Macarons, And Why You Might Cry!

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.

Catherine of Medici

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?



0 Replies to “Macarons, And Why You Might Cry!”

  1. Hi! I am a new follower – redirected from Ravelry. Did I comment before? I followed a thread about the Tour De France knitting frenzy on ravelry because I have an avid cyclist-daughter and her partner who has raced professionally in the past. You had made some comments and being a francophile and seeing the title of your blog I followed the link!

    For several days now I have read and gone back to older posts. Your blog is so interesting; you are to be commended on enlightening the rest of us on goings-on in France – RIGHT NOW!!!

    I love it and I have recommended it to my french teacher (M.S. French – daughter) and my other classmates. Perhaps I should have kept it to myself as I plan on retelling some of your most interesting to me posts (french political slogans, mission printemps – mustard/worm count, and another one which hasn’t come to me at this moment).

    Your move and story of your family is very compelling. You are an excellent writer and I cannot wait for each daily post. Today, for example! Macarons are deeeelicious – even if I can rarely find them here in Eugene, Oregon. But-when I do, I always buy them for our french class. I would love to try making them. Bonne chance to your trials!

    Mary in Oregon

    1. Mary, merci beaucoup for your kind words. I’m delighted you enjoy my blog so much. I love writing it and try to make it varied and interesting. It means a great deal when people say that they’ve learnt something from it, or it’s made them smile, or it simply entertained them for a while. I’m thrilled that you’ll be sharing some of my posts with your French class. Please say bonjour to everyone from me!
      Do let me know how your macarons turn out if you make them. And I’ll do the same.
      Thanks for making my day!

  2. The Swiss ones – famously made by Sprüngli, the best chocolate shop in the universe, are tiny, delicate, perfect and very expensive – coming in flavours like vanilla, chocolate, noisette, champagne and some fruity ones too, which always seem a little incongruous. They are known here as Luxemburgerli – as apparently the man who devised the recipe was a patisserie chef from Luxembourg!

  3. Happy belated Macaron Day! I was tempted to celebrate but was distracted by the beautiful weather. My favorite flavor at the moment is Earl Grey. And you’re right, the Swiss macarons are much lighter than the Parisian version.

  4. I can’t believe that I was in Paris last November visiting my daughter, saw macaroons in Galeries Lafayete and didn’t buy any! There is a pastry chef in Sydney (Adriano Zumbo) who is a Macaroon masterchef, making them with hundreds of different flavours. But I live on the other side of Australia…
    I need to try baking them!

  5. Oh dear, I’m well behind again. Since you blog almost every day I simply can’t keep up – interesting though it always is. Mea culpa. I don’t know where you get the energy from – twice a week is my maximum blogging rate. Anyway, I love macarons and completely missed le jour du macaron. Thanks for the history beind it, which I always find interesting.

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