If there’s one pastry that is recognized all over the world, it is the macaron. Everyone assumes that macarons are a traditional French concoction but actually they originated in Italy. This delicate cookie was introduced by the chef of Catherine de Medici in 1533 at the time of her marriage to the Duc d'Orleans who later became king of France in 1547 as Henry II. In fact, some historical records even predate the macaron back to Venetian monasteries in the 8th century A.D. though early versions were likely served without special flavors or fillings. The more modern version composed of two almond meringue discs filled with a layer of buttercream, jam or ganache filling was introduced in the 1830’s.
Although the size and texture of the macaron is fairly standard, what surprises me most is the wide variety of flavors that are popular in different countries. Europeans and Americans tend to prefer sweet flavors such as vanilla bean, chocolate, raspberry, lemon, coffee, hazelnut and pistachio while Asians favor black sesame, orange fig, matcha green tea, sour cherry, wasabi, pandan coconut, caramel and lemongrass.
Even today, some international chefs are experimenting with unique flavors including savory macarons with:
- Fire-roasted corn
- Sweet potato
- Foie gras
- Maple bacon
- Black truffle
As I traveled across Europe and Asia over the past year, I had an opportunity to work closely with pastry chefs to develop truly exotic local flavor combinations such as:
- Curried toffee walnut
- Turkish date and rosewater
- Cloudberry cream
- Pomegranate molasses
- Honey yuzu
- Sweet red bean
Creating small boxes of assorted signature flavor macarons became my standard “thank you” gift for my international hosts. What better way to show your appreciation than handmade treats?
Whatever their origin, macarons tend to be served only on special occasions or given as gifts. They can be rather expensive to buy, sometimes costing as much as $3.00 per cookie or $36 a dozen. Yikes! At that price, it makes more sense to learn how to make your own macarons at home.
There are a few special techniques to creating the perfect macaron. In addition to being the proper (and consistent) diameter, it needs to achieve a certain height to ensure a light, chewy texture inside with a crisp exterior.
And the texture of the filling is just as important. The ideal consistency is just thick enough to hold together the cookies but not too solid, and it needs to be smooth enough to create the right “mouth feel” – anything too coarse or lumpy will ruin the luscious silkiness of a macaron.
One of my favorite items at The Chopping Block is our Mastrad Macaron Kit, complete with 100% silicone large baking sheet with 53 perfectly-sized circular ridges, silicone pastry bag, 6 piping and decorating nozzles, plus a cap and a clip to preserve the mixture between batches.
If you want to learn how to make your own macarons, why not join us at The Chopping Block’s upcoming Macaron Workshop on Sunday, September 17 at our Merchandise Mart location? Our expert pastry chef will guide you through every step as you learn and practice how to make three different, delicious varieties.