March 20th is World Macaron Day. With their bright colors, crispy exterior and delicious filling, macarons are fun, fanciful, and decadent in true French fashion.
The elegant, pillowy little meringue sandwiches are made with egg whites, granulated sugar, and almond flour. Between their chewy outer shell is a silky, creamy center packed with a buttery filling. Macarons come in fanciful flavors and a spectrum of colors - from the classic salted caramel to lavender and honey.
The roots of the Macaron are Italian, rather than French. Made in a rather more basic form in Venetian monasteries since the 8th century, they were probably brought to France by Catherine de' Medici during the 16th century. At the time, they were dubbed "priest's bellybuttons," due to the pastry's shape.
In 1792, two nuns in Nancy, driven from their convent following the French Revolution, took refuge with a local doctor and sold macarons to survive. They became known as the "Macaron sisters," later recognized by the town when in 1952 the spot where they made their cakes was rechristened "macarons."
Over time, various parts of France adopted the recipe as a homemade specialty. "Nancy" macarons, from the Lorraine region, have a cracked surface and do not use meringue. In Bordeaux, wine is added to "Saint-Émilion" macarons.
The most popular macaron, made of two meringue cookies sandwiching a smooth flavored filling, was a creation of the French capital. In the 1830s, Parisian confectioners introduced the Macaron Parisien. Soon, it would be popularized by Ladurée, a French bakery which became iconic.
But not until Sofia Coppola and her 2006 film, Marie Antoinette, did the popularity of macarons spread around the world. The queen is depicted surrounded by tasty pyramids of colorful macarons. Kirsten Dunst once told Entertainment Weekly, "Sofia and I kick ourselves. We should have invested in Ladurée... those stores popped up everywhere (after the film).
"We made macarons hot again."
Macarons are quite difficult to produce, because they are easily deformed and their crust often cracks during the baking process.
This hasn't stopped continued innovation and discovery of new shapes, flavors, and colors.
Vanilla. Pistachio. Chocolate and Chocolate Mint. Coffee. Salted Caramel. Strawberry. Raspberry. Lemon. Hazelnut, Walnut. Honey. Lavender. What's your favorite?