The true origin of the macaron is debatable. What we know as a fact is that they started as a single almond meringue shell. It wasn’t until the mid-1800’s or 1900’s (another debate) that they became what we are now familiar with, the French macaron: two shells sandwiched together with filling.
What we can all agree with, though, is that they are difficult to make. Even the seasoned pastry chef still runs into issues. I’ve been making French macarons for about 2 years now, so I have some experience under my apron. I read everything I could find on the internet before I even attempted to try these things. Here are some common myths that I came across that I’d like to address…
1. You pronounce it wrong. (EH…You say tom-ay-toe, I say tom-ah-toe….)
I think it would be acurate to claim that most Americans pronounce French macarons as “macaroonz”. The French probably cringe every time they hear us say that. In France, and probably most other countries, it is prounounced “ma-ka-rohn”. Rhymes with “on”, “Ron”, “Don-Juan”…
Some say “macaroon” is simply the English translation of “macaron”, however, if we are calling it what it is, macaron seems more appropriate. I say pronounce it however you want: it’s still delicious!
When some people, mostly older folks, hear the word macaroon, they think of those little coconut bundles that are sometimes dipped in chocolate. Of course, French macarons are nothing like that at all. They are a meringue-based cookie with a filling sandwiched between two shells. The origins of macarons and macaroons are not too different though, so maybe that is the root of all of this confusion.
2. You can’t make them in the rain. (FALSE)
It’s raining as I type and I just finished making macarons. They came out perfect. Don’t let mother nature rain on your pastry parade. I make macarons almost every time it rains. Mostly because I make them 5 days a week so chances are good if it rains, it will be on one of those 5 days. I live in California and we are allergic to rain so we stay indoors. What a better way to pass the time than to bake macarons.
The only guess I have as to why this myth started in the first place is that rain makes the air more humid, obvi, which is not a favorable environment for macarons. Now in California, the climate is on the dry side anyway so I haven’t really experienced problems related to extreme humidity. I can say that a humid room makes the resting period of macarons take a little longer.
3. They are very very difficult to make… (TRUE…until you get the hang of it)
I almost cried the 3rd time I made macarons and they were still cracking. I was so frustrated that I gave up for awhile. Almond flour isn’t cheap so I hated wasting it. I read every piece of information I could get my hands on about macaron making before I tried again. After the 5th time, I got the hang of it and it’s been mostly an easy process. I’ve had some hiccups along the way but having a better understanding of the cookie has made fixing my mistakes a lot easier.
4. You have to age your egg whites. (FALSE)
When I first started making macarons, I read that I HAD to do this. It seemed like such a time suck. Some instructions said to leave them sitting on the counter for 6 hours, some said 6 days! 6 days? I could have eaten 100 macarons in 6 days. As the saying goes… “Ain’t nobody got time for that.” I’ve used eggs straight from the fridge, room temperature eggs, eggs I left out for 3 days….always the same result. Don’t bother!
5. You can’t make them with fresh eggs. (FALSE)
I’ve told people this before and they go on about how when eggs get to the market, they are already at least a week old so I am in fact using “old” eggs. Okay, maybe but I’ve also used very fresh eggs. Like REALLY fresh. Once when I was practicing making macarons, I was 1 egg short so I ran outside to our chicken coop and grabbed an egg. Can’t get any fresher than that. No problems.
6. Egg whites need to be room temp. (FALSE)
Although, room temp egg whites whip up a little faster, you’re wasting time waiting around for them to get there. I use cold eggs whites, cool egg whites and room temp egg whites. I always get the same result.
7. You must bake on non-stick Silpat mats. (FALSE)
I didn’t have these when I first started making macarons so I used parchment paper. I perfected my recipe and technique on parchement paper before I tried Silpat. I didn’t have to make any changes to the way I made them, using the different material. There are pros and cons to both. If you don’t have them, use parchment if you don’t want to make the investment. It’s all good!