Before you try to make this at home, it is important to get a little background or insight into what a macaron is and the story behind it. It is equally as important to taste a macaron before making it as well—that way, you’ll know exactly what you’re kind of texture and taste you’re looking for.
Note that this is not a macaroon, which contains coconut. The coconut macaroon we typically see in the U.S. contains egg whites, sugar, and dried coconut shreds. What I’m focusing on today is the macaron, which is made with egg whites, sugar, and almond flour. Not coconut. (Let’s face it, macarons taste much better too.)
The word “macaron” is derived from the Italian word “maccarone.” It is believed that these cookies were introduced to France by Italy once upon a time (around 1533, when Catherine di Medici was the queen of France).
Sidenote: The Italians have their own meringue method in making macarons, sucre cuit style, which involves melting sugar and mixing it with egg whites.
The early macaron was just one cookie, not two with a filling in between. As mentioned by Serious Eats, Pierre Desfontaines, the owner of Ladurée, put two cookies together with ganache and the macaron, as we know it today, became extremely popular in Paris. It seems that all the hype is mainly concentrated in Paris; if you go to other areas such as Lorraine, Basque Country, and Saint-Emilion, they still make the traditional type of macaron.
Now, the macaron-obsession did spread all over the world though, such as in Japan and the U.S. If you do ever get the chance to go to Paris, try the macarons from Ladurée, Hermes, and Fauchon. The best macarons are in France. The closest I ever got was eating imported Parisian macarons from La Maison du Chocolat.
Anatomy of a Macaron
Macarons are meringue-based cookies, which entails whipping egg whites with powdered sugar and then folding the almond flour to incorporate it into the meringue.
As I mentioned before, a macaron contains two cookies, made up of egg whites sugar, and almond flour, with a buttercream/ganache/jam filling. You can add all kinds of food coloring (gel/powder) or flavors.
A macaron should not be cloyingly sweet nor have runny fillings. The cookies typically have a crust that is delicate like an egg-shell. To avoid toughness or gumminess, many professional pastry chefs refrigerate their macarons for 1-2 days after baking them. This will ensure that the moisture from the filling will soften the insides of the macaron through osmosis, as Not So Humble Pie mentioned.
Once you bite into a macaron, you will taste the crisp edges of the “feet,” which stick out around the circumference of the cookie. The crust should kind of shatter into little pieces without being too crisp. It should not, however, be like biting into a brownie nor should the crust sink in like a memory foam pillow. Past the smooth egg-shell top layer is a moist, soft cookie with a smooth, soft filling. The two contrasting textures combined together are beyond amazing.
This is a relatively brief overview of what macarons are all about. After eating my first macaron and celebrating Macaron Day, I’ve done a lot of research over the past few months and I can’t wait to share my very first attempt at making macarons with you soon!
- What French Macarons Are All About
- Preparing to Make Macarons
- How to Make Macarons
- Macaron Results: One, Two and Three
- Troubleshooting Macarons