This post is part of a series I have written on the intricate delicacy that is the Macaron. I give you the insights behind the history, the recipe and of course how to incorporate it into your perfect English Afternoon tea time.
The Macaron (usually called Macaroon in English) is regarded as being a French type of almond biscuit. The original version was purported to have been introduced from Italy by Catherine de Medici on her marriage to Henry II of France in 1533. The basic recipe for the biscuit has not really changed over the years. However the ratios of the ingredients used and the appearance of the end results were up to the individual bakers.
The innovative idea of Ladurée baker, Pierre Desfontaines in the 1930s, of sandwiching together two ‘Macaron’ shells with a creamy ganache has in recent years, led to a global domination by these ostensibly hand made Parisian concoctions. The stack of pastel and even gold leaf ‘biscuits’ have an hypnotic effect on passers-by who dive in to become addicted to the latest fashionable sweet.
Nancy, in France, is also famous for its Macarons which are round and flatter than those of Paris. These also don’t have a smooth surface or the ‘feet’. After the closing of Les Dames du Saint Sacrement’s Convent, two Sisters began selling the macaroons in order to make a living and they became legendary as “les Soeurs Macarons” and a street in Nancy now bears that name. These are so famous there is now a small bakery in Sandown, New Hampshire (www.macaroons.com) that makes these to an original 17th century recipe using almonds, sugar, egg whites and either honey or Dutch chocolate.
In England we are more used to seeing variations of a Nancy style macaroon, a large almond biscuit with a crackleglaze top in French patisseries. If you go to an English bakery the almonds are usually replaced with dessicated coconut and sometimes with a glacé cherry atop the more pyramid shape and sometimes drizzled or dipped with coconut. The coconut lasts longer than the almonds.
The most common macaron style biscuit to be found in Italy is the Amaretti biscuit. I used to adore these, carefully wrapped in a special wrapping you could set alight and it would shoot up to the ceiling. You can imagine my recent discomfort when I did this recently in a restaurant. I think the paper must have been changed – it never took off and a small fire started on the table!
If you have any questions about any of the types of macaron, please do comment below, tweet me on @Caroline__Hope, or email me on firstname.lastname@example.org. Make sure you read the rest of the series!