If you’ve stopped by our vendor booth at the Farmers’ Market this summer, you’ve probably heard our spiel about offering “European-style baked goods.” While we certainly aren’t experts on pastries, we are big fans of baked goods hailing from across the Atlantic and wanted to offer some unique treats to our community.
Given that I haven’t received any formal training in the art of baking biscotti, pizzella, scones, macaroons or macarons, I would hesitate to claim our treats as “fully authentic.” However, they are at least based in European tradition, and Emily and I both have European heritage so I think it’s fair to call them European-style!
While most of what we offer are easy to distinguish in looks and names, (biscotti look like breadsticks, scones are iced and triangular, and pizzelle look like flat waffles), we get a lot of people who inquire whether we have macarons, “or are they macaroons?” they tentatively ask. “We have both!” we cheerily exclaim.
For some reason, saying macaron (mac-a-rohn) feels a bit pretentious. But macaroon sounds so very American. Most people second guess whatever they say, assuming that what they’ve said is the wrong pronunciation. If that’s you, don’t worry, both of us have personally experienced those moments of self-doubt in trying to ask for the items we wanted!
To avoid future confusion or embarrassment, let’s look at a few of the key differences between macarons and macaroons so you can confidently order the treat you want!
– The French sandwich cookie only has one o. The coconut-y treat has two. Both cookies have Italian etymological roots from maccherone, which has vague origins regarding things being ground up or shredded (which explains the very similar and very confusing spellings/pronunciations).
– While both confectionaries contain whipped egg whites, the key ingredients in macarons are almond flour, powdered sugar and granulated sugar, as opposed to the shredded & flaked coconut and sweetened condensed milk that primarily give macaroons their signature texture. In our recipes (as is standard) neither treat uses any form of wheat flour.
– French macarons are similar to a sandwich cookie. Each almond meringue shell surrounds a decadent filling. In the case of our standard farmers’ market flavor, it’s a chewy caramel. Although our salted caramel macaron shells are left in their natural light tan color, macaron shells are often tinted vibrant colors to coordinate with the color/flavor of their filling. Macaroons, on the other hand, look a bit like snowballs – curved, dense mounds of coconut. Ours are drizzled with dark chocolate that provides visual contrast (and a bonus bittersweet flavor).
– Coconut macaroons come together relatively easily. There’s nothing particularly technical about creating a great batch – other than forming equally sized and shaped cookies. For the record, Emily is far better at achieving that goal than I am! In contrast, macarons are rather finicky and temperamental cookies. The macaronage (macaron batter) has to be whipped up to a very particular lava-like consistency, piped out in even circles, rid of air bubbles, dried out, and then each tray has to be rotated in the oven every 5 minutes. Of course, this process can vary from baker-to-baker, oven-to-oven, but one batch takes me an average of 3 hours to bake and fill.
Texture & Taste
– The coconut cookie part of our macaroons is chewy and dense and the tempered chocolate provides a crisp drizzle. It wouldn’t be impossible to eat a macaroon in one bite, but we don’t recommend doing so for the amount of chewing required. In our recipe, we use both shredded and flaked coconut to provide a slightly more rustic look and substantial bite. Macarons have smooth shells (although our salted caramel variety are decked out with flaked salt from Cyprus provides a rough sparkle). When bitten into, the shells should crunch, but not crumble and the filling should not fall out. They are much more easily eaten in one big bite, although we suggest at least taking two to savor the flavors along the way! Of course, salted caramel and coconut naturally have very different flavor profiles. While it is possible to create coconut macarons, we don’t currently offer them on our menu. One of the main goals of Philo Collective is to create space for people to learn and grow together and it’s been very fun to share our novice baking knowledge with family, friends and the community at our local farmers’ market!