Did you know that May 31st is National Macaroon Day? Not to be confused with the French macaron, the macaroon is a usually considered to be a delightful coconut confection that has delighted people for centuries!
While it is said that both originated from the same source in Italy (they are also connected to the amaretti cookie), it’s claimed that bakers started adding in coconut instead of only almond paste, turning the macaron into the chewy, crispy coconut macaroon that we all love.
The name itself evolved from the Italian word for paste, “maccarone”, reflecting the original use of almond paste in the recipe. They can be traced back to at least the 150’’s. when two French nuns became known as the Macaroon sisters, were baking up and selling macaroons to earn money.
The classic French style Macaron that we are all familiar with in its rainbow shades of deliciousness has now evolved into two tiny disks baked up using almond paste, encasing a jam or icing filling. There is no coconut involved and indeed, the baking of the macaron takes such skill to produce a perfect finished product that most home bakers won’t attempt them.
The coconut macaroon can have additions to it ranging from slivers of nuts, to cherries and my personal favourite, dipped in chocolate! Nowadays you won’t find a coconut macaroon with almond paste, instead the use has almost exclusively been transferred to the delicate and much coveted endeavour of the French style macaron. The coconut macaroon is widely embraced by home bakers, the ease of the recipes making it a perfect beginner baker’s dream.
The two are so closely entwined that it’s almost impossible to tell the two apart from spelling along. The single “o” spelling of macaron has been adopted to describe the French macaron, while macaroon can encompass even more than just the coconut macaroon. There are many flourless, almond paste cookies that also would classify as a macaroon!
No matter the confusing history of the macaroon versus the macaron, the one thing that has stood the test of time is how delicious they both are!