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The Italian Job
Although the macaron is commonly referred to as a French invention, its origins are disputed.
While some believe the macaron recipe can be traced back to an 8th century convent in central France; others place its roots in Italy.
The clue to its Italian roots lie in the name "Macaron" which stems from the same root-word as the Italian word "Macaroni." The root meaning behind both of these foods being "fine dough."
Although its origins are unknown, the macaron has developed into a French cultural icon over the years. In fact, the French town of Montmorillon has even devoted a museum to the macaron.
Something about the macaron has made it an attractive confection for the rich, powerful and royal.
The treat maintains an air of decadence because of its delicate and sweet nature, but also because it has a reputation for being extremely difficult to bake.
According to popular folklore, the macaron was favoured by Catherine de' Medici. The Italian-born noble woman who became a French Queen, is said to have brought the macaron recipe from Italy to France upon marrying King Henry II in 1533.
The macaron has also been featured in the dramatizations of the lives of another well-known French Queen, the indulgent and extravagant Marie Antoinette.
Two Is Better Than One
Children often describe the appearance of macarons as tiny hamburgers; due to the fact they are made up of two shells with are sandwiched together with ganache, butter cream or other fillings.
However, macarons were not always served in pairs. Before the 20th century, macarons were eaten like biscuits or served with jams and other spreads which one could use to sandwich their own macarons.
Nowadays, the macaron seems almost naked without its filling, but that was not always the case!
The Macaron Snob
The French macaron is often confused with the less refined coconut macaroon.
This is due to the fact that, in English, we tend to pronounce macaron and macaroon the same as well as flip flopping the spelling of the two.
We are by no means snobs about the pronunciation or spelling of "macaron," but the actual French pronunciation of macaron should be as follows: mah- kah- ron
Image Credit: Suzie Shinanigan from Threadless