What is a macaron?

13 Oct 2022

Food + Drink

Petite, light, and utterly delicious – a chocolate macaron is one of our favourite treats. But what exactly is a macaron?

When you think of a macaroon, you will most likely think of the small, colourful almond cookies you see in high-end patisseries. But in fact, these are macarons. Both are delectable nibbles, but we must admit, we have a particular fondness for light-as-air macarons. If you’re intrigued by these irresistible bites, read on to learn more about them – starting with: what is a macaron?

Macarons on a cake stand

What is a macaron?

A macaron is very commonly conflated with a macaroon. They are often marketed incorrectly, so it’s no surprise that people get confused!

A macaroon is actually the name of a bumpy biscuit flavoured with coconut shavings. Whilst you can get chocolate macarons, the famous macaron that we all know and love is made with almond flour and is known for its bright colours and distinctive saucer-like shape.

Where do macarons come from?

Macarons are a confectionery that has been around for centuries. The modern chocolate macaron was first created in the early 1800s in France, and since then these delicious treats have become popular all over the world.

In America, macarons have even been filled with a variety of modern (but nonetheless odd!) flavours such as Maple Syrup Bacon, Mint Choc Chip, and Salted Pretzel.

Macaron records actually go as far back as the 7th century Middle East, and 8th century Italy in Venetian monasteries. It’s likely that the macaron we adore stems back to an Italian biscuit, however, it would have been a world away from the nibble as we know it. Rather, the pastel treats we refer to were created in the 1830s by Parisian confectioners.

What is the difference between a macaron and a macaroon?

Surprisingly, there are a lot of differences between a macaron and a macaroon. Really, they only share their origin, which stems from an old Italian cookie made from chopped almonds, sugar, and egg whites. But apart from this history, the similarity that macarons and macaroons now share is in name alone.

A macaroon is a coconut-flavoured biscuit made from granulated sugar and shredded coconut. They are much more dense and robust than a macaron, with a pleasantly stodgy centre. Often, you’ll find chocolate-dipped macaroons, but some biscuit makers keep them plain to let the coconut notes shine through.

On the other hand, a macaron has a meringue base. Once baked into a light, airy crisp, they are usually filled with buttercream, jam, ganache, or another sweet centre.

A tray of soft macaroon biscuits - not to be confused with macarons!

What are macarons made of?

Traditional French macarons consist of almond flour, egg whites, and fine sugar. First, the egg whites are whisked into a stiff-peaked meringue batter. Next the confectioner adds the other ingredients, along with any flavourings. They need to fold the ingredients in slowly to prevent too many air bubbles from forming. This is important as a macaron mixture that has too much air can interfere with the macaron’s signature, chewy texture.

The aerated macaron mixture will then go into the oven to delicately bake.

You can also get Italian macarons which differ slightly – and it’s all down to the meringue-making process. Where French meringue involves whisking uncooked egg whites into plain, cool sugar, Italian meringue uses a hot sugar syrup. The result of this method is that the Italian macaron has a tougher consistency, and is also sweeter.

Whether you prefer the French method or the Italian method, the way that macarons are baked remains the same. After the macarons are piped into small circles, they are left to form a skin and then baked. Most macarons are filled with a sweet filling of some kind once they have cooled.

Why are macarons so popular?

Macarons are renowned for their light, airy texture and dainty crunch on the outer shell. The subtle bite to the macaron is a token of the quality of the baking, and it is a mastered skill that many patisseries have spent years perfecting. Macarons are a staple feature in high-end patisseries and are synonymous with luxury baking.

Macarons often feature food colouring to give them the distinctive, brightly coloured look that adorns many a bakery window. From pastels to bold colours, the options are endless when it comes to macaron looks! Usually, a baker will correspond the colour with the flavour – for example, sage green with pistachio flavouring or pink with berry.

Piping macarons

Chocolate macaron: the Hotel Chocolat twist on a classic

Macarons have boomed in popularity in recent years, even giving way to the ‘Macaron Day’ which was invented in 2005. Although Macarons contain egg whites, they naturally lack gluten, and the egg white can be easily substituted with aquafaba for vegans.

The demand in the market for ‘free-from’ products has made macarons a popular treat, not to mention their dainty look makes them attractive additions to any occasion!

Whilst at Hotel Chocolat, we are chocolate connoisseurs rather than macaron aficionados, we are big enthusiasts of these sweet treats. We’ve created the Chocolate Macaron, a decadent twist on this light and airy classic!

Choose from our range of popular fillings, such as Orange, Neapolitan, Caramel Cheesecake, Mint or Raspberry! Featuring our light-as-air whips, and sandwiched between melt-in-the-mouth chocolate disks, our chocolate macarons are the perfect light delight for an afternoon tea or post-dinner treat. Why not pair with a delectable hot chocolate for a truly indulgent experience?

Hotel Chocolat Chocolate Macarons