This week’s obsession: Butterbeer Macarons
I am compelled to explain the difference between 'Macarons' and 'Macaroons'. Again. Because oh boy is there a difference. A lot of differences, actually. Let’s start here:
Every time I make macarons for an event, several people inevitably approach me to ask, "Did you make the macaROONS?" It makes my eye twitch with how hard I have to fight the urge to tell them that I did not make macaroons, but that I did make macarons. In my head I just repeat to myself, "Don't be that girl. Don't be that girl. Don't be that girl." Bear in mind that this is a battle I have been fighting since pastry school, and I have no intention of stopping it now, which is why this whole blog post will be my tip of the week: how to tell the difference between macarons and macaroons (hint: spelling is the first clue).
Now that we got that out of the way, let’s discuss ingredients:
The French sandwich cookie, a macaron, is made with a meringue (I often use an Italian meringue which is comparable to a Swiss meringue, but I was actually taught to use a French meringue so whichever one you prefer to use is fine) that is folded into a mixture of almond flour and powdered sugar. The combination of all of these ingredients creates a fluid batter that is about the consistency of an Icee, which is then piped onto a baking sheet, rested, and baked until the cookies rise and create “feet” (basically just the ruffled edge around the bottom of each cookie).
A macaroon is far less complicated. It consists of shredded coconut, egg whites, and sugar. Fold all of those babies together, scoop into mounds, and bake until each mound becomes a solid mass. Since I love to decorate, when I used to make these at the cafe I worked at in New Orleans, I would pipe a fun chocolate drizzle on the top. You don't have to do those for yours if you don't want to.
Now that we know what these two different cookies are made out of, and have several visuals on the fact that they do not look at all the same, nor are the spelled the same, let’s discuss where they came from.
Macaron cookies originated as an Italian creation - surprise! It is believed that macarons were brought to France around 1533 A.D. by an Italian noblewoman who later married the King of France. However, prior to the late 1800s, the French were eating macarons just as single cookies, not as the sandwich style we are used to today. Leave it to French confectioners to take something that is already delicious and turn it into something that is even better!
Macaroons are also derived from an Italian confection, but are the result of using coconut with egg whites and sugar, instead of almond flour with whipped egg whites and sugar. The idea to use coconut in confections occurred due to an abundance of shredded coconut. (It was the best way to ship coconuts back in the day. Shredding them allowed shippers to avoid spoilage.) Since coconut macaroons are an unleavened treat, Jewish Italians were able to enjoy them and they are now a staple dessert for Passover.
Now on to the big one for me: pronunciation. If there’s one thing that you learn today it should be that the word macaron does not rhyme with afternoon. It sounds more like “aww come on!” As in, “Aww, come on! I can’t believe you mispronounced ‘macaron’!”
Yes. I am that girl.
Also to help you with that first syllable, because it's a French "a", it is pronounced like "mock". So the French sandwich cookie sounds like you're teasing Ron Weasley: "mock-uh-ron."
For this week’s pastry, I tried something different while making macarons. In fact there were several things that were different. First of all, I used someone else’s recipe for the macaron cookies. I’ve never used any macaron recipe but my own before, so I was super nervous about how it would turn out, what with macarons being so finicky and all.
The second thing I did differently was make meringue using the Swiss method (refresh your memory about the three different meringue methods), which is easy peasy, but still kinda nerve wracking since again, macarons need a practiced hand to turn out well.
The third thing I did differently was dye the meringue as it was whipping instead of after it's finished. Usually I fold in the dye as I mix the meringue into the almond flour and sugar, but I decided to just follow the new recipe and let the chips fall where they may. (I say that as if I was so confident and casual about it. I wasn’t. This whole thing was a nail biter from beginning to end.) #ChefWithAnxiety
There were so many changes to my normal macaron routine that I had to have a glass of wine while I was working on these. (Totally NOT different.)
But the crazy thing is that I really liked the way the cookies from this recipe baked. They had the quintessential crunchy layer on the outside and the delectable chewiness on the inside that every pastry chef strives for. I have an inkling that I may switch to this method from here on out!
To keep with my Harry Potter theme this month, I decided to make these macarons butterbeer flavored, after the delightful drink Harry Potter and his friends enjoy in Hogsmeade. For those of you who need a refresher about butterbeer, it first appears in Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. Although the flavor palette is not described much in the book or movie series (narration from the book states that for Harry, “it was the most delicious thing he’d ever tasted, and seemed to heat every bit of him from the inside.”), J.K. Rowling was later interviewed about her idea for how butterbeer tastes, to which she responded, “a little bit like less-sickly butterscotch”. The woman has a way with words, doesn’t she? 🤢
Keeping that in mind, I made a macaron filling which consisted of a butterscotch ganache mixed into buttercream. Then I piped a dollop of the butterscotch ganache in the center for an extra shot of goodness, before pairing each of them with a macaron topper. #Matchmaker
To her credit, it truly was sickly sweet. But also really delicious. Like delicious to the point where I had to box them up and give them away to my coworkers so I would actually stop eating them. (Shout out to my coworkers - thanks for the help!) #RealMVPs
In conclusion, I'm asking you all to please remember that there is actually a marked difference between a macaron and a macaroon. I'm not here to tell you which one you should like or if one is better than the other, but I am here to tell you that there is a difference in spelling, pronunciation, origins, ingredients, and baking methods. But I am happy to make you some of both types of cookie to help you determine the rest for yourself.
Happy eating, y'all!
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