A macaron is a sweet meringue-based confection made with egg white, icing sugar, granulated sugar, almond powder or ground almond, and food colouring. The macaron is commonly filled with ganache, buttercream or jam filling sandwiched between two cookies. The name is derived from the Italian word macarone, maccarone or maccherone, the meringue.
Macarons have been produced in the Venetian monasteries since the 8th century A.D. During the Renaissance, Catherine de’ Medici’s Italian pastry chefs whom she brought with her in 1533 upon marrying Henry II of France arrived in France. Larousse Gastronomique cites the macaron created in 1791 in a convent near Cormery. In 1792, macarons began to gain fame when two Carmelite nuns, seeking asylum in Nancy during the French Revolution, baked and sold the macaron cookies in order 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.
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It was not until the 1830s that macarons began to be served two-by-two with the addition of jams, liqueurs, and spices. The macaron as it is known today, composed of two almond meringue discs filled with a layer of buttercream, jam, or ganache filling, 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. French macaron bakeries became trendy in North America in the 2010s.
Many Italian cookbooks of the 16th century mention almond biscuits closely resembling macarons albeit under different names. The earliest known recipe dated back from the early 17th century and appears to be inspired by a French version of the recipe.
To make French Macaroones
Wash a pound of the newest and the best Iordane Almonds in three or foure waters, to take away the rednesse from their out-side, lay them in a Bason of warme water all night, the next day blanche them, and dry them with a faire cloath, beat them in a stone morter, until they be reasonably fine, put to them halfe a pound of fine beaten sugar, and so beat it to a perfect Paste, then put in halfe a dozen spoonefuls of good Damaske Rose-water, three graines of Ambergreece, when you have beaten all this together, dry it on a chasingdish of coales until it grow white and stiffe, then take it off the fire, and put the whites of two Egs first beaten into froath, and so stire it well together, then lay them on wafers in fashion of little long rowles, and so bake in an Oven as hot as for Manchet, but you must first let the heat of the Oven passe over before you put them in, when they rise white and light, take them out of the Oven, and put them in a warm platter, and set them againe into the warme Oven & so let them remain foure or five houres, and then they wil be thoroughly dry, but if you like them better being moist then dry them not after the first baking.
There are two methods to making a macaron – the “French” method and the “Italian” method. The difference between the two is the way the meringue is made – either Italian or French meringue can be combined with ground almonds.
A macaron is made by combining icing sugar and ground almonds until fine. In a separate bowl, egg whites that are beaten until a meringue-like texture. The two elements are then folded together until they are the consistency of “shaving foam”, and then are piped, left to form a skin, and baked. Sometimes, a filling is added.