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What are the origins of the macaron?

A true monument of French pastry-making, the macaron is now anchored in the country's gastronomic culture and is the emblem of the refinement and know-how of our craftsmen.

 

But before becoming what it is today, both in its form and in its fame, the macaron went through many stages. We invite you to take a journey through time to understand the origin of the macaron and to learn more about the history of this exceptional delicacy.

The medieval roots of the macaron

Like many other almond-based pastries, the macaron has its origins in the Middle East, where it is believed to have been eaten in the Middle Ages before being discovered by the first European sailors.

If it is difficult to trace its history with certainty, it is because at that time the word "macaron" also referred to a soup. It is therefore unclear whether the cake or the soup is mentioned in the historical records. What we do know is that it did not yet resemble the macaron we eat today: in the Middle Ages, the macaroon did not have the structure of a cake - ganache heart - cake, but was simply in the form of a small round shell, crunchy and melting at the same time.

 

Over the course of history, in view of the macaron's exponential success, a number of territories have claimed to have created it, although it is not clear which of them is right.

France and the macaron: the beginning of a great love story

Fortunately, the history of the macaron became clearer during the Renaissance, when Catherine de Medici, who came from Italy to marry Henry II, brought the little cake back to France. At that time, the small round cake was still called "maccherone" or macaroni. Gradually, the macaron made a name for itself and developed throughout the country, where towns and regions took it over.

 

Over the centuries, we hear about the Macaron of Amiens, a Picardy speciality made from almonds, sugar, honey and egg white; the Macaron of Joyeuse, a speciality of the Ardèche, more crumbly and less dense than its northern counterpart; we also find them in the Basque Country, in Saint-Emilion, in Nancy and Montmorillon, to name but a few. Macarons could even boast of having the makings of a royal dish, since they were long served by the officers of the mouth - servants in charge of the king's food - at Versailles.

The macaron in literature

The macaron is mentioned in literature by Rabelais in the 16th century, who describes a "small round pastry with almonds", and by Alexandre Dumas in his Grand dictionnaire de cuisine published in 1873. The following recipes can be found there:

 

"Macarons of bitter almonds.

Take 500 grams of bitter almonds that you will grind and dry in the oven, then you will crush them with three egg whites, so that they do not turn to oil, you put them in a bowl with 1 kilo 500 gr. of powdered sugar; prepare your macarons as indicated above and put them in the oven at a very moderate heat.

 

Macarons of sweet almonds.

You prune and dry 500 gr. of sweet almonds, as indicated above, you crush them in the same way and follow exactly the same procedures, adding only a grating of lemon that you mix with sugar and almonds, you dress and bake the same.

 

Puffed macarons with green nuts.

You peel and cut into fillets 500 gr. of green walnuts that you mix with 75 gr. of sugar and a little egg white that you dry in the oven.

Let them cool; prepare the ice cream with two egg whites and 1 kilo of very fine sugar; add the green walnuts and finish the operation as usual.

The macaron of Paris: an age-old institution

To trace the origins of the macaron as we know it today, we have to wait until the middle of the 19th century, when pastry chefs from the Ile-de-France had the idea of assembling two halves of the macaron shell together with a creamy centre, the famous ganache. This can be made of jam, butter cream or compote, and opens the door to completely new recipes.

 

This is how the "Macaron Parisien" came into being, a symbol of French refinement and a field for experimentation in modern cuisine. After becoming popular in its traditional flavours of chocolate, vanilla, coffee, pistachio, praline or lemon, the macaron now allows itself many fantasies for the greatest pleasure of gourmets: blackcurrant-violet, pistachio-raspberry-red berries, passion fruit, strawberry-yuzu, chestnut-blackberry... 

 

Discover the macaron in its most beautiful light through the recognised know-how of the Fauchon house.

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