That’s right – the original macaron was not a pretty sandwich cookie, though the basic ingredients (egg whites, almond flour and sugar) are the same. If you don’t fuss with your batter (stirring and folding the batter just so), the cookies come out not looking like much but tasting just as good as their fancier cousins (and, I’d say even better because they don’t look like much, their flavour surprises you!)
And yes – they are supposed to have cracked tops – and are more like a chewy cookie than the delicate macarons you’re probably used to. I first discovered these “imperfect macarons” a number of years ago at Aurore et Capucine in Paris – macarons craquelés that have a thin filling joining two flat cookies together – you can do this if you’d like to make these “plain” cookies a little fancier.
The history of the macaron is a complicated one… It’s said they originated back in the late 1700s when Carmelite nuns baked sweet cookies with almond meal as a way of supplementing their meat-free diet. According to the Larousse Gastronomique, these nuns followed Theresa of Avila’s principle to the letter: ‘Almonds are good for girls who don’t eat meat’. During the French Revolution, two nuns in hiding in the French town of Nancy started making and selling macarons, becoming known as “Les Soeurs Macarons”. In 1952, the street where their bakery and store was located was named after them and macarons de Nancy are are still sold there today. Now, many regions of France claim to be the birthplace of the “original” macarons. One of my favourite versions comes from Bernard Meysan in St Emilion. This box claims Ursuline nuns who settled in St Emilion in 1680 were responsible for the creation of this version – a certain “Sister Boutin” having shared the secret to making these with some families in St Emilion during the revolution. The tradition has been carried on by numerous pâtissiers around the town to this day and, in fact you won’t go far without seeing a store that sells them, each claiming to be “true” St Emilion macarons.
Dorie’s version is from the Basque region and known as muxuak and is a fairly simple recipe (although she divides the egg whites, whipping half and mixing half in with the dry ingredients – I didn’t do that because I made a 1/2 batch of these and it was too fiddly to weigh 3/4 of an egg LOL!) that you can whip up in no time.
Dorie added cinnamon to hers but I left mine plain – they are the perfect accompaniment to an afternoon espresso. We never tire of these at our house!
Get the recipe for Dorie Greenspan’s Basque Macrons on page 284 of Baking Chez Moi or my version of St Emilion macarons here (or another version, which is in In the French kitchen with kids – see below!)
Tuesdays with Dorie participants don’t publish the recipes on our blogs, so you’re encouraged to purchase Baking Chez Moi for yourself which you can do on Amazon (this link should bring you to the Amazon store in your country) or for free worldwide shipping, buy from The Book Depository. Then join us, baking our way through the book!
MY BOOK! In the French kitchen with kids is out now! Click here for details and how to order!