Happy Bastille Day! Today is French National Day, a commemoration of the storming of the Bastille in 1789. Festivities include fireworks over the Eiffel Tower, a parade down the Champs Elysees and a picnic of 10,000 people dressed in white at Versailles. We say, where there’s a party in France, there must be the beloved macaron! In this “Sweet Origins,” we explore the history of France’s favorite dessert.
Macarons are delicate round cookies made with ground almonds, sugar and egg whites. Two cookies come together to form a sandwich, with buttercream frosting, ganache or jam spread in between. Crisp on the outside, the cookies should be soft and chewy in the middle. Today’s macarons come in an array of wild shades like fuchsia or turquoise with imaginative flavor combinations, such as olive oil and mandarin orange.
The true inventor of the macaron is unknown. The cookie is rumored to have been invented by Catherine de’ Medici’s Italian pastry chefs, whom she brought with her to France in the early 1500’s. The original macaron started out as a simple cookie. Can you imagine that? No filling! It wasn’t until the early 1900’s when Pierre Desfontaines, of the famed pastry shop Ladurée in Paris, thought to join the shells with a ganache filling. With one swift motion, the modern macaron was born!
It’s taken a few hundred years, but macarons are finally starting to catch on in America. The cookie had a starring role in Sofia Coppola’s 2006 film “Marie Antoinette,” which presented a fanciful feast of technicolor macarons to U.S. audiences (and if you don’t fall in love with them after watching that movie, you might meet another French pastry to adore).
Purists argue that true macarons can only be found in Paris, but there are dozens of bakeries in the U.S. (my favorite being La Maison du Chocolat) and around the world that are hot on their heels. And if you’re feeling adventurous, you can always try making them yourself! Cannelle Et Vanille has some great macaron recipes and we love this macaron book by Annie Rigg.