French macaroons, or macarons, in their current form were ultimately made popular in France in the early nineteenth century by a number of bakers including Pierre Desfontaines and Claude Gerbet who lay claim to inserting the filling between two macaron shells. A number of regions in France also make claim to the history the macaron, some of which have become extremely angry at industry stalwart Laduree for alleging that they invented it, nonetheless they have certainly helped its claim to fame.
In 1792 it is said that the Macaron Sisters, or rather Les Soeurs Macarons, started the macaron popularity by selling the shells (biscuits) to pay for their board. The Macarons Sisters were two nuns, Sister Marguerite and Marie-Elisabeth who sought asylum in Nancy during the French Revolution and created the "Nancy Macaron" which was just the macaron shell without the filling. The city of Nancy honoured the sisters by giving their name to the Rue de la Hache where the macaron [shell] was invented. Before this there is reference to the Macaron in 792 in the book, Larousse Gastronomique that cites the macaron being created in a convent near Cormery. It is however most likely that the macaron originated closer to the home of its main ingredient, the almond, which is the Middle East. There are many references to many macaron like techniques being used in Middle Eastern cooking much earlier than 792. The information perhaps filtered through to Europe as it began to be imported into the various countries. Almonds, on a side note, have an interesting history with the original source coming from a poisonous plant!
Macarons have been popular in France for well over a hundred years and have solidified themselves as a desirable treat for oneself as well as a gift; they are extremely popular as a dinner party gift. In recent years, like so many food items, they have crossed the border into England with Laduree first opening a shop in the heart of London in 2005. Pierre Herme followed suit and now, we, Anges de Sucre (yes! us!) have opened our first boutique in Kensington – a stone’s throw away from Kensington Palace. A gift surely fit for a princess, non?
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