Any francophile knows that there is a big difference between the French cookies called macarons and the American dessert known as the macaroon.
But have you ever wondered why they get mixed up so often? Adam Ragusea, known for his popular food science and culinary videos, has some ideas.
He posits that similarities between the treats can be traced back to an Italian root word for—can you believe it?—macaroni (spelled maccheroni in Italian). Many believe that Catherine de Medici brought macarons with her to France in the 1500s, though it’s likely the Italians got their rose-flavored almond cookie ideas from the Middle East.
The recipe was later brought to America by European Jews who found the cookie to be a popular Passover treat, who then substituted almond flour with the newly-discovered American baker’s invention of dried, shredded coconut.
Over in Europe, the house of Ladurée started sandwiching two macarons around a filling in the early twentieth century, a style which has since become the norm.
So two cookies that seem very different both sprung from the same idea, slowly pulling farther and farther apart as the culture determined. Yet they both remain two meringue-based, “nutty,” gluten-free, and delicious desserts.