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Macaron vs Macaroon: What's the Difference?

six colorful macarons and two coconut macaroons

Macarons and macaroons have similar names but are actually two different types of cookies. Because their names are often used interchangeably, it creates some confusion over which cookie is which. We'll clear up the debate once and for all and explain the unique characteristics of each of these popular confections. Whether you're a home baker or a professional pastry chef, you'll benefit from being able to identify these two cookies correctly.

The Difference Between Macaroons and Macarons

A macaron (pronounced mack-a-rohn) is a meringue-based sandwich cookie that is often tinted with food coloring. A macaroon (pronounced mack-a-roon) is a drop cookie made with shredded coconut. Both cookies include egg whites in their ingredients, but the texture, taste, and appearance of the cookies is very different.

What are Macarons?

assortment of macaroons on a mint green background

Macarons are small, perfectly round sandwich cookies that come in a variety of flavors. They are often used in food photography or creative displays because of their attractive colors, which can range from pretty pastel pinks to vibrant blues. Macarons are thought to have originated in Italy and were later brought to France where they became a treasured dessert.

What Do Macarons Taste Like?

Macarons are made in almost any flavor you can imagine, from delicate rose or lavender to rich hazelnut or salted caramel. Two chewy meringue-based wafers are used to sandwich a filling of buttercream, jam, or ganache. The wafers are light, delicate, and not overly sweet, which makes them a perfect accompaniment to the modest amount of filling inside.

How to Make Macarons

close up view of stacked macarons

Making these delicate cookies is considered a practiced skill and requires several steps. If one step is not performed correctly, the resulting macarons won't be picture perfect. A kitchen scale should also be used to ensure that all macaron ingredients are measured accurately. These are a few of the key steps that produce the signature macaron:

  • Macaronage - This is the term for the French technique of folding meringue and almond paste. To achieve the perfect macaron, continue folding the mixture until ribbons of batter follow the spoon.
  • Piping - One of the keys to perfect macarons is ensuring that all wafers are identical in size and shape. Experienced bakers may be able to pipe out macaron batter freehand, but using a template will help you achieve perfect circles. Use a pastry bag to pipe directly into the center of the template circle, with gentle pressure, until the mound of batter fills the circle.
  • Filling - Make sure that the meringue wafers are completely cool before adding fillings. Experts recommend sticking to ganache because it won't melt like buttercream. Add a thin layer, and don't overfill the cookies.

What are Macaroons?

three golden macaroons with a bowl and spoonful of shredded coconut

Macaroons are small mounds of shredded coconut, sometimes called haystacks. Unlike macarons, these classic cookies are easy to make in a short amount of time. The coconut macaroon is considered to be plain and humble when compared to the picture-perfect macaron. However, it is believed that macaroons developed as an offshoot of the macaron recipe when coconut became a popular import item in the 1800s.

What Do Macaroons Taste Like?

Macaroons have a rich, buttery coconut flavor and a chewy texture. They are very sweet and are often dipped in chocolate. Sometimes macaroons are colored pink, red, or green for holidays, but they do not contain other flavors.

How to Make Macaroons

a batch of coconut macaroons on a cooling rack

A batch of macaroons can be made in less than 30 minutes. The list of macaroon ingredients is very short, and once mixed, the batter is dropped by the spoonful onto a baking sheet. No special steps are required and uniformity is not important. Each macaroon will form an uneven mound that may look lumpy but will be full of coconut flavor.

You'll find that there are two versions of the macaroon recipe that include either flour or sweetened condensed milk. Both work as binders for the coconut but produce different textures.

  • Sweetened condensed milk - The addition of sweetened condense milk in the recipe produces a softer, richer cookie.
  • Flour - Using flour in a macaroon recipe creates a dense cookie with a crumbly texture.

No matter which cookie is your favorite, both macarons and macaroons are delicious in their own way. Macarons are camera-ready thanks to their attractive colors and even sizing, but what macaroons lack in appearance, they make up for in taste.

Posted in: Bakeries | By Michale Ferguson
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