Scoot over cupcakes, macarons have, over the past years, taken the world by storm to become one of the most popular and hip desserts of our generation. Most of us adore gobbling down those bite-size treats, but how much do we know about those fascinating cookies.
So here are 10 (+ 1) things about macaron that you may (or may not) want to know:
1. What is all the fuss about anyway? Apart from being really delicate sweet treats, macarons can be incredibly colourful – a real feast for the eyes. And for the taste buds too! The number of possible flavour combinations that can be mixed and matched, between macaron shells and the fillings is almost infinite.
2. The perfect macaron is one that is crunchy on the outside and chewy (not raw) in the middle.
3. The macaron is 2 cookies made of almond flour, sugar and egg white, with a rich sandwich of ganache, cream or jam.
4. What if I told you that they are not French?
Sacrebleu! The macaron cookie actually originates from Italy, and the word ‘macaron’ comes from the word ‘macaroni’ which means ‘fine dough’. It is believed that the macaron was brought to France in the 1530s by Catherine di Medici. Much later, in the 1900s, macarons gained more popularity thanks to Ladurée and Fauchon, through the creation of inventive flavours and that clever marketing.
5. This is why you will find that there’s a French AND an Italian method. The French method (my personal fav) is quite simple and straight forward – you basically make a meringue and subsequently fold in the almond flour and icing sugar mix and bake your macs. The Italian method, on the other hand, involves more steps and the measuring of all ingredients to the gram. It also includes the making of a sugar syrup at a specific temperature, for the making of the meringue. To me, more steps also equates to more chances of screwing things up.
So why even bother with the Italian method then? From personal experience, the macaron shells made using the Italian method tend to be shinier, while being more consistent in giving you pretty shells. It therefore works well if you have lots of macarons to make. In terms of taste, I find that the almond taste is more predominant with the French method. So, picking a macaron recipe and method really depends on personal preferences and the amount of time you’re willing to put into it.
6. Pretty hurts … your ego. Macarons are one of those difficult bakes to achieve. The number of things that can go wrong in making of macarons is legion, and again, based on personal experience, it can also be a frustrating affair especially if you are a perfectionist.
Underdoing the macronage (i.e. folding in the meringue and almond flour) can leave you with lumpy macarons, and overdoing it, can lead to cracked macaron shells, leaving you in utter despair. And don’t even get me started on the ageing of the egg whites or the rising of the legs (yes, legs) of the macarons; but like many things in life, practice makes perfect… or almost perfect.
7. Macarons can really be a blank canvas for creativity: More and more bakers are transforming the traditional macaron into cute and fun characters in the shape and colours of emojis, cats and unicorns amongst others.
8. In 2007, McDonald’s stores started selling the inexpensive version of the macaron.
9. In their original form, macarons are gluten-free. Yay!
10. Last but certainly not least: Macarons and macaroOns (note the extra ‘o’) are not the same thing. While macarons are delicate, refined and basically a much fancier version of the Oreo cookie, the macaroOn is a compact coconut lump; more like a ‘gateau coco’ really.
This piece of information can be useful when placing an order if you don’t want to find yourself with a bunch of gateaux coco as opposed to actual macarons. You’re welcome.
My personal take:
Macarons are a real pain to make. But are oh-so-rewarding once you get the hang of it. They also get brownie points for being totally Instagram-friendly, something that definitely contributes to being trendy and fun.