Macaron vs. Macaroon

French Macaron

French macarons are very different from what most Americans think of as a macaroon. French macarons are a delicate crispy shell of almond meringue that yields a tender chewy interior. These shells are sandwiched together with delicious flavorful buttercream, ganache, jams, etc.

The confectionery is characterized by its smooth, domed top, ruffled circumference (referred to as the “foot”), flat base, mildly moist and easily melted into mouths. Connoisseurs prize a delicate, egg shell-like crust that yields to a moist and airy interior. The macaron is commonly filled with a buttercream or jam filling sandwiched between two macaron cookies.

Macarons can be found in a wide variety of flavors that range from the traditional (raspberry, chocolate) to the new (truffle, green matcha tea).

Since the English word macaroon can also refer to the Coconut macaroon, many have adopted the French spelling of macaron to distinguish the two items in the English language.

 

coconut macaroon

Coconut Macaroons

Italian Jews adopted the cookie because it has no flour or leavening (the agent that raises and lightens a baked good, like yeast, baking powder and baking soda—instead, macaroons are leavened by egg whites) and can be enjoyed during the eight-day observation of Passover. It was introduced to other European Jews and became popular as a year-round sweet.

Over time, coconut was added to the ground almonds and, in certain recipes, replaced them.

Coconut macaroons are more prevalent in the U.S. and the U.K.—and they’re a lot easier to make and transport than the fragile almond meringues.

 

History

Who could’ve predicted that the omission of one “o” could cause so many problems? Pronounce “macaron” like a French person to a non-French person and you’ll have to repeat yourself, perhaps multiple times, until the back of your throat aches from forming one too many rolled Rs. The English word macaroon is derived from the French macaron, which in turn comes from the Italian maccherone, or “fine dough.” (“Macaroni” is also derived from the word maccherone.)

The macaron’s origin isn’t clear, but it may have been brought to France from Italy as early as 1533 by Catherine di Medici and her pastry chefs. Macarons gained fame in 1792 when two Carmelite nuns seeking asylum in Nancy during the French Revolution baked and sold macarons in order to support themselves, thus becoming known as “the macaron sisters.” The macarons they made were a simple combination of ground almonds, egg whites, and sugar. No special flavors. No filling. Just 100% cookie.

It wasn’t until the 1900s that Pierre Desfontaines of Parisian pastry shop and café Ladurée decided to take two cookies and fill them with ganache. No longer a humble almond cookie, the macaron turned into a versatilely flavored treat with a thin, light crust briefly giving way to a layer of moist almond meringue following by a center of silky smooth filling.

 

What Makes a Good Macaron?

Here’s what to look for in a macaron:

  • The cookie-to-filling ratio should be between 1:1 and 2:1. I have seen the atrocity that is a thin layer of filling spread upon one cookie, or a blob of filling that fails to extend to the edge of the cookie. Not cool, man, not cool. I feel like this is one of the easiest problems to “correct” when making a macaron; if the filling looks skimpy, just squeeze in a bit more. Just a bit! But no. We are frequently denied this extra squeezing.
  • The filling should be smooth, firm (like ganache), light, and not sticky. Aside from a few wayward crumbs, eating a macaron should be clean. Filling shouldn’t squish out of the cookie nor should it leave much residue on your teeth. (This may not apply to all fillings, such as caramel or jams.)
  • The texture and surface of the cookie should be very smooth. Bumps show that the almond wasn’t ground finely enough or wasn’t sifted to take out the chunks. A chunky macaron might taste okay, but a finer one tastes better.
  • The crust of the cookie should be thin and only provide the most useless protection against the soft cookie layer underneath. Biting through the crust should be effortless. A dry, semi-hard crust that shatters into the soft center of the cookie is not fun.
  • The cookie’s texture beneath the crust should be light, just a little chewy, and soft, but not so soft that it’s mushy. It’s okay if the cookie looks “uncooked.”
  • As much as we love sugar, sweetness shouldn’t take over in a macaron. They come in a wide variety of flavors for a reason—so you can taste the flavor. Cloying sweetness that forms a lump in the back of your throat is a no-no.

 

Napoléon’s Macarons

Our French macarons come in seventeen flavors and are expertly handcrafted to to achieve a perfect balance between texture and flavour. These small, round cakes – crisp on the outside, smooth and soft in the middle – are made to order to ensure excellence.