FOOD HISTORY 101 | French Macarons

In my time running Mini Food Tutorials, I have seen countless talented miniaturists–both professional and hobbyist–try their hand at polymer clay to great success! The best thing about miniature food is that you can always fit more into your dollhouse—unlike another sofa. In this series, I will introduce you to a variety of foods and their history with plenty of miniature versions to whet your appetite. Today, we are exploring a classic pastry: the French macaron.

First of all, macarons were originally Italian, although most of us associate them with France. Interestingly, the word “macaron” shares the same Italian root as the word “macaroni”–both come from “maccherone” or “fine dough”. People often call macarons “macaroons”, but they are actually two different types of cookie. A “macaroon” is often made of shredded coconut, sugar, and eggs. They tend to be gooey, sweet, and excellent with a glass of milk. Macarons (pronounced like this) are actually two delicate meringues sandwiched around butter cream filling and are daintier and more elegant than their coconut cousins.

This display from Nunu's House is perfectly elegant--and perfectly realistic.
This display from Nunu’s House is perfectly elegant–and perfectly realistic.

In real life, macarons are made from beaten egg whites, ground almonds, sugar, and some sort of flavoring (like vanilla or almond extract). The macarons are piped onto a baking sheet and cooked in a propped-open oven to release steam (and to keep the cookies crisp). The sugary confections have to be steamed from their parchment paper so they do not stick, and must be transferred delicately to a cooling rack. A macaron is then filled with ganache (a frosting made from only chocolate, butter, and cream), butter cream frosting, or jelly. They are crispy, chewy, and creamy all at once, making them delectable and utterly addictive.

This colorful macaron gift box created by Pei Li's Dollhouse Miniatures would be at home on any coffee table or dessert case!
This colorful macaron gift box created by Pei Li’s Dollhouse Miniatures would be at home on any coffee table or dessert case!

Macarons started out as simple cookies without filling, however. In their original form, they came to France via Catherine Medici, an Italian woman who married the man who would become King Henry II. This was back in 1533, and macarons laid low for a good two and a half centuries. They resurfaced again in 1792, when two Carmelite nuns seeking asylum during the French Revolution managed to bake and sell enough macarons to support themselves, earning the name “the macaron sisters.”

Finally, in the early 1900s, the simple almond cookie became the macaron we know today. Pierre Desfontaines, of the famous Laduree pastry shop, took two macarons and sandwiched ganache (a frosting made from cream, butter, and chocolate) between them. Finally, crispy-chewy met creamy. People could not resist the macaron’s sweet, delicate flavor, and the rest, as they say, is history.

Despite my multiple attempts to make life-sized versions, the miniature kind always seem to turn out better! To learn more, try making your own miniature macarons with Mini Food Tutorials’ free tutorial. Have a great month, and keep crafting!

101S is a LEARN Section series of articles teaching you everything you need to know about a mini subject.


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