origin of the Macaron

While the macaron is accepted as an iconic French treat, there has been much debate about its origins.  Larousse Gastronomique cites the macaron as being created in 1791 in a convent near Cormery in the centre of France.  Some have traced its French debut to the arrival of Catherine de Medici.  Upon marrying Henry II of France in 1533, she brought her Italian pastry chefs and the early form of macarons with her.

In 1792, macarons began to gain fame. Two Carmelite nuns sought asylum in Nancy during the French Revolution. They baked and sold the macaron cookies to pay for their housing. These nuns became known as the “Macaron Sisters”. In these early stages, macarons were served without special flavors or fillings.

It was not until the 1830s that macarons began to be served two-by-two with the addition of jams, liqueurs, and spices. This is the macaron we know today. It is made of two almond meringue discs filled with a layer of buttercream, jam, or ganache filling. It was originally called the “Gerbet” or the “Paris macaron.” Pierre Desfontaines of the French pâtisserie Ladurée has sometimes been credited with its creation in the early part of the 20th century, but another baker, Claude Gerbet, also claims to have invented it.

So, there is some debate over the history of macarons.  What is very clear is that this melt in your mouth delicacy is worth fighting over.  What is your favourite flavour?

7 thoughts on “The history of macarons

  1. Judy Morris says:

    That is quite an impossible question, Sue. But I’ll say a rich vanilla. But please don’t take that last strawberry macaron! Yes, and I’ll also have a pistachio – Merci beaucoup!

  2. Veronika says:

    There are so many… caramel or pistachio are great! Some of the fruity ones like mango are also extremely tasty. But I would love to try some floral (lavender, rose…) or more exotic flavors.

  3. Marilou Abruscato says:

    Salted Caramel, Chocolate and Raspberry if I chose more traditional flavors and then more exotic flavors like passion fruit and rose would be my out of the box choices.

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