Macaroons are baked confectioneries that are light weight and can be made in various consistencies ranging from a cake to a meringue. The word macaroon in English and Macaron in French is believed to have originated from the Italian maccarone or maccherone, which is a derivative of ammacare (meaning crush or beat) which refers to almond paste, the main ingredient of macaroons. The main ingredients that go into the making macaroon are egg white, sugar and ground/powdered almonds. There are different types of macaroons that include the traditional Almond Macaroon, Coconut Macaroon, etc., with each type varying depending on the regional choice. Edible rice paper is used for baking macaroons.
History of Macaroon Recipe
Macaroons were initially made into small cake like confectionery that was made with ground almonds. These were similar to Moroccan or Italian Amaretti. These cookies were made with egg whites and almond paste and the end result was this wonderful light weight macaroon that had a hard exterior and a soft interior. Though there is no written record, macaroon recipe is believed to have originated in an Italian monastery, which first came to France in 1533, after the pastry chef of Catherine de Medici, the wife of King Henri II introduced the recipe. Later on, two Benedictine nuns came to Nancy during the French revolution, seeking asylum. They soon came to be known as the “Macaroon Sisters”, as they took care of their expenses by making and selling macaroons.
Macaroons have been traditionally made with egg whites and almonds and the same is followed even now, however over time certain variations have been introduced into the process of making these cookies. Macaroon recipe is very simple, with the cookies being made only with egg whites and almonds, wherein the egg whites are whipped up to look like peaks and to these cones, nuts such as ground almonds are added. The macaroon cones are baked on an edible rice paper. Because of their light delicate structure, almond macaroons tend to crumble very fast. They taste best when served with tea, which is the traditional way of eating these meringues like cookies in France.
Variations in Macaroon Recipe
Macaroons have many variations today. One very popular variation to the original macaroon recipe is to add coconut to the ground almonds while baking the cookies. This makes the macaroons rich and even soft. Another popular variation is to make the meringue like cookies by adding coconut to the egg white, instead of almonds. Other than being flaky the macaroon has a nice softness to it. These coconut macaroons are popular with a lot of people, especially in UK and USA. Sugar substitutes such as glucose and corn syrup are also used for making macaroons.
Other variations to the macaroon recipe are –
Scottish – Originally this sweet confectionery was made with mashed potato and sugar loaves. However, because of their short shelf life, the potato mash was replaced with egg white and water and sugar was used instead of sugar loaves. This variety of macaroon is made with chocolate, wherein the center of the cookie is soft with chocolate and exterior is covered with coconut.
North American – Macaroon recipe is quite popular in this country, where the cookies are made with egg white and coconut which makes them soft. These coconut macaroons are also made by dipping in chocolate syrup which could be both white and dark chocolate. In most cases, almonds are replaced with pecans, cashews and other types of nuts.
French – Initially, the French made only the traditional macaroons with egg white and almond paste, known as “macaron”. However, over time they took a liking to coconut variety known as “Congolais”, which are quite popular with the French.
Spanish – The macaroon recipe has a variation in Spain, where almonds are replaced with hazelnuts and sugar is replaced with honey. These macaroons are called the “carajitos”.
Indian – The Indian version of macaroon is made with egg white and cashew nuts. These cookies are quite popular in the Tuticorin and Mangalore regions of India.
Irish – The Macaroon Chocolate Bar is quite popular in Ireland, wherein the macaroon pieces are dipped in Irish milk chocolate. The Irish Macaroons also include desiccated coconut and vanillin.
Turkish – The Turkish macaroon is known as Acibadem Kurabivesi, which is made the traditional way with egg white, almonds and sugar. The cookie gets its name because of the inclusion of a few bitter almonds in the macaroon recipe.
Meringue - Meringue is a close cousin to the macaroon, which is made almost the same way. This sweet confectionery is also made with egg white and sugar. Another variation to the meringue recipe is the Lemon Meringue Pie, which is made with a filling of custard with lemon zest in it. Half of whipped up meringue is then folded into the custard and the remaining half is added on top of the pie, which is then baked.
Macaroons were adopted by the Italian Jews, as they do not use any flour or leavening, which is otherwise taken care of by the egg whites. Because of this, these cookies are ideal during the eight day observations of Passover.