I always have people ask me, “what is the difference between a french macaron and macaroons?” and “does it matter how you say it?”
The confusion between the two cookies is very common. First off, lets start with the pronunciation.
french macaron: ‘mah-kah-ROHN’
So, what’s the big deal with the extra ‘O’ and what’s the difference? Despite both of them being cookies, they’re far from being similar!
Without getting into a long history lesson and a debate about it’s origin, here’s the important facts: contrary to popular belief that the macaron was created in France, it was actually originated in Italy way back in 1533. A chef by the name of Catherine de Medici started making the pastry in her hometown and then later she moved to France when she married the French king, Henry 11. The macarons were not well known at the time. Later down the road in 1792, these two French nuns began making macarons during the French Revolution and selling them to pay their bills. Then way later in the 20th century, the french macaron took on its modern appearance of the sandwich cookie, when the cousin of Louis Ernest Laduree (the owner of the famous Laduree pastry shop in Paris) started putting the macarons together with a filling.
So what exactly is a french macaron? It’s a sweet confection made of meringue, almond flour and confection sugar. These little guys require quite some finesse to make unlike a standard cookie. Once the batter is complete and the perfect texture is achieved, they are pipped into round circles (the shells), and set out to rest. Once baked, they will rise with a smooth domed top and form little ruffled edges along the bottom (known as the ‘feet’). They are then assembled by sandwiching two shells together with a filling (buttercream, fruit or ganache is standard). When you bite into a french macaron, you’ll probably be surprised by the texture. They have a very thin crispy shell and are soft and fluffy on the inside.
After those beautiful french macarons were created, then came the lumpy cousin – the macaroon. The consensus is the word “macaroon” comes from the Italian word ammaccare, which means to crush. This refers to almond paste, which used to be the main ingredient in macaroons, which was altered altered over time. The Italian Jews are believed to later adopted the cookie because it has no flour or leavening (instead, macaroons are leavened by egg whites) and they started adding shredded coconut. This morphed the cookie into something completely different than the original. They enjoyed these cookies during Passover and the macaroon began to gain popularity all over Europe as a year-round sweet.
Now, the american version of macaroon cookie is what your mom or grandma probably made you growing up. It is made of a base of egg whites, shredded coconut and sugar. The macaroon is sweet, chewy cake-like cookie that is usually topped off with chocolate drizzle.
Now we’re all knowledgeable on what the difference is and why these cookies have similar spellings, but are not the same cookie at all.
The more you know!