The perfect macarons have a crisp shell on the outside leading to a layer of chewy goodness and concludes with a melt-in-your mouth center. They are not to be confused with macaroons – those toasted coconut clusters.
Originating in Italy, they were brought to France by Catherine de Medicis on the occasion of her marriage to the Duc d’Orleans in 1533, who became King Henry II of France in 1547. The word “macaron” has the same origin as “macaroni” – both mean “fine dough”.
The first Macarons were simple cookies, made of almond powder, sugar and egg whites. It wasn’t until the early 20th century when Pierre Desfontaines, the grandson of Louis Ernest Laduree had the idea to combine two together with a “chocolate panache” center.
I was first introduced to macarons as a student in Paris and fell immediately in love with its unique texture profile. I became addicted. It didn’t help that the Ladurée shop was just a stone’s toss from university. Costing around 3 euros each, they were an expensice habit. Yet, I could never resist treating myself to one or two, especially after a stressing day or difficult exam.
I vividly recall as well summer breaks back home in NYC, and the treks I would make to the Upper East Side. Tucked away in hidden locales were a handful of French bakeries that offered mere semblances of a Parisian macaron.
Looking back, it’s really amazing how globalize the world has become in the span of less then ten years. Just this past winter, I met up over hot chic late and raspberry macrons with friends at a Cafe Angelique outpost in Beijing. Nowadays it seems like every other respectable pastry shop is selling macarons, quality not withstanding.
Chance would have it that the year I was to move away from Paris, Ladurée released ahead of its 150th anniversary a compilation book of 100 recipes. celebration of collection of its famous pastries.
1. When mixing, make sure the sugar is fully melted into the egg white and a meringue consistency forms. Otherwise the resulting dough becomes too runny making for flatten macaron shells.
2. If you find that the bottom of your macarons is sticking to the parchment paper, it’s a sign they are undercooked. Place them back into the oven and add a few more minutes.
3. Controlling the temperature is key for the shell not to crack. Even the temperature variance between top shelf and bottom shelf of an oven can be destabilizing.