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​The History of the Macaron

Posted by Nikkolette's Macarons on 14th May 2021

People have been enjoying macarons, in some form, literally for centuries. However, it took some time for people to get the idea to turn it into a sandwich cookie with delicious fillings. The French macaron was, of course, finalized in France – but likely the original recipe for the cookie came from beyond French borders.

Venetian monks & Catherine de’ Medici

The macaron is typically considered a French confection, but it is widely believed to have its origins in Italy. In that understanding, it transitioned from Italy to France in the Middle Ages. Back then, the macaron had a soft interior and crunchy exterior, and was composed of sugar, egg whites, and almonds.

Venetian monasteries had started baking the maccherone in the 8th century. When Catherine de' Medici arrived from Italy in 1533, she is believed to have brought the tasty treat with her to France when she married Henry II. This version of the cookie's background says that the recipe arrived via Catherine's Italian pastry chefs. In those days, the cookie's shape had given it the name "priest's bellybuttons."

The Macaron Sisters

There is debate about how the macaron got its start, though. It was first invented in the center of France, in a convent near Cormery, in 1791, according to Larousse Gastronomique. At that time, during the French Revolution, two asylum-seeking Carmelite nuns baked macarons and sold them to pay for lodging. The nuns earned the name "the Macaron Sisters" (“les Soeurs Macaron”).

Montmorillon, Amiens, and Nancy are French towns that all have long histories of macaron baking. Even if we assume the origins were Italian, it is not clear where the original version of the macaron first started to gain traction in France. However, Nancy is often given the nod as the place where it started getting its due, because of the Macaron Sisters.

Macarons still did not have any fillings or diversity of flavors at that point.

The French macaron finds its form

The macaron first found its current form – two meringue cookies sandwiching a flavored, smooth filling – in the 19th century. The French macaron was first officially introduced as the macaron Parisien by Parisian bakeries in the 1830s. One well-known company, Ladurée, was especially famous for popularizing the delicacy. Louis-Ernest Ladurée founded Ladurée in 1862.

Again, there is disagreement on the exact origins of the French macaron. Some say that the macaron was not brought together as a ganache filling between a pair of cookies until the early 20th century. At that time, Pierre Desfontaines of Ladurée was believed to come up with the idea.

Hand-made macarons from a gluten-free bakery

Regardless the exact specifics of the history of the French macaron, most people would agree it is delicious when properly prepared. Do you want to experience this incredible confection yourself, as a special gift, or for an event? Formerly a "numbers person" in the corporate world, Nikkolette brings her detailed thought process and analytics to crafting the perfect macaron in her Minneapolis macaron bakery. 

Macarons made in Saint Paul Minnesota