What better way to welcome in the New Year “French style” than to talk semantics, symmetry — and cookies!
In this case it’s the mistaken identity of macaron vs macaroon. How much confusion one letter can create! But there’s more than a round vowel that separates the French macaron – a delicate, pastel colored meringue cookie – from its rustic country cousin, the macaroon – a dense, mounded coconut cookie.
Consider: The French macaron (pronounced “mack-ah-ROHN“), is a delectable, airy sandwich cookie layered with a sinfully wonderful filling. You might call it a gourmet French oreo cookie if that weren’t such a shameful comparison – vive la difference …
On the other hand, add an extra vowel and a lot of coconut and you have the rustic macaroon (pronounced “mack-ah-ROON”) … a dense and ambiguously shaped dollop of a cookie, baked to a golden shade of brown.
French macarons boast a wide range of flavors, including chocolate, pistachio, rose, and salted caramel. The outer shell is crisp, the inner cookie is slightly chewy, and the fillings range from buttercream or jam to ganache (a whipped filling made with semisweet chocolate and cream).
These Parisian treats are elegant, understated and anything but simple to make. The French have a way of making something look elegant in its apparent simplicity, when of course it is elegant with anything but simplicity. With the macaron, one of the biggest baking challenges is to make each cookies identical in shape and size – endow it with perfect symmetry. (Think of it as a formal French garden cookie.)
Queen Catherine de’ Medici brought the single macaron to France from Italy in the 16th century, but it was a Parisian baker, Pierre Desfontaines Ladurée, who, in the late 19th century, had the inspired idea of joining two meringues and filling them with ganache.
Good luck with your search for your perfect macaron. The best ones, of course, require a trans-Atlantic plane ride and a stop at one of Laduree’s tea shop. Alternatively, you can order online, or scurry to downtown Burlington for an awesome chocolate salted caramel macaron at Mirabelles.
Wherever you can find one, before you take a bite, close your eyes and be transported to Paris … where on New Year’s Eve the night is illuminated by the lights on the Eiffel tower and (surprise) fireworks dazzle and delight!