What is a macaron?

So all week I’ve been posting about these wonderful little desserts but I haven’t even answered the most basic of questions: What is a macaron?

Before I get into details, I would like to point out that we are talking about French macarons as opposed to the North American coconut counterparts…. those are spelled with an extra “o” (as in macaroons) and they’re slighly less exciting and diverse.

So, what is a macaron? By definition, it is a confectionery sandwich made up of 2 parts almond and meringue cookie with one part jam or butter cream. They have now evolved to being made up of a variety of nuts (not just almonds) that are ground into a fine flour and various fillings that include curds and ganaches.

The perfect macaron has a crispy outer shell that’s soft and chewy on the inside. The balance between these two elements is very hard to achieve so therefore the perfect macarons are a rarity. Each cookie must also present what is commonly referred to as “the foot”, the base of the macaron that is exposed  from under the hard shell during the baking process. The foot should represent anywhere from a 1/3 to 1/2 of the height of each cookie and must be even all around.

As far as the fillings are concerned, the flavour should come across throughout the whole cookie and not be masked by the overbearing taste of the almonds (or various other nuts). The filling must also be firm enough to keep from oozing out of the sandwich but not too firm as to create resistance upon being bitten into.

Finally, all macarons should be served at room temperature. This allows for the nut fats to release all their flavours and for all fillings to be at their optimal serving temperatures. I know it is hard to wait for these treats to warm up but since they’re mostly stored in a freezer/refrigerator, it would be to your best advantage to do so. One single exception to this rule would be ice cream filled macarons and I really don’t have to explain why they don’t need to be thawed before consumption.

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