Mooning over Macarons
My daughter Madison was fortunate enough to be able to travel to Europe with her school in March of this year and since her return has been dreaming of Ladurée macarons. Since that fateful day we have been on the hunt for the perfect macaron, pronounced mah-kah-ROHN and not to be confused with macaroons. My investigation showing that this confusion happens all the time as these distant cookie cousins have a shared past. Unquestionably however there is something more than an extra ‘o’ that makes these two cookies so different.
According to Wikipedia…now the source for well, everything…both names are derived from the Italian word meaning meringue but a macaron is a French sweet meringue-based confection traced back to 1533 made with egg white, sugar, ground almond, and food colouring and commonly filled with ganache or buttercream filling. The macaroon is also typically made from with sugar and egg white but can contain either ground almonds or coconut and is often baked on edible rice paper placed on a baking tray. This would explain my daughter’s love of the macaron, but not macaroons as she like myself, is not largely a fan of coconut.
So when did macaroons arrive on the scene? Depending on the baking history you read, some say that coconut was added to the recipe by Europeans, becoming particularly popular with the Jewish community as a Passover food since the recipe doesn’t call for flour. Another theory points to Scotland as the origin of the coconut macaroon. Others describe the coconut macaroon as a thoroughly American cookie, created in the late 1800s when the exotic and trendy coconut arrived in America from India.
According to their website the story of the world famous Ladurée macaron specifically started in the middle of the 20th century with Pierre Desfontaines, who first thought of taking two macaron shells and joining them with a delicious ganache filling. Since that time, the recipe has not changed. My daughter had the joy of experiencing them again when she flew to Paris last week to start her three month French exchange. In the time however between her visit in March and her recent departure, having searched far and wide, we ironically stumbled upon them in a small boutique patisserie in Niagara-on-the-Lake that we visit often.
We always knew that Nina’s Gelateria and Pastry Shop made the most amazing gelato, pizzas and lemon loaf but it was not until recently that we took notice of their handmade French style macarons. Perhaps they were always there and went quietly unnoticed but owner Klaudia shares that she only makes them when time permits and when the humidity levels are just right as they can be very finicky to get just right. Upon Madison’s first glorious bite her big smile and proclamation that “these are heaven on earth”, I knew she would no longer need to moon over the elusive macaron.
Nina’s Gelateria and Pastry Shop
37 Queen Street, Niagara-on-the-Lake
For the shells:
90 gr egg whites (preferably aged overnight)
30 gr sugar
200 gr powdered sugar
110 gr ground almonds
In a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites to a foam, gradually add the sugar until you obtain a glossy meringue. Do not overbeat your meringue or it will be too dry. Place the powdered sugar and ground almonds in a food processor and give them a good pulse . Add them to the meringue , give it a quick fold to break some of the air and then fold the mass carefully until you obtain a batter that falls back on itself after few seconds.
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a plain tip (#809) with the batter and pipe small rounds (1.5 inches in diameter) onto parchment paper. Let the macarons sit out for 20 minutes .In the meantime, preheat the oven to 280F. When ready, bake for 11 -13 minutes, depending on their size. Let cool.
To fill: pipe your choice of buttercream in the center of one shell and top with another one.
You can as well use chocolate ganache. This is a recipe for standard macarons….if you wish for example to make strawberry macarons all you need to do is to add good quality jam to the buttercream or ganache.