I think I first saw macarons on Helen‘s blog and remember wondering why her “macaroons” looked different! Until I realized that a macaron wasn’t even remotely related to a macaroon.
A macaron and a macaroon are both cookies, though I’m sure quite a macaron afficionado would be shocked to see me referring to the macaron as “just another cookie”!
A “macaron” is made with beaten egg whites, powdered almonds and sugar whereas a “macaroon” is a sticky and sweet coconut cookie. So totally different yet they are apparently connected in their origins.
Some say that the macaron is French while others think it is Italian but the general consensus is that they both get their name from the Italian word “maccherone” which means flour-and-water paste. This, incidentally, is where the elbow shaped pasta macaroni also derives its name from!
As the story goes, the macaroon (not macaron) was taken out of Italy to France by two Carmelite nuns who baked almond and egg white cookies for a living, and by Italian Jews to Europe where these flourless cookies were baked for Passover. These cookies eventually reached the U.S. where the almonds were substituted with coconut and became macaroons.
So maccherone basically refers to a paste which in the case of the macaron, is an egg white-nut paste. The French macaron as it is known today in its various hues and flavours, with buttercream (or ganache) sandwiched between two almond meringue cookies, is attributed to **Pierre Hermé
Updated (12th Sept., 2009) : Hilda tells me that it wasn’t Pierre Hermè who revived the macaron but the French pastry shop Ladurée** who were responsible for this. Pierre Hermé worked with Ladurée early in his career and became well known for the unusual and exotic flavour combinations he brought to the world of macarons.
Ladurée**, incidentally, spells it’s macarons as “macaroons”. So I guess the debate as to whether the macaron is to be spelt as “macaron” or “macaroon”, is very much alive!
In the past year and a half or so since I started blogging, I’ve been seeing more than my fair share of macarons in an unbelievable number of colours and exotic flavours. It was natural that all this made me want to hop onto the macaron bandwagon too, but lacked the courage to do so. I had also been reading a lot about how difficult it was to achieve “the” macaron.
So how difficult can a cookie made with some egg-whites, powdered almonds and sugar get, right? You have to try this one out to answer that question.
And there are only two answers to this. Either you’re lucky (and have lots, I mean lots of luck) and get it right and then it’s a breeze, or you don’t and wonder how something so simple can become such a nightmare!!
I didn’t have much luck and after a couple of miserable attempts, I was quite ready to give up! There are a lot of good recipes out there for macarons but they all require very precise weight measurements of ingredients and I’m someone who cooks and blogs without a kitchen scale! Which is why I chose to use David Lebovitz‘s chocolate macaron recipe (which is also a French macaron recipe like Helen’s) as a starting point as that deals with cups and spoons. I slightly adapted the recipe as I made coffee macarons (which was Jamie‘s chosen flavour) instead of chocolate macarons. My macarons were filled with a dark chocolate-Nutella ganache.
Bolstered by the heady feeling of my coffee macaron success, even if they weren’t perfect but somewhat chubby, I decided to experiment with flavours. This wasn’t one of my best decisions though. I dreamt of making rose macarons with a cardamom flavoured white chocolate ganache filling. Sounds lovely, doesn’t it? I thought so too. Dream it shall remain, for now at least, as it never happened.
My rose macarons came out very pretty, like pink meringue cookies but had no”feet”. I was a bit disappointed here but felt reassured as I at least had cookies! So once they were cool, I peeled them off the foil and they seemed alright. Then I tried to fill them and found out they were so soft that they caved in, collapsed in my hands and I was left holding a slightly sticky and crumbling mass!
The rose meringue cookies (can’t call them macarons, I guess) tasted good however, and I managed to rescue just 3 cookies to take a picture. This picture does give me some hope though apparently that is what the original French macarons looked like. At least my “rose macarons” looked right, all the way down to the slightly cracked tops!
It always helps if you’re lucky to have friends who are willing to share their experiences and advice with you. I certainly was and wouldn’t have made mine without the following people who jumped in to offer me advice, answer all my questions and clear my confusion.
And here’s the David Lebovitz recipe I tweaked a little and used.
Coffee And Dark Chocolate & Nutella Macarons (GF)
For the Macaron batter:
- 1 cup sugar powdered
- xbd cup almonds powdered
- 1 tsp coffee instant powder
- 2 egg whites , at room temperature (aged for 2 days)
- 5 tbsps sugar granulated
For the Chocolate-Nutella ganache filling:
- 1/2 cup chocolate finely chopped dark / semi-sweet
- 1/4 cup cream (25% fat)
- 3 tbsps Nutella
- To make the macaron shells, start by lining two baking sheets with parchment paper and have a pastry bag with a plain tip (about 1/2-inch, 2 cm) ready. You may also use a Ziploc bag with the tip cut off, for piping.
- Grind together the powdered sugar, the powdered almonds and coffee powder so there are no lumps.
- With a hand held electric mixer, beat the egg whites until they begin to rise and hold their shape. While whipping, beat in the granulated sugar until very stiff and firm (about 2 minutes).
- Carefully fold the dry ingredients, in two batches, into the beaten egg whites with a flexible rubber spatula. When the mixture is just smooth and there are no streaks of egg white, stop folding and scrape the batter into the pastry bag/ Ziploc bag (standing the bag in a tall glass helps).
- Pipe the batter on the parchment-lined baking sheets in 1-inch circles (about 1 tablespoon each of batter), evenly spaced one-inch (3 cm) apart.
- Rap the baking sheet a few times firmly on the counter top to flatten the macarons. Keep them at room temperature for about an hour till a thin film forms on the macaron batter. If you lightly touch a macron and the batter doesn't stick to your finger, then it is ready.
- Bake them at 160C (320F) or 170C (340F) for minutes. Let the macarons cool completely then slowly peel off the parchment paper. Store the macarons in airtight containers till ready to fill.
- To make the ganache filling, heat the cream in a small saucepan. When the cream just begins to boil at the edges, remove from heat and add the chopped chocolate. Let sit one minute, then stir until smooth. Add the Nutella and mix well. Let cool completely before using.
- To assemble the macarons, spread (or pipe) a bit of ganache on the inside of the macarons then sandwich them together.
- You may or may not use all the filling, depending on how much you use in the macarons. Let them stand at least one day before serving, to meld the flavors.Store in an airtight container for up to 5 days.