Welcome to my first feature series: March of Macarons!
All month long, I'm going to feature tutorials and recipes dedicated to my favorite dessert, the French macaron. My series, the March of Macarons, is inspired by Macaron Day (le Jour du Macaron), an annual celebration for the confection on the first day of Spring.
These sweet and challenging desserts rose from obscurity to popularity recently, now featured in wedding magazines, food blogs, and movies. Some would say macarons are the new cupcakes -- but I say there's enough room in the dessert world for both!
Allow me to introduce you to the sugary sweet world of the French macaron.
What are macarons? Macarons are a Parisian confectionery made of almond flour, sugar, and egg whites whipped into a meringue and baked through a process of acute precision. Depending on who you ask, the macaron has existed in some form since either the French convents of 1800s or Catherine de' Medici's kitchen in the middle ages. Quite the ancient cookie.
While Italian pastry chefs get the credit for inventing macarons (called maccarone), the French have made them famous today with patisseries like Ladurée or Pierre Hermé, who have reintroduced the macaron with stylish fashion shows showcasing exotic flavors and color combinations.
What's so great about macarons? Everything! They are sweet, nutty, gooey, crunchy, colorful, classy, and adorably petite little sandwich cookies of perfection! These cookies are a study in contradictions, as they have smooth tops and ruffled edges (feet), crisp outsides and gooey insides. Macarons are blank canvases that can be painted in any color, flavor, and filling.
Boston Cream Pie Macaron, Fig and Chocolate Ganache Macaron, Apricot Jam Macaron, and Apple Butter Macaron
Their fashionability and versatility are the reasons why they have become colorful accessories on party tables, as they can be easily color-coordinated to match the occasion.
They have the extra advantage of being gluten-free, which is a dream come true to have such a sweet dessert option for those with a dietary restriction due to gluten allergies.
Don't you mean macaroon? No, I mean macaron. Macarons are not the fluffy coconut meringues that you grew up with. While commonly confused, they are in fact two different kinds of dessert. They are both meringue cookies and share a common ancestry, but the appearance, consistency, and taste are quite different.
The term "macaroon" in America is usually referring to the coconut version of the dessert, which is commonly served as a singular mound cookie, rather than a cookie sandwich.
Contrary to some claims, most bakers agree that you are supposed to pronounce the words differently. "Macaron" is the French form of the word, after all.
Why do you love macarons? What started as an idle curiosity has bloomed into a minor obsession, and many people wonder why, especially since macarons are still a rarity in my little corner of the U.S.
I first came across the macaron in the form of funny little cookies on dowels while researching for my wedding. They were so cute and classy that they caught my eye, but I had never tasted one in my life, so they were shortly cut from my choices of wedding dessert.
The wedding day came and went, but I kept seeing these colorful little cookies everywhere and curiosity got the better of me. My grandmother mentioned that she used to make coconut macaroons (at the time I thought they were the same thing), so I thought my experiment in the kitchen would be a nice way to connect. When I revealed what I thought was a macaron at the family picnic, there was some surprised and confused expressions, but mostly delight for the sweet new dessert.
Macarons offer a challenge to sharpen my skills and test my wit and will power. Before starting on my mission to learn how to bake macarons, I could not make a meringue, buttercream, or jam. Sure, I could go through my whole life and not need to know how to make these things, but I wanted to learn. It's the same drive to learn, find new experiences, and create that have driven me to start this blog and to attempt most of the crazy things I do.
And I simply can't refuse a challenge with such a tasty reward at the end!
Excited about macarons? Ready to try to make your own? Join me next time for a full tutorial on how to make a French macaron.
Chic on a Shoestring Decorating