On any given day in Paris you can find women, tourists, and good boyfriends in line for French macarons at Ladurée. There isn’t a better place in Paris to get your pastel sugar fix. Ladurée is considered by many to be the mecca of French macarons. What’s hard to imagine that when Louis Ernest Ladurée first opened his bakery in 1862, this delicate little sandwich cookie was no where to be found! It wasn’t until the early 1900’s, and after Louis’ wife decided to transform the patisserie into a tea salon or salon de the’ that a second cousin of Ladurée decided to create the enchanting confection we now know as the macaron (mah-kah-rohn). Brilliant woman, clever man.
Without giving it a second thought, many may think of this delicacy as a distinctively French specialty. Italians will probably disagree. The cookie that sold on Rue Royal before cousin Pierre Desfontaines’s moment of genius was likely similar to the Italian amaretti cookie–a simplified version of the macaron, but still made with a base of almonds, sugar, and egg whites.
According to folklore, Catherine de Medici brought macarons over from Italy in 1533, the year of her marriage to Henry the II of France. The word “macaron” actually originates from the Italian word “macaroni,” a pasta dish cooked with cheese. I know you are probably thinking of the blue and orange box, but to do justice to this artful cookie we should stop you right there. Simply, what macarons and macaroni have in common is that they both derive from a paste of flour, whether sweet or savory.
In some smaller cities outside of Paris, macarons seem to take on a much more rustic appearance and texture, an echo of what they might have looked like before their early twentieth century Parisian makeover. No gilded boxes here but still perfectly imperfect in their own charming way.
At the end of the day, shiny or not, I’ll take a thoughtfully crafted macaron over a Nutter Butter any day. And if it’s made in France, even better.