What is a Macaroon?
Macaroons are an Italian dessert made from ground almonds, egg whites, and frequently sugar. The majority of recipes for macaroons include coconut as well. Macaroons are a truly international food, with many countries claiming their own unique variety on this dessert. Macaroons are typically small and can be either light and airy like a meringue, or dense and chewy. Macaroons are popular among Jewish communities because they have no leavening, no milk, and no meat. This allows Jewish people to eat them with anything, and during Passover.
Macaroons first appeared in Italian monasteries in the 9th century. These early macaroons were most likely a crunchy cookie with a soft interior made from almond paste, egg whites, and sugar. The recipes for macaroons spread slowly, with the first accounts occurring in France in 1533. The first recipes for these treats were not recorded until 1725.
Making a macaroon is fairly simple. Simple macaroons are made by adding coconut to uncooked meringue along with almonds, which is then piped into the form of cookies. This mixture is then baked to form a macaroon. Chefs then frequently dip the cookies in chocolate before serving, or add new additions.
There are hundreds of variations on macaroons throughout the world. Every region of the world has adopted its own macaroon. Some popular inclusions are chocolate and coconut, which is common throughout Europe, North America, and Australia. In India cashews are used instead of almonds. The Spanish make macaroons with hazelnuts and honey added to the recipe. All of these variations have lead to an inconsistently defined product. For example, United States, macaroons are dense and chewy, while in France, they are light and airy, and often made without coconut.
For this reason, there is much confusion about what a macaroon is, and what a macaron is. In English, macaroons are used to define the Italian dessert, while macaron is used to define French desert consisting of two airy cookies sandwiching ganache, butter, or jam.