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Feb 16, 2010 05:40 PM

Are we referring to "macarons" as "macaroons" now?

From time to time, I'll see posters on chowhound searching for the best "macaroon" when what they're really looking for is the light, airy French cookie rather then a heavy coconut one. This NPR piece from today makes it seem as if the two words are interchangeable, even though to me, they refer to two wildly different desserts. Thoughts?

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  1. Yes, I've seen "macaroon" used referring to the light airy French cookie in legitimate publications as well as on forums like Chowhound and blogs. Personally, I find it very confusing.

    1. add me to the confused list. i don't understand how/why the double-o spelling became applicable to the French incarnation, but i wish people would keep them separate.

      i can usually figure out when a poster here on CH is actually asking about French macarons, but i ask for clarification if i'm not sure...particularly around Passover! ;)

      2 Replies
      1. re: goodhealthgourmet

        could it be the first example of misleading American "advertising"?
        apparently macarons are a very old French creation, copied by American ?pioneers who watered them down with coconut ... to reduce the cost! A first scam? .. To be sure no one can complain? " well you should check the spelling .. you bought a different product"

        1. re: hilaryb

          I'm finding your punctuation rather confusing. Are you quoting someone? Do you have some actual information about "macarons" being a "very old French creation"? Or are you just speculating?

          I don't think you need to attribute some nefarious motive to the existence of "macaroons." Variations on cookies made with eggwhites, sugar and nuts exist in various cultures and are often known by some linguistic variation of the word "macaroon," According to wikipedia, the French macaron is simply a fancy variation of a much older, simpler confection from which it derives the name, and it seems more likely that the American macaroon was developed independently from the same original confection, making it a cousin of the French macaron, not a bastardized offspring.

      2. I was confused as well, because they were describing the distinct French-style macarons, yet every single person interviewed (and the reporter) said "macaroon". Do these "trendy" shops selling the things encourage that pronunciation?

        1. Okay, I'm not sure I get it. According to the "Food Lover's Companion" 3rd edition, by Barrons, macaroon is the "small cookie classically made of almond paste and mixed with sugar & egg whites. And coconut can be substituted for almonds. Same dessert just different flavor. Like cheesecake, you can have different flavors, it's just still a cheesecake.

          A macaron is another italian word for a type of macaroni or malloreddus. (It refers you back and forth to the pasta glossary.)

          So, what's the question again?!!

          4 Replies
          1. re: Phurstluv

            The proper macaron, as I understand it (and as prepared by Europane in Pasadena, CA) is a confection of two baked wafers of meringue, filled with a paste of fruit or other yummy stuff such as chocolate or nuts. A macaroon is more commonly a moist cookie of shredded sweetend coconut. Both are delicious, which would certainly prevent me from doing violence to anyone who argued the primacy of one over the other, but the meringue macaron has the advantage of lightness, delicacy, and a wider range of flavors.

            1. re: Phurstluv

              it's not the same, though. the textures are completely different.

              i think it also depends on your experience/exposure. my first memories of macaroons (two o's) involve the denser, spongy, cakey, shredded-coconut laden ones out of a Manischewitz can for Passover. ick. turned me off to all macaroons for life.

              sooo different from the light & airy French meringue-style macarons (one o).

              1. re: Phurstluv

                Phurstluv, I think your book has misled you. Yes, a Macaroon and a Macaron will both be made of egg whites and sugar, but the methods are different and thus the result is different. To use your cheese cake analogy it is the difference between a baked cheese cake and one set in a fridge, different recipes, very different results.

                I don't think it is a matter of exposure, more likely ignorance on the part of he vendor/consumer.

                1. re: Phurstluv

                  Macarons in the first picture and macaroons in the second. Two totally different things.

                2. I think the American spelling has always been "macaroon" -- in fact, Merriam-Webster defines "macaroon" as "a small cookie composed chiefly of egg whites, sugar, and ground almonds or coconut" (which would apply to both kinds). The online version of M-W doesn't have "macaron" at all.

                  It's unfortunate, because as everybody else here has pointed out, delicate filled-sandwich macarons and sticky, dense macaroons are so different. I've occasionally seen people refer to macarons as "French macaroons." Maybe we could start a movement.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: Pia

                    Pia - the recipes for almond macaroons and coconut macaroons use eggwhites and sugar. With both you get get a soft chewy cookie or cake. So the MW dictionary description really only describes Macaroons not true Macarons. The recipe for a Macaron is quite different with a lot more eggwhite and a different (meringue) technique, as Macaron is a French word it may not make it to a US dictionary.