Macaron is a classic round meringue-based pastry that looks like a sandwich cookie made primarily from four ingredients: ground almonds (or almond paste), sugar, egg whites and icing sugar.
This two smooth outer shells sandwiched together with a soft center that easily melts in the mouth can be found in a wide variety of colors and filled with flavors that range from the traditional (ganache, vanilla, caramel, buttercream, chocolate, raspberry, pistachio) to the new more exotic varieties such green match tea, mimosa, liquorice, blackcurrant, violet, white truffle, and fois gras.
As it occurs with many other desserts there are competing stories about this confection’s origins. What is known is that macaroon already existed in Europe in the Middle Ages and was made for sailors so they could take delicacies with them that could be preserved for several weeks.
The French town of Cormery claims to be the true home of the macaron where this “navel of the world” was created in 781 by monks from the Benedictine St-Paul Abbey and made to resemble a monk’s belly.
Larousse Gastronomique, the ultimate encyclopedia of French cooking, first published in 1938, refers that macarons originated in Venice during the Renaissance period with the word macarons derived from the Italian “maccherone,” which means fine dough or paste and which subsequently gave it the name of macaroon in French. The Venetian word was “macerone.”
Macaroon recipes have appeared in cookery books since at least the late 17th century.
Macarons’ French debut have also been traced back to the arrival of Catherine de’ Medici‘s Italian pastry chefs whom she brought with her in 1533 at the time of her marriage to the Duc d’Orleans who in 1547 became Henry II, King of France. Very quickly the macaron recipe became a classic in France and spread into many cities throughout France, each of them claiming long tales and specialties variations around its basic preparation:
Amiens – Macarons are a specialty in this city located in northern France, 75 miles north of Paris and 62 miles south-west of Lille. This Picard sweet made from powdered almonds and honey, dates back to 16th century and became world famous after winning the Grand Prix de France for regional specialties at the 1992 International Sweets and Biscuits Fair.
Montmorillon – the first traces of macaron traditionally shaped like little crowns in this town go back to the seventeenth century. Maison Rannou-Métivier is considered to be the oldest Macaroons bakery there and for the past 150 years its traditional secret recipe has remained unchanged and in the same family for the past five generations after the Chartier sisters gave it to their employee Marie Bugeaud who ended up marring Auguste Métivier that later launched the brand which in 1924 became known as Rannou-Metivier. In 2003, as a tribute to the generations of craftsmen who built the reputation of Montmorillon as being the City of Macaron, this factory opened the Musee de l’Amande et du Macaron, an entire museum dedicated to Almond and Macaron.
Nancy – Created since the 17th century by Sisters Marguerite and Marie-Elisabeth, two devout vegetarian Carmelite nuns who upheld Theresa of Avila’s principle that “almonds are good for girls who do not eat meat” to fit their dietary requirements that prohibited the consumption of meat. After the revolutionary decree that abolished the religious orders in France, Macaroons started being fabricated and sold in markets and became known as Soeurs macarons, the “macaroon sisters.” In 1952, the city of Nancy gave the Sisters names to the Rue de la Hach, where the macaroon was created.
Saint-Jean-de-Luz – In 1660 Chef Adam made some lovely confections for the wedding celebration of Louis XIV to the Infanta of Spain, Marie-Therese that included macaron pastries. Louis found the macarons delicious, and with his approval these delicacies became very popular with the Court. Made from a mixture of almond paste, sugar and egg whites, the secret recipe has been passed down from father to son and can be still enjoyed at La maison Adam, 49 Rue Gambetta.
But it was only at the beginning of the 20th century that macaron became a “double-decker” issue.
In 1930, Pierre Desfontaines, grandson of Louis Ernest Ladurée prolific French writer and founder of the Ladurée bakery, while on a trip to Switzerland, developed the “Gerbet” or “Paris macaron” concept by getting the idea of placing a layer of creamy ganache filling between two single macarons shells to stick them together as an attempt to distinguished his macaron from the competition. From there, he decided to open a dedicated tearoom at his family pastry shop located at rue Royale in Paris where his new sweet creations started being served. Becoming quickly appreciated, especially by its female customers this true Parisian landmark has been nationally acclaimed in France and remains one of the best-selling cookie in pastry retail stores there. It can be commonly found in pâtisseries throughout Paris, where is served with a cup of hot chocolate.
In 1993 the Groupe Holder took over the firm Ladurée and began an expansion push, opening luxury pastry shops and tea rooms on the Champs-Élysées and in Le Printemps Haussmann in 1997 with the help of French patissier Pierre Herme, heir to four generations of Alsatian Bakers and pastry making production.
Due to contract restrictions, French patissier Pierre Herme opened in 1998 his first boutique pastry shop in Tokyo’s New Otani Hotel where he started selling his airy macaroon cookies, followed by a Salon de Thé in Ikspiari, Tokyo’s Disney Shopping area in July 2000.
Ladurée Bonaparte opened in 2002 at 21 rue Bonaparte and in that same year Pierre Herme debuted his first boutique in Paris located at 72 rue Bonaparte in Saint Germain des Pre followed by another in 2004 at 185 rue de Vaugirard and its flagship store in Tokyo’s fashionable Ometesando district in 2005.
In 2005, Ladurée started its International expansion with the opening of its London store and in Japan in 2008. Currently it is also present in Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Monaco, Switzerland, Italy, Lebanon, Turkey, UAE, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, and the USA.
Since 2007 many macaroons shops started to appear in New York City. Famous US chef Thomas Keller started selling this French cookie at his Bouchon Bakery chain that same year.
Celebrity chef Florian Bellanger, co-owner of Mad-Mac in Paterson and regular judge on Food Network “Cupcake Wars” show, and his partner, Ludovic Augendr braced for macaron mania and started baking them when they opened their own business and quickly picked up wholesale orders from The Ritz-Carlton and the Marriott Marquis.
Pastry chef Farshid Hakim introduced Parisian Macarons to Los Angeles in 1997 at his La Provence Patisserie & Cafe located in Beverly Hills and has a number of celebrities, such Brad Pitt, as clients.
On August 2011 Maison Ladurée opened its first luxury tea house in New York at 864 Madison Avenue.
Presently, Macaroons seem to have gained success around the world, including in the United States where can be found at fancy patisseries and retailers like Trader Joes and Whole Foods.
In 2007 McDonald’s started selling macarons from Château Blanc, a subsidiary of Groupe Holder that were shipped frozen to its McCafés in France.
On September 2009, Killian Fox, published an article after roaming the globe with the help of world top cuisine professionals and experts such Raymond Blanc, Michel Roux, Ruth Rogers and Rose Gray in search of the 50 best things to eat in the world, and the best places to eat Macaroons (ranked #7) was at the Laduree Bakery in Paris, France located on the rue Royale.
On July 2010, Australia’s Macaron Master: Adriano Zumbo who has worked with pastry chef Pierre Herme in Paris before opening up his own patisserie in Balmain, Sydney elaborates a Macaron Tower with kalamata olive, and beetroot and raspberry macarons recipe on Episode #67 of hit show MasterChef Australia. MasterChef New Zealand’s also features a Macaroon Tower recipe by Guillaume Nicoli.
March 20 is considered to be Macaron day. This day was inspired by and coincides annually with the Jour du Macaron in Paris created in 2005 by la Maison Pierre Hermé Paris in association with the Relais Desserts to give a chance for the public to taste macaron from participating shops, for free.
According to Gluten-free-around-the-world.com is possible to find and taste several Macaroons variations outside France:
- England: ratafias
- Italy: amaretto cookies, brutti ma buoni; Pignoli–topped with pine nuts, and Pinoccate–coated with pine nuts and flavored with vanilla.
- Japan: Japanese makaron Sendai version
- Morocco: Almond Ghoriba
- Spain: carajitos (Asturias); Almendrados
- South Korea: Macaroon, pronounced “ma-ka-rong”
- Switzerland: Luxemburgerli
- Turkey: Acıbadem kurabiyesi