Saturday, November 15, 2008
Some historical facts about macaroons (macarons in french)
Macaroons are cookies or confections, or crosses between the two, depending on where they are made.
They are often confused (due to the very similar spelling) with the French Macarons which are entirely different in appearance.
The English word macaroon comes from the French macaron, from the word maccarone, regionally used in Italy to refer to maccherone (kind of pasta, with a hole and a larger diameter than bucatini) - because almond macaroon paste is the same colour as macaroni pasta.
Macaroon cookies biscuits often use egg whites (usually whipped to stiff peaks), with ground or powdered nuts, most commonly coconut but sometimes almond. Almost all recipes call for sugar, which caramelizes and provides body and a smooth, moist texture to the macaroon. If the coconut or other fabric used is very sweet, however, the sugar may be omitted.
In Scotland, there are three types of macaroon: the macaroon biscuit, which is the cookie-type macaroon and almost always almond-flavored; a macaroon cookie/confection that is made with plain mashed coconut (or cold cooked potatoes), mixed with icing sugar to stiffen it, then dipped in chocolate and rolled in coconut; and the pure confection called "macaroon," which is typically a fondant, nougat, meringue, or similar center, coated or dipped in chocolate.
In North America, the coconut macaroon is the best known variety. Commercially made coconut macaroons are generally dense, moist and sweet, and often dipped in chocolate. Homemade macaroons and varieties produced by smaller bakeries are commonly light and fluffy, as though they were a cross between macaroons, meringues and nougat. Macaroons made with coconuts are often piped out with a star shaped tip, whereas macaroons made with nuts are more likely shaped individually due to the stiffness of the dough.
In Asturias, Spain, there is a macaroon variety made with hazelnuts and honey called "carajitos."
According to legend, the macaroon was invented in an Italian monastery in 1792. Later, two Carmelite nuns, hiding in the town of Nancy during the French Revolution, baked and sold macaroons to cover their expenses. They became known as the "Macaroon Sisters." The cookie recipe was supposedly passed on to the Jewish community in France, who subsequently made it a staple of Passover baking.
However, recipes for macaroons (also spelled "mackaroon" "maccaroon" and "mackaroom" appear in recipe books at least as early as 1725 (Robert Smith's Court Cookery, or the Complete English Cook)
Macaroons remain a common treat during the Jewish holiday of Passover, because they are unleavened and can be made freshly without Chametz (leavened flour). Potato starch is sometimes included in the recipe, to give the macaroons more body.
 In popular culture
In the TLC show Jon & Kate Plus 8, the entire family visits an organic farm - Natural Acres - the organic conscious mother Kate Gosselin sighs with delight when she sees macaroons being sold at the farm's store, upon which she purchased one for herself and one for her beloved husband.
In Henrik Ibsen's A Doll's House, main character Nora delights herself with macaroons, despite her infantilizing husband's (Torvald) prohibition.
Macaroons play a major role in the 1994 Tom Stern/Alex Winter horror/comedy "Freaked". The macaroons in question appear to be of the coconut biscuit variety, with Winter's character complaining of the coconut being "skimped on" (meaning to use too little).
In "The Sopranos" series one, Tony Soprano presents his mother, Livia Soprano with a box of macaroons, claiming that they are "her favorites." Tony's mother is unable to conceal her delight, but quickly turns sour and dismissively says "I don't want it", thus highlighting her manipulative behavior.
In the 1998 movie "The Avengers", macaroons are "Mother"'s favorite biscuits.
In the lyrics to The Stampeders song "Sweet City Woman," the protagonist is fed Macaroons in the line "And she feeds me love and tenderness and macaroons".
In Acorn Antiques, the macaroon is the favored food of Mrs Overall, and the food has its own self-titled song in the musical version.
In the movie adaptation of Jane Austen's Persuasion, Mr. Walter Elliot exclaims that "Admiral Croft's face likely has the color of this Macaroon."
In King of the Hill Dale Gribble makes Macaroons for his Gun Club.
In one series of Li'l Abner comic strips, there was discussion of "macaroons and macaroni" as being "addictive" foods, although not referencing the common etymological origin of their names.
In the Viva Piñata game and TV series, one of the piñata species is known as "macaraccoon", a cross between two words, macaroon and raccoon.
In the TV Series Stargate SG-1, the character Cameron Mitchell details that Macaroons are a favorite baked good. At the end of the episode "Line in the Sand", he gives these to character Samantha Carter in reference to his earlier mention of it. In the direct to DVD movie The Ark of Truth Carter brings Mitchell some macaroons.