Macarons: A Short History of the most Coveted Cookie in Paris
It’s no secret that today many of us take sweets, cakes, and confectionery items for granted. However, some deserts and sweet temptations like everyone’s favorite French macarons, are far from modern culinary inventions. In fact, while today, experimental pastry chefs might delight sweet-toothed friends with distinctly modern truffle chocolate macarons, their endeavors are far from anything new.
Macarons and the Common Availability of Sugar in Europe
The first thing to understand when it comes to macarons is that their popularity through several centuries stems from them being one of the world's first commonly available confectionary items. This is because although sugar had been part of people's diets from around 300 BC, sugar itself only became popular and widely available in Europe in the 15th Century.
Referred to as ‘white gold’ sugar even throughout the 16th Century was considered a luxurious and altogether precious commodity. Venice in Italy, however, was Europe's main importer and exporter of sugar, and with this being the case, many of the world's first western cakes and confectionary items were created in and around Venice at this time.
Macarons During the Renaissance
While often referenced as French in origin, macarons as we know them today actually originated in Italy. Macarons, however, were created in the first instance by the chefs of the Florentine noblewoman Catherine de' Medici, who herself became Queen of France after Marrying the French King Henry II in 1533.
From this point onward, simple macarons made using almond powder, sugar, and egg whites became a staple in numerous French and Italian cookbooks. In fact, a legend even has it that the granddaughter of Catherine de Medici herself was once saved from starvation by eating macarons.
Of course, delicacies such as truffle chocolate and even compound chocolate macarons were still generations away from being first experimented with at this point. However, macarons themselves became a common confectionary staple in France and beyond from the 16th Century onward. Furthermore, the only significant deviation from the original macaron recipe came in the 20th Century, when the double macaron with cream and/or liqueur filling was first invented.
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