Just the word “macaron” is enough to conjure up the vision of this delicate confection in the colors of the rainbow and a bite of it leaves you all warm and fuzzy.
A perfect balance of taste and elegance, macarons are not only delightful to look at but are mouthwatering and tasty. Hugely popular with both kids and adults, macarons are anytime favorites.
What Are Macarons?
Created in France by an Italian chef in the kitchens of queen Catherine de Medici, the origin of macarons goes way back to the Renaissance period and they are as popular today as they were back then. The word “macaron” originates from the Italian word “maccherone”, which means “dough of fine quality.” A meringue-like confection, this Parisian dessert is made by adding sugar and egg white to almond flour.
Two smooth, vibrant, gluten-free almond flour, egg white, and powdered sugar shells with a ruffled edge known as the pied (or crown) and a flat base are sandwiched together and filled with buttercream, ganache, or jams to create this delectable treat.
The macarons’ outside is crisp and crunchy, but their inside are soft and chewy, and they just melt in your mouth. Making macarons is a skill that takes a lot of time and skill. The ideal macaron is soft and chewy, with just the proper amount of sweetness without being overbearing.
What flavor do macarons have then?
How Do Macarons Taste?
Macarons have a wonderfully balanced sweetness that will satiate your sweet cravings without being too overpowering. The sweetness is offset by the subtle nutty flavor from the almond flour. Macarons come in a wide range of flavors and you can choose from chocolate, vanilla, salted caramel, fruit, pistachios to more unusual ones like Nutella, wasabi, foie gras, bacon (yes, you heard that right!) and more.
The taste of the macaron mainly comes from the flavors added; however, the flavor and the sweetness of the macaron should be balanced. Macarons are quite similar in taste to meringue because both are made with sugar and egg whites and have a similar texture. The perfect macaron has that “just right” amount of sweetness which shouldn’t leave behind a lingering sweetness at the back of your throat.
The macaron texture is as important as its taste and perfecting it takes time, effort, and patience. The macarons should be lightweight with a smooth shell without any cracks, bumps, or rough edges. The outer shell of the macaron should be a little crunchy, while the center should be soft and chewy without being too moist or mushy.
The two discs of the macaron have a filling of buttercream, jam, or ganache that adds sweetness, flavor, moisture, and softness to it. The texture of the macarons should not be too heavy and dense. They should be light, airy, and easy to eat, leaving behind a nice joyful feeling without feeling stuffed, even if you managed to eat more than a couple of these delightful treats.
What Makes a Good Macaron?
While the way macarons are made differs around the world and different variations of the confection exist, a good macaron should basically comprise certain elements irrespective of the flavor, which include:
- The ratio of the macaron shell to the filling must be 2:1. The filling layer should be sufficient without being too thin and also not be too thick that it oozes out. The filling should add flavor and moisture to the macaron so that it is not too dry.
- The macaron shell should be very smooth without any bumps or cracks. Any bumps on the surface mean that the almond flour was coarse and not ground finely or was not sifted properly. Any cracks on the shell mean that the mixing was not done properly. While bumps or cracks will not impact the flavor of the macarons; however, you will not get the perfect-looking macaron you want.
- The crust of the macaron shell must be smooth, shiny, and a bit crispy, without being too thick. It should be thin and hold the soft, chewy cookie. When you take a bite of the macaron, the crust should not shatter into the inner portion of the macaron.
- The inner part of the macaron must be light, soft, and chewy without being too wet, sticky or mushy.
- The macaron filling should be light and smooth. It shouldn’t be very thick or spilled out from between the two shells. The filling should be sufficiently firm so that it sticks to the macaron shells while providing a yummy layer.
- The macaron should be sweet; however, the sweetness should be subtle and not too overpowering and not mask the flavor of the macaron. When you bite into the macaron, you should be able to taste the different flavors and not just the sweetness.
What are the Popular Macaron Flavors?
The best thing about macarons is that you can make them as colorful as you want them to be and also experiment with the flavor combinations. When you consider macaron flavors, the list is endless. While they are classics, the most popular flavors for macaron fillings are vanilla and chocolate, especially with a chocolate ganache filling.
Another huge favorite is raspberry which offers a refreshing, fruity flavor to the macarons and you can fill it with a delicious raspberry buttercream or jam filling. If you love berries, then you just can’t go wrong with strawberry, blueberry, or cranberry-flavored macarons.
If you prefer a slightly bitter flavor, then you’re sure to love coffee, espresso, or cappuccino flavored macarons with a coffee crème filling, where the bitterness is offset by the sweetness, making it a truly indulgent dessert.
For nuttier options, you can try out pistachio, hazelnut, or almond-flavored macarons. Tart and sweet lemon, apricot, or passionfruit macaron can be wonderfully refreshing summertime treats.
The salted caramel flavored macaron, with a filling of decadent sweet caramel and sea salt, makes the macaron a rich treat. Flavors like rose and lavender provide a unique, floral flavor, especially when paired with a subtly flavored buttercream filling. And, if you want to go all out and experiment with unusual flavors, then you can try bacon, salmon and cream cheese, and chorizo flavored macarons.
The flavor of the macaron filling has a huge impact on its taste. There are different types of macaron fillings like chocolate, buttercream, jams, curds, and jelly. You can use any filling in the macaron as long as it is thick enough and does not ooze out. Avoid very moist fillings because these can ruin the macaron shells by making them very soggy.
Further, if the filling is wet, it will leak out of the macaron when the shells are sandwiched together. Some of the most popular macaron fillings include chocolate ganache, white chocolate ganache, lemon curd, Nutella, caramel, vanilla buttercream, raspberry buttercream, pistachio cream, orange cream, and strawberry jelly.
Macarons vs Macaroons, What Is the Difference?
Since they have similar-sounding names, often people get quite confused between macarons and macaroons. While both these treats are made from flour, almonds, and egg whites, they are quite different.
Macarons are usually made using meringue-based batter, where the base is made with a meringue i.e., a combination of fine sugar and whipped egg whites. The cookie is made from almond flour and the batter is put into a piping bag and piped onto a baking tray in disc shapes.
The cookies are then sandwiched together and filled with a ganache, buttercream, or jam filling. The ingredients in macarons are flour, almonds, egg whites, powdered sugar, and food coloring.
On the other hand, macaroons are drop cookies, where the batter is dropped using a spoon onto a baking tray instead of being piped. Macaroons are made with sugar, shredded coconut, egg whites, and vanilla flavorings. Some recipes may also use sweetened condensed milk or ground almonds.
So, despite having similar sounding names and similar ingredients, macaroons and macarons are quite different in terms of texture and flavor.
How to Make Macarons?
Essentially, there are 2 ways of making macarons – the French and the Italian methods. In the French method, you need to beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks, whereas, in the Italian method, the meringue is made by whipping up egg whites along with syrup.
You can whip the egg whites using any of the above methods and once this is done, fold in the dry ingredients. The mixture is then put into a piping bag and piped into 2” discs on a baking tray, which is then left to cool. Once a skin forms on the top of the discs, bake the macarons. Once they are baked, allow them to cool.
Then, place the filling of your choice in between the two shells and sandwich them together. When making macarons, it is vital to follow the measurements and the recipe. You will get perfectly shaped, delicious macarons with some patience and skill.
Should macarons be crunchy or chewy?
The perfect macarons are a combination of crunchy and chewy. The shell of the macaron should be thin, dry, and crispy, while the inner part should be soft and chewy, without being too wet, moist, or mushy.
Should macarons taste like almonds?
Since macarons are made using almond flour, you may think that they would have a strong almond flavor. While the almond flour does impart a subtle almond flavor to the macarons and a nice nutty flavor; however, the almond taste is not too strong or overpowering.
Why are the macarons I made not chewy?
If the macarons you made are not chewy, then it may be because you’ve overbaked them or the macarons have been in the oven for a very long time. However, sometimes this may even cause the macarons to become too chewy. The key to making the perfect macarons is to follow the recipe and timings as closely as possible.
Why are macarons so expensive?
Macarons contain expensive ingredients and flavors. Also, making them involves quite a lot of time, effort, skill, and patience. All these add up and make macarons more expensive compared to other sweet treats.