Demystifying macarons

These dainty French pastries may be a sweet and satisfying treat for the tastebuds, but baking them can seem overwhelming. We're demystifying macarons with these simple tips, so that you too can make them in your own kitchen.

By Nadine Sharon Anglin

A short history of the macaron
©iStockphoto.com/Ruth Black
Even the most assured of bakers will stand wide-eyed in terror at the thought of making macarons. It's often perceived as a difficult culinary conquest, but that doesn't necessarily have to be the case. Just keep in mind that if you want to make macarons you'll have to don your perfectionist cap because there is little room for error. The macaron is a delicate creation and you, as its maker, must treat the process with attentive diligence. Below, we help to demystify macarons.

A brief history
As the legend goes, the concept of the macaron was introduced to France by Catherine de' Medici's Italian chefs, and the delicate treats quickly spread in popularity. Convents often made them for both consumption and profit, and in the late 18th century, following the closure of Les Dames du Saint Sacrements Convent, two enterprising sisters -- known as the legendary Les Soeurs Macarons (who have a street named after them in Nancy, France) -- continued on the tradition.

Fast-forward to the 20th century when the famed Ladurée tea salon and pastry shop in Paris began selling the iconic cookie-style macarons we know and love today.

Demystifying macarons: One "O" or two?
The first step to demystifying macarons is knowing what they are. The Parisian macaron features two domed meringue cookies with "feet" (the distinctive crumbly edge) that sandwich a filling of ganache, cream or jam. The whole thing is elevated in sensory appeal by the addition of food colouring, which adds a dreamy, pastel allure.

The macaron is not to be confused with its Yankee friend from across the pond, the macaroon (note the extra "O"). Macaroons are made with a shredded, sweetened coconut mixture that is piped into a star shape. They leave the oven with golden brown tops. None are ever pastel. They have no French accents of note.


All rights reserved. Transcontinental Media G.P. © 2014