Seemingly simplistic, French macaroons, or "macarons", are miniature, domed sandwich cookies filled with ganache and come in myriad flavors ranging from traditional (chocolate, strawberry) to exotic (rosewater, jasmine mango). However, this cookie's simple appeal is deceptive; this is one of the most difficult cookies to master. Although the cookie is made only from almond powder, egg whites, sugar and confectioner's sugar, a quick trip to Amazon.fr shows that there are no fewer than 20 cookbooks dedicated solely to the love or creation of macarons. Extremely temperamental, it seems that every pastry chef has their own approach to the perfect macaroon. Some advise that the batter MUST rest for 30 minutes before being dolloped onto the baking sheet. Others swear by chilling the batter before making the cookies. I particularly like David Lebovitz's take on the process when he decided to make the ultimate Franco-American fusion macaron--Ketchup flavored.
The origin of this French classic isn't clear but may have come to France from Italy as early as the 1500s. For several hundred years, these cookies were served as a single cookie (no layers) and it wasn't until the 1900s that pastry chef Pierre Desfontaines of iconic Parisian bakery Laduree created the first sandwiched macaroons, inventing the treat as we know it today. Laduree is still the first stop for most macaron seekers, and the last time I happened to stop in it was Mother's Day weekend and the place was a mad house of Parisians trying to get first dibs on the amazing flavor selections as gifts for maman.
Because I know my limits, I plan to wait for a long weekend to attempt what is sure to be an arduous macaron making process. But, in the meantime, I've recently discovered a supplier in my local area that is Laduree-trained, so a few of these little delicacies may make an appearance at my birthday party next weekend--stay tuned.