In this one heavenly confection, a crispy almond meringue shell with a chewy interior yields to a lush ganache sandwiched within. In the other, a bite clean through reveals a consistent concentration of coconut that’s dense and chewy. Macarons and macaroons: Many Americans confuse these two separate desserts.
It’s no spelling mistake.
Macarons, with a single “o,” are meringue-like French cookies made with almond meal and egg whites, sandwiched around ganache or a cream-based filling, says Jessica Massias, who works at Bosie Tea Parlor in New York City’s West Village neighborhood.
Trained at a French pastry school, Massias doesn’t make the parlor’s pastries supplied by Bosie Bakery in Harlem — that’s the artistry of Pastry Chef Damien Herrgott, who worked at Ladurée and at Pierre Hermé’s first shop in Paris; Herrgott was named one of Dessert Professional‘s Top Ten Pastry Chefs in America in 2012 — but she ensures the quality and freshness of the 18 flavors sold daily. The tea parlor’s pastry case displays a rainbow of colors and flavors, some unusual: white-truffle, rose, Darjeeling, bacon-maple, cheesecake, and lavender-apricot are a few favorites.
Because these French confections are made with almond meal (or more rarely, ground hazelnut or pistachio), macarons are completely gluten-free. Freshness is paramount for a soft cookie, which can be rare to find. After about three days, the cookies harden. Once a refined treat offered on special occasions, these delicate and ethereal sweets burst onto the mainstream American dessert scene in 2010, replacing the ubiquitous trendy cupcake.
Many customers at Bosie ask for “macaroons” but they mean the French cookies, Massias says. “Since we only have macarons, I assume it is what they want, even if they don’t say it correctly,” Massias says. Phonetically, the French pastry sounds like mack-ah-rohn.
Macaroon is the American word for a dense, chewy, flourless cookie, usually made with coconut. It can also include nuts or nut paste. Made with egg whites, macaroons are often served for dessert at Passover celebrations, since they don’t contain flour.
The same linguistic confusion doesn’t exist in France, says David Lebovitz, author of Ready for Dessert, where the coconut macaroon is called rocher à la noix de coco, or “coconut rocks.”
Lebovitz says that the sandwich-cookie-style macaron is most often found in Paris. Another French cookie, resembling Italian amaretti (also a flourless egg white and nut cookie), is also called a macaron.
Try some of our macaron and macaroon recipes:
Chocolate upon chocolate, how can that be bad? Some tips: Let the raw macaron rounds sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes, don’t over-mix, and use older egg whites if you can. Get our French Chocolate Macarons recipe.
This recipe does call for flour, which is less than typical for macaroons. Make sure to plan ahead when you do these as the coconut needs to soak overnight in the egg white mixture for maximum fluffiness during baking. Get our Chocolate-Drilled Coconut Macaroons recipe.
Exact measurements can make all the difference in these macarons with a lush pomegranate filling. This recipe gets its macaron ratios from the great French pastry chef Pierre Hermé, along with the meringue technique that calls for hot sugar syrup beaten into softly whipped egg whites. Get our French Macarons with Pomegranate recipe.
Coconut macarons are layered with creme chantilly and fresh pineapple, a recipe created by Emily Luchetti executive pastry chef of Marlowe, The Cavalier, and Park Tavern in San Francisco. Get our Macaroon Pineapple Napoleons recipe.
Luscious, vanilla-scented macarons are light and crisp when done right. The creamy white chocolate filling will be the easiest part. And the decorating may be the most fun. Get our French Macarons with White Chocolate Ganache recipe.
Completely flour-free, this is a more traditional macaroon recipe. Then again, it isn’t because the recipe uses pecans instead of coconut. It’s appropriate for Passover. Get our Mississippi Praline Macaroons recipe.
— Head Photo Illustration: StarChefs/BuzNews
— Roxanne Webber’s original version of this article was published April 15, 2010.
Amy Sowder is the assistant editor at Chowhound in New York City. She loves cheesy things, especially toasties and puns. She’s trying to like mushrooms. Her running habit is the excuse for her gelato passion. Or is it the other way around? Follow her on Instagram, Twitter, and her blog, What Do I Eat Now. Learn more at AmySowder.com.