On the silver screen, the French macaron has been portrayed as the epitome of luxury, afforded only by the upper class. This marketing makes me feel like they are treats which you cannot easily make at home, and consequently keeps me purchasing macarons at Ladurée for $3.90 each.
In reality, the macaron has humble origins and was made by two nuns from Nancy in Lorraine, France, in order to make a living after their Convent was dissolved during the French Revolution. This has been highly contested, with suggestions that the macaron was actually from Italy. But in France, Macarons des Sœurs were simple (and ugly) sweets made from almond meal, icing sugar and egg whites, whipped to form cracked meringue cookies.
In the 19th century, the macaron became a double-decker treat, featuring two meringue cookies sandwiched by a smooth filling. This macaron parisien is what ‘macaron’ commonly refers to and looked nothing like Macarons des Sœurs despite featuring the exact same ingredients. The ingredients are so basic; I decided to have a go myself.
Confession: Macarons are harder to make than they look.
I made two batches because I overworked the first batch during macaronage (incorporation of dry ingredients into egg whites). This is an example of Carême’s discourse on cooking methods and is remarkable Frenchification of a simple mixing action! My second batch was much improved as the shells had smooth tops and formed ‘feet’ – hooray! I filled my shells with chocolate ganache and presented them as Parisian macarons. They were recognisable as macarons and therefore went fairly quickly at the food fair, preceded by their reputation on the silver screen.