Fine French Macaroones

Macaroons are small, delicate biscuits made with almonds, sugar, and egg whites – not to be confused with sandwich-cookie style macarons, which weren’t invented until the 1930s. The original macaroons date back to at least the 14th or 15th centuries. Throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, they were usually served with wine or liquor as a light refreshment, or crushed and used in trifles or other desserts. They could come in several different flavors, but most commonly were made with either rose water or orange-flower water, as in this Regency era version.

Macaroons:

  • 1/4 pound finely ground almonds or almond flour
  • 4 tsp orange-flower water
  • 4 egg whites
  • 1 lb baker’s sugar
  1. Whisk the egg whites with the orange flower water until stiff.
  2. Mix the ground almonds and sugar together in a bowl.
  3. Fold the almond-sugar mixture into the egg whites.
  4. Place the mixture in small drops on a parchment paper-covered baking sheet. You can either scoop it out with a spoon, or use a piping bag; I tried both ways and there was no noticeable difference. The key is to make them small, they spread out quite a lot.
  5. Bake at 350 degrees for 10-12 minutes, until the edges start to brown and the tops are golden.
  6. Let the macaroons cool before taking them off the pan; otherwise they will break.
Make them small – they spread out quite a lot, and start to lose their structural integrity once they get too big.
Macaroon cross-section.

Tasting notes:

These are very light, airy little biscuits. They have a bit of crunch, but still essentially melt in your mouth when you bite into them. They do remind me of modern macarons – just a little bit more rustic. I can’t really taste the orange-flower water, so you could use more if you like that flavor, but even without it the taste of almonds and sugar is lovely.

These are rather dangerous for snacking – since they aren’t very filling, it’s all too easy to eat your way through dozens of them and hardly notice. Even though the recipe makes a lot, they didn’t last long in my house! I will definitely be making more of these in the future, and trying out different flavors.

References:

Ayto, J. (2012). Macaroon. In The diner’s dictionary: Word origins of food & drink. (2nd ed.). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Davidson, A. (2006). Macaroons. In A. Davidson & T. Jaine (Eds.), The Oxford companion to food (pp. 469-470). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Homespun, P. (1818). The universal receipt book: Being a compendious repository of practical information in cookery, preserving, pickling, distilling, and all the branches of domestic economy. Philadelphia: Isaac Riley. https://www.google.com/books/edition/The_Universal_Receipt_Book/2m8EAAAAYAAJ?hl=en&gbpv=0

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