Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you the case of the macaron vs. macaroon. I have eaten both macaroons and macarons in my day, and though I’ve pronounced both as maca-two-o’s-oons (despite their obvious disparities) not once has a server indicated that I was pronouncing the daintier dessert (pictured on the left below) incorrectly; in fact, I believe they, too, pronounced the name wrong. It’s sort of like how we’re all in denial and order “brushetta” even though we’ve learned the proper pronunciation is “brusketta.” Same goes for gyro and “year-ro” I (grudgingly) suppose…
But back to the case at hand. Both of these similarly named confections start with meringue: egg whites and sugar whipped to glossy stiffness. That’s where the cookies reach the fork in the road, the whisk in the peaks, if you will: the difference lies in the execution.
Macarons are of Parisian decent, and (to further complicate things) are sometimes referred to as “Parisian Macaroons” (note the 2 o’s). Luckily, macarons are easily identifiable by the sandwich-style presentation, the buns of which are light, airy almond meringue cookies. Macaron filling options are limitless; buttercream, fruit preserves, and chocolate ganache are frequent choices. The cookies and fillings are typically dyed in bright and fashionable coordinating colors, and the hue arguably makes a bigger statement than the flavor of the delicate cookie itself. It’s confection couture at its finest.
Notoriously difficult to prepare (Sally’s recipe requires two hours of prep time), traditional macaron recipes require advanced planning and aging of the egg whites. The whites are separated from the yolks and left to age in the fridge (sometimes for several days), and are then incorporated with almond flour and sugar. The batter is piped out with precision into round, flat, equally-sized discs, and as the cookies bake, a ruffled “foot” forms at the base, later serving as a frilly filling garter.
This chic sweet is commonly found in trendy boutique bakeries, like Pistacia Vera in Columbus, which is fitting given that home cooks often struggle with baking macarons (cracked shells, missing feet, air pockets . . . the list of woes goes on).
In comparison, making macaroons is a cake (err… cookie) walk. (For reference, the Kitchn’s macaroon recipe requires only ten minutes of prep!) The most common variety of macaroon is coconut, especially in the United States, and the coconut variety has Italian and Jewish roots. Shredded coconut is folded into the sweet meringue, and nuts are occasionally added. These flourless treats are comparatively dense with a slightly crisp exterior, and soft, sticky center.
Sure the coconut macaroon may look a little homely next to a svelte Parisian macaron, but I’d argue both deserve a place at the cookie table.
The original version of this post appeared first in April 2013 on the now deceased official Urbanspoon blog.