Thanks to Cookie Monster, we know “C” is for “cookie,” but there’s so much more we need to learn.
For example, what is the difference between a “macaron” and a “macaroon”? They are both delicious cookies, but they are quite different. One is easy to make; one is not. One is chewy; one has an eggshell-like crust with a meringue inner texture. One has coconut; one has almond flour. Which one is which? After a recent gift from an awesome local bakery, I was determined to get this right.
In case you need a similar reminder:
- A “macaron” is the fancy, often colorful sandwich cookie. It’s airy meringue inner texture is surrounded by a delicate crust that crackles upon your first bite, and its middle is a ganache, buttercream, or even sometimes a fruit jam. A macaron is made from almond flour, egg white, and sugar.
- A “macaroon” is that simple recipe you might have made with your mother when you were a kid. This lumpy-textured, chewy cookie is incredibly sweet, but that doesn’t stop it from occasionally being dipped in chocolate. A macaroon is made from shredded coconut, egg white, and sugar.
Now, this is where a reader who is paying attention might say that the three-ingredient base of both of these cookies only differs in one ingredient, and this is true.
It turns out, they do have an intertwined background, which makes me feel slightly better for being confused about them for so long.
The original cookie seems to trace back to a flour-less, unleavened cookie in Italy called an amaretti, but when the almond paste of this initial recipe was replaced with coconut, macaroons were born (and Raphael’s cherubs surely applauded. This was Italy after all).
However, the story doesn’t end there. The original recipe with the almond paste also made its way to France, thanks to the chefs of Catherine de Medici who came with her when she left Italy for France. These bakers reinvented it with almond flour, the ingredient that eventually led us to the macarons of today.
Et voilà! The evolution of a cookie never sounded so delicious, non?
Admittedly, Cookie Monster might not have helped you with this one—I’m not sure he’s that particular when it comes to his desserts—but as a fully-grown connoisseur of confectioneries, you now know the difference.
Writing Tip 361.1 – The proper technique for making macarons is apparently so specific that a new word has arisen from it. “Macaronage” is the folding of the ground almonds and sugar into the meringue, a process which, so I’m told, can either make or break the cookie. Pun intended? Absolutely.
Excuse me while I find a big glass of milk…
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