A macaroon (/mækəˈruːn/ mak-ə-roon) is a type of small circular cake, typically made from ground almonds (the original main ingredient or coconut (and/or other nuts or even potato), with sugar and egg white. Macaroons are often baked on edible rice paper placed on a baking tray.
The word ‘macaroon’ comes from the Italian maccarone or maccherone meaning ‘paste’, referring to the original almond paste ingredient; this word itself derives from ammaccare, meaning to bruise.
The earliest recorded macaroon recipes were made from egg whites and almond paste; Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management gives a typical recipe.
Culinary historians claim that macaroons can be traced to an Italian monastery of the 9th century. The monks came to France in 1533, joined by the pastry chefs of Catherine de Medici, wife of King Henri II. Later, two Benedictine nuns, Sister Marguerite and Sister Marie-Elisabeth, came to Nancy seeking asylum during the French Revolution. The two women paid for their housing by baking and selling macaroon cookies, and thus became known as the “Macaroon Sisters”. Recipes for macaroons (also spelled “mackaroon,” “maccaroon” and “mackaroom”) appear in recipe books at least as early as 1725 (Robert Smith’s Court Cookery, or the Complete English Cook).
Italian Jews later adopted the cookie because it has no flour or leavening (macaroons are leavened by egg whites) and can be enjoyed during the eight-day observation of Passover. It was introduced to other European Jews and became popular as a year-round sweet. Over time, coconut was added to the ground almonds and, in certain recipes, replaced them. Potato starch is also sometimes included in the recipe, to give the macaroons more body.
The Scottish macaroon is a sweet confection with a thick velvety centre covered in chocolate and topped with roasted coconut. Traditionally they were made with cold leftovers of mashed potatoes and sugar loaf. When the macaroon bar became commercial the recipe no longer used mashed potato because of shelf life limitations. The modern macaroon is made from a combination (depending on producer) of sugar, glucose, water and egg white. These ingredients make a fondant centre. This recipe was reportedly discovered by accident in 1931, when confectioner John Justice Lees was said to have botched the formula for making a chocolate fondant bar and threw coconut over it in disgust, producing the first macaroon bar.
Coconut macaroon is the best known variety in America. Commercially made coconut macaroons are generally dense, moist and sweet, and often dipped in chocolate. Homemade macaroons and varieties produced by smaller bakeries are commonly light and fluffy. Macaroons made with coconuts are often piped out with a star shaped tip, whereas macaroons made with nuts are more likely shaped individually due to the stiffness of the dough. Because of their lack of wheat and leavening ingredients, macaroons are often consumed during Passover in many Jewish homes.
A coconut macaroon is a type of macaroon most commonly found in Australia, the United States, Mauritius, The Netherlands (Kokosmakronen) and Germany, and is directly related to the Scottish macaroon. Its principal ingredients are egg whites, sugar and shredded dried coconut. It is closer to a soft cookie than its meringue cousin, and is equally sweet. Many varieties of coconut macaroons are dipped in chocolate, typically milk chocolate. Versions dipped in dark chocolate or white chocolate are also becoming more commonly available. Nuts are often added to coconut macaroons, typically almond slivers, but occasionally pecans, cashews or other nuts. In Australia, a blob of raspberry jam or glacé cherries are often concealed in the centre of the macaroon prior to cooking.
Macaroons in the Dominican Republic are very dark. Grated coconut is mixed with ginger and cinnamon.
In France, the almond variety is called macaron; it is typically light like meringue, with added colouring, flavouring and often a flavoured filling.
The coconut macaroon is known as the “congolais”,or “le rocher à la noix de coco”.
The carajito is a macaroon variant made with hazelnuts and honey from the town of Salas, Asturias in northern Spain. A larger size version is commonly known as sultana or suspiros del moro.
In Puerto Rico, coconut macaroons are called besitos de coco (little coconut kisses). A few variations of besitos de coco can be found on the island, the most popular ones including lemon zest and vanilla as additional ingredients.
Tuticorin and Mangalore have their own varieties of macaroon made with cashews and egg whites, adapted from those introduced in colonial times.
A macaroon chocolate bar is made by Wilton Candy in Co. Kildare, Ireland. The description on the packaging is “macaroon pieces in Irish milk chocolate.” It was first made in 1937.
Acıbadem kurabiyesi is a traditional Turkish cookie made of almonds, sugar and egg whites. The traditional recipes include a small amount of bitter almonds, which gives this cookie its name. Because bitter almonds are not readily available, almond extract is typically used as a substitute. These cookies are part of the stock-in trade of almost every bakery in Turkey, as they are seldom made at home.