For the following two weeks, while I am in France, I am going to try a new pastry. Every. Single. Day.
In case you haven’t memorized your multiplication tables yet (don’t worry, I haven’t either), that’s fourteen pastries. Is that a lot? Honestly, I would be eating that many pastries—or more—anyway, so I might as well get something out of it besides an empty wallet and a gourmet French dessert baby kicking at my stomach.
So what is culturally significant about fourteen variations of dark, rich, chocolate, flaky dough, and vanilla beans? I plan on finding out, one bite at a time.
Read the entire series here.
I have a confession to make. I don’t really like macarons.
I know what you’re thinking. Aren’t people who don’t like macarons not allowed through French customs? Well, I got through, despite my distaste for what is possibly the most iconic French pastry (at the moment).
I have a massive sweet tooth, and yet macarons are too sweet for me. They’re also often quite dense and rigid. I like my pastry light and fluffy. I like my pastry as close to whipped cream as possible. I just really love whipped cream.
But I couldn’t do The Daily Pastry in France without taste-testing some macarons.
I don’t know what happened, I only meant to get three:
Well, surprise, surprise, I still don’t especially like macarons. At least they have an interesting history to match their pretty façades.
Macarons, believe or not, do not actually originate in France. Rather, they were introduced in Italy, by the chef of Catherine de Medici in 1533. The word macaron is derived from the Italian macarone, maccarone, or maccherone, the word for meringue. This was around the time of her marriage to the Duc d’Orleans who later became king of France as Henry II in 1547.
Of course, the story is not really that clear-cut. Apparently, macarons have been produced in Venetian monasteries since the 8th century AD. There’s a legend that Catherine de Medici brought chefs from this area to France to recreate childhood favorites and alleviate her homesickness for Italy. An additional history starts in Nancy during the French Revolution, when two Carmelite nuns seeking asylum baked and sold macarons to pay for their housing. They were known as the “Macaron Sisters.”
At first, macarons did not have the double-decker structure that we now know them for. Rather, they were fairly simple cookies, made of almond powder, sugar, and egg whites. It wasn’t until the 20th century that macarons started to look as they are now, when Pierre Desfontaines, Ladurée royalty, had the idea to fill them with a chocolate panache to stick the cookies together.
Though I don’t understand it, macarons are the best-selling cookie in French patisseries. They’re also extremely popular in the United States, with macaron kiosks popping up in malls everywhere. But as for me, I’ll stick to les Merveilleux if I’m going to eat meringue.