Archive for the ‘French Baking Glossary and FAQs’ Category

So what is a French Macaroon?

Share Button

When most Americans think of macaroons, they think of those lovely lumpy chewy coconut balls. However, a French Macaroon or “le macaron” in French, is a delicate airy meringue sandwhich of fanciful colors and filled with either a flavored buttercream, jam, or ganache.

Enter a fine Parisian restaurant and you might be served these delicate miniature petit-fours.*

So what is the origin of the French Macaroon or Macaron (pronounced mah-kah-RONE).

France? Well, not so fast. The English word macaroon is derived from the French macaron, which in turn comes from the Italian word for paste, maccarone (mah-kah-ROW-nay).

Some culinary historians claim that this delicate cookie originated in a Italian Monastery.

But there is no mistake that Macaroons made their entrance into France back in 1533 with the pastry chefs of Catherine de Medici, wife of King Henri II. Two Benedictine nuns, Sister Marguerite and Sister Marie-Elisabeth, seeking asylum in the town of Nancy during the French Revolution (1789-1799), paid for their housing by baking and selling the macaroon cookies, and thus became known as the “Macaroon Sisters”. The macarons they made were a simple combination of ground almonds, egg whites, and sugar. No special flavors. No filling. Just 100% cookie.

It wasn’t until the 1900s that Pierre Desfontaines of Parisian pastry shop and café Ladurée decided to take two cookies and fill them with ganache. Today Ladurée continues to be one of the first stops for macaron-crazed fans in Paris. No longer a humble almond cookie, the macaron turned into a versatilely flavored treat with a thin, light crust briefly giving way to a layer of moist almond meringue following by a center of silky smooth filling.

*Petit-four is French for “small baked pastries.” There are two styles of petit-fours, glacé and sec. Petit-fours glacées include filled and/or iced petit fours, miniature babas, miniature éclairs, tiny iced cakes and tartlets. Petit-fours secs include small cookies, macaroons, meringues palmiers and tuiles. The words mignardises (min-yar-DEEZ), from the French for “preciousness,” and friandises (free-yon-DEEZ), from the French for “delicate,” are often used instead of petit-fours.

Related Reading and Sources

* The Nibble: History of Macarons

* Discover Paris!: The Macaron – A Mouthful of Heaven

* Dorie Greenspan: French Macarons: A Tale of Three Cities

* A Blithe Palate: Macaroons

* Traveler’s Lunchbox: The Mighty Macaron

* Wikipedia: Macaron

* Ladurée

French Baking Terms

Share Button


French Baking Glossary – Show off your French speaking skills at your next dinner party!


French Terms  – English definition [1]

These terms came from It’s pretty fun to visit the blog, all in French, because when you click on the “Au levain in ENGLISH” it automatically translates the site to English using the Google translator!

ajouter     to add     
alveolée     with lots of holes     
le     apprêt     second fermentation     
la     autolyse     autolyse, enzymatic rest     
la     baguette     long thin loaf, ‘stick’      
le     bâtard     thicker loaf, ‘bastard’     
le     blé     wheat     
le     bol     bowl     
la     boule     round loaf     
la     buée     steam in the oven     
chauffer     to heat     
le     chef     starter, ‘chief’     
la     clé     seam on shaped dough,  
la     couche     dusted towel for proofing     
la     coupe     cut,score     
croquant     crisp     crow  
croustillant     crisp      
la     croûte     crust     
la     cuiller     spoon (not a common spelling)     
la     cuillère     spoon     
cuire     to cook     
la     détente     rest before shaping     
diviser     to divide, cut to loaf size      (more…)