One weird holiday on March 20 is National Macaron Day. Check out the other weird March 20 holidays!
National Macaron Day is a sweet celebration honoring the exquisite French macaron. This day is not just about indulging in these delicate confections but also about appreciating the art and precision that go into making them.
Celebrated in various countries, with notable popularity in France and the United States, National Macaron Day brings together pastry enthusiasts and professional bakers alike to revel in the beauty and taste of this iconic French pastry.
When is National Macaron Day?
National Macaron Day is celebrated annually on March 20th. Don’t confuse this day with National Macaroon Day, which takes place each year on May 31.
National Macaron Day falls on March 20th for a couple of key reasons. First, this date aligns with the beginning of spring, symbolizing renewal and celebration, which suits the light, colorful nature of macarons perfectly. The arrival of spring is often associated with vibrancy and freshness, qualities that macarons, with their bright colors and delicate textures, aptly represent.
Secondly, the choice of March 20th also coincides with Jour du Macaron (Macaron Day) in Paris, established by the Relais Desserts association of French pastry chefs. The alignment with the Parisian celebration creates a sense of global unity and shared enjoyment of this beloved pastry.
Who Invented National Macaron Day?
National Macaron Day was created by renowned pastry chef François Payard in 2010. François Payard, a third-generation French pastry chef, established the day in New York City as a means to celebrate this beloved confection and to give back to the community.
The celebration was initially started as part of a collaboration with City Harvest, a food rescue organization, where participating bakeries would offer a free macaron to customers and in some cases, a portion of macaron sales would be donated to the charity.
What Is the Difference Between Macaroons and Macarons?
Macaroons and macarons are distinct confections: macaroons are chewy cookies made primarily from shredded coconut, egg whites, and sugar, often dipped in chocolate, with a rough and textured appearance. Originating in Italy, they are known for their dense and moist texture.
Macarons, on the other hand, are delicate, meringue-based sandwich cookies made from almond flour, egg whites, and sugar, and filled with ganache, buttercream, or jam. They are smooth, with a flat base and a ruffled circumference, and are a classic French pastry known for their wide variety of colors and flavors.
The Origins of the Macaron
The origins of the macaron are as rich and layered as the pastry itself, tracing a path through history that reflects culinary evolution, cultural exchange, and artistic innovation.
Italian Roots and French Transformation
The story of the macaron begins in Italy, with some accounts dating it as far back as the 8th century. The name ‘macaron’ is derived from the Italian word ‘maccherone’, which means ‘fine dough’. The original macaron was a simple biscuit, made from almond powder, sugar, and egg whites, similar to what Italians call ‘amaretti’ today.
This early version of the macaron was introduced to France in the 16th century, famously by the chefs of Catherine de Medici, a noblewoman from Florence who married King Henry II of France. It is believed that the macaron was brought over to France as part of her dowry. This sweet treat was initially reserved for royalty and the aristocracy and was quite different from the macarons we know today. They were typically single almond cookies, crunchy on the outside and soft on the inside, without any filling or ‘feet’.
Ladurée and the Birth of the Modern Macaron
The transformation of the macaron into its current, celebrated form is credited to Pierre Desfontaines, the second cousin of Louis Ernest Ladurée, founder of the famous Ladurée bakery in Paris. In the early 20th century, Desfontaines had the idea to take two macaron shells and join them with a delicious ganache filling. This innovation not only added a new dimension of flavor and texture but also turned the macaron into a symbol of Parisian sophistication and luxury.
Ladurée’s introduction of the filled macaron started a trend that would spread across Parisian bakeries and eventually around the world. The macaron became a canvas for creativity, allowing pastry chefs to experiment with an endless variety of flavors, colors, and fillings.
Global Popularity and Contemporary Variations
Over time, the macaron evolved and began to play a significant role in French culinary culture, especially in Paris. Its popularity soared in the late 20th and early 21st centuries, becoming a must-have delicacy not just in France but globally. The macaron’s appeal lies in its delicate texture, subtle flavors, and vibrant colors, making it as much a visual treat as a culinary one.
Today, the macaron is celebrated worldwide, with variations and innovations seen in different cultures. From traditional flavors like vanilla, chocolate, and coffee to more modern and adventurous ones like matcha, lavender, and salted caramel, the macaron continues to evolve and delight.
Celebrating National Macaron Day
National Macaron Day is celebrated with enthusiasm by bakeries and macaron lovers. Many bakeries offer special deals or introduce new flavors specifically for the occasion. It’s also common for a portion of the day’s sales to be donated to charitable causes, combining indulgence with a sense of community and social responsibility.
- Bakery Hopping: A popular way to celebrate is by visiting various local bakeries to sample their macaron offerings. It’s an opportunity to explore different interpretations of this classic pastry.
- Macaron Making Classes: For those who love a hands-on approach, participating in a macaron-making class can be a delightful experience. These classes demystify the process and teach the intricate skills needed to create these treats.
- Macaron Tasting Parties: Hosting a macaron tasting party, where guests can sample various flavors, is another festive way to celebrate. It’s a fun opportunity for enthusiasts to share their favorite finds and flavor combinations.
- Social Media Sharing: Sharing photos and experiences of macaron adventures on social media platforms is a common way to partake in the celebration, helping to spread the joy of macarons far and wide.
The Art and Science of Macaron Making
Making macarons is a delicate balance of art and science. It requires precision in measurement, understanding the behavior of meringue, and mastering the macaronage technique – the process of gently folding the batter to achieve the perfect consistency. The baking process is equally crucial, as even small variations in temperature or timing can affect the outcome.
Macarons stand out in the pastry world due to their vibrant colors and wide array of flavors. Each macaron is a small piece of art, requiring precise techniques and a deep understanding of the ingredients. Classic flavors include vanilla, chocolate, and raspberry, but contemporary patisseries often experiment with more adventurous flavors like matcha, salted caramel, or even foie gras.
While traditional macarons are made with almond flour, sugar, and egg whites, there are variations to cater to different dietary needs, including vegan and gluten-free options. Innovations in ingredients and techniques have made macarons more accessible to a wider audience.
National Macaron Day is more than just an opportunity to indulge in a sweet treat. It’s a celebration of culinary artistry, cultural heritage, and the joys of baking.
This day recognizes the skill and creativity of patissiers and offers a moment for everyone to savor the delicate balance of flavor and texture that makes macarons a beloved dessert worldwide.
So, on National Macaron Day, take a moment to enjoy these little marvels of the pastry world and appreciate the artistry that goes into each bite.
Ideas for National Macaron Day Recipes
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