You may cry when you read this post. Yesterday, 20th March, was le jour du macaron, when, in certain bakeries, you could get a FREE macaron in return for a donation to a charity supporting autism. I only found out about late in the evening, and was very depressed until I found out that there weren’t any participating boulangeries in Creuse. At all! That isn’t surprising. Creuse doesn’t join in with things a whole lot.
So, be prewarned for next year, and make sure you get your macaron. Make a note in your diary now.
What is it about these little cakes that makes people go weak at the knees for them. They’ve recently seen a huge explosion in popularity and they’re generally very expensive. There’s even a macaron stall at Boussac market now. Those, I think, are €2 each and they’re tiny. They’ll only give you the strength to raise your llama poo shovelling shovel, certainly not to use it. But why am I, like many people, so tempted by them?
Macarons, not to be confused with the equally delicious coconutty macaroons that I grew up with, or, as Wikipedia warns, with macaroni (unlikely, surely?) are meringue-based, melt-in-your-mouth affairs made from egg whites, two types of sugar, ground almonds and food colouring. There are two halves sandwiched together with buttercream or jam or chocolate ganache or something else nice and unhealthy. They range in flavours from the ordinary – strawberry, hazelnut, mint – to the downright weird – rose, or chestnut and green tea, or raspberry and wasabi! Ladurée in Paris is currently offering Tsumori Chisato macarons, flavoured by cherry flowers.
But how French are macarons? They get their name from the Italian word maccarone, after all. Some sources say they were invented in a convent in Cormery, others that Catherine of Medici introduced them to France when she brought her Italian pastry chefs with her to this country when she married Henri II in 1533. Yet another version of events is that French monks invented them and based their shape on their navels. Hmm.
What we think of as macarons today are in fact Paris macarons which were invented in the early 1920s. There are other varieties to be found in France. Amiens’ macarons, for example, have fruit and honey in, and are quite chewy. And several more places claim to have the authentic ones, such as Le Dorat and Chartres. Montmorillon has a macaron museum, and Nancy had two nuns known as the ‘macaron sisters’.
Other countries have slightly different macarons too. Japan uses peanut flour in theirs, and in Korea, green tea powder is used. Switzerland has an ever airier version than France.
Once very high class and exclusive, macarons are food for everyman and woman now. McDonald’s and Starbucks offer their versions of them which, some experts say, aren’t actually that bad at all. Macarons are delightfully crunchy on the outside and soft and squooshy on the inside. That’s their trademark. Add a delicate flavour and a very sweet filling and they really are a treat.
Now that Caiti has her jam and sweetmaking thermometer, we’ll have a go at some. A lot of macaron recipes call for ingredients to be added at a certain temperature only, such as this one.
Scary stuff! I’ll let you know how we get on.
What’s the strangest and/or most delicious flavoured macarons you’ve ever eaten?