Today's post is inspired by a discussion held on Purple Pug's Facebook page. She asked what macarons tasted like, and many responses followed. There was some confusion over which confection she was referring to, which leads me to this point...
Macarons and Macaroons are two different things.
The English word "macaroon" and the French word "macaron" both derive from the Italian ammaccare, meaning "crush". Macarons are made of crushed almonds, while macaroons are made of crushed coconut. Let's learn more...
French Macarons (properly pronounced "mahck-eh-rohn" ...but don't kill yourself if you can't do the throaty "R" as the French do. I think that's a genetic talent) consist of two light cookies made of egg whites and almond meal, and a filling. The filling can be anything. Ganache is common, as is jam. The cookies are also flavored to your liking, and have a slight crunch outside yet are a bit chewy on the inside. They must have a little "foot" at the bottom - that ruffled ridge.
Just as in ballet, bad feet make all the difference with macarons. A good foot is the mark of a good macaron, as is good texture (not too much almond meal), a shiny appearance, a smooth consistency, a good filling-to-cookie ratio, and so on. There are lots of checkpoints with macarons, which is why I don't think they're "the new cupcake". I'm happy to leave macaron-making to the experts and purchase from a local patisserie. If you don't have a source where you live, you can order them online, although that's a gamble...macarons are meant to be eaten fresh.
Now for coconut macaroons. You might be more familiar with these. These moist and chewy coconut stacks are very popular during Passover (no flour!) and are infinitely easier to make than French Macarons. They're much like a toasted Mounds Bar, and are often dipped in chocolate, as in the example above.
I have far less to say about these, other than they're delicious, and if you love coconut you should try some. Here's a recipe by David Lebovitz.