Macaroons? Macarons? Despite the fact that these French confections have gone from being a chi-chi trend to something that everyone with an oven and a sweet tooth is being encouraged to make at home, we still don’t seem quite sure how to spell them. The first point to get clear is that a macaroon is, quite simply, a kind of biscuit or sweetmeat made using egg whites, sugar and finely-ground nuts. The second source of confusion is that English spells this word macaroon and French macaron. It needn’t be too troublesome, though: macaroon is to macaron as bread is to pain. If you’re writing about macaroons – whatever variety – in English, then technically you should use two ‘o’s. If you are the kind of person who insists on saying croissant in a flawless French accent when you buy one, then by all means feel free to use the French spelling and pronunciation.
Culinary historians claim that macaroons can be traced to an Italian monastery of the 9th century. Italian Jews later adopted the cookie because it has no flour or leavening and can be enjoyed during the eight-day observation of Passover. It was introduced to other European Jews and became popular as a year-round sweet. Over time, coconut was added to the ground almonds and, in certain recipes, replaced them. Potato starch is also sometimes included in the recipe, to give the macaroons more body. In France, the most well-known version of macarons, those luridly colored sandwiches of almond meringue and creamy filling, also has a simple timeline. They were invented at the beginning of the 20th century by Pierre Desfontaines Ladurée. The macaroon has become the most coveted cookie in France, particularly in Paris. It is a bit of a trendy item for people to serve, the favorite sweet of children, the ideal breakfast treat, the beloved cookie of Parisian tea salons, the fashionable gift to give, and the ideal cookie for holidays such as Valentine’s Day and...