One of the greatest confusions of the world is the difference between macarons and macaroons. I feel it is my duty to spread goodwill and educate the masses on the crucial difference between the two types of cookies. My aim is to save anyone from using the wrong hashtag and looking oh so foolish to us cookie aficionados in the know.
A macaron, pronounced “Maa-kaa-roe,” is an elegant French cookie usually in a pastel colour made from whipped egg whites and almond flour and sandwiched between a layer of cream, chocolate, or fruit preserves. They are all over Instagram and exude classiness and sophistication. They are not as hard to make as you think and I have a fool proof recipe for easy French Macarons as well as a bunch of flavour variations if you scroll to the links at the bottom of my Fool Proof Chocolate Macarons recipe. I have found that people quite often mean macaron but say macaroon.
A macaroon, pronounced “Ma-ka-rooon,” is a small cookie made from shredded coconut formed into a pyramid shape, usually served plain but sometimes partially dipped in chocolate. A quick Google search reveals that macarons and macaroons are actually historically related and share a common origin (hence the similarity in name), but in this Instagram world all that really matters is that you don’t confuse the French version with the coconut version because they are not even remotely similar in look or taste!
The first time I ever tried a macaroon cookie was when I was on my honeymoon in Jamaica. I remember them being gooey and assumed they were made with something like honey or syrup. I haven’t had them since and have never tried making them, so I figured Easter would be a great time to try them out. But when I found the recipe from my go-to baking recipe sources, aka Martha Stewart and Anna Olson, I was shocked to find that their recipes for the same cookie were wildly different.
Martha’s recipe was simple whereas Anna’s was more complex. Would Anna’s extra ingredients and steps make a difference? Was Martha’s recipe too simple? I decided to make them both and serve them in a taste test to my family and see which we all preferred in terms of looks, texture, taste, and preparation. Here are the results:
Martha Stewart v Anna Olson: Macaroons
one: appearance. Winner: Martha Stewart. You can see in the photos that Martha’s recipe resulted in perfectly pyramid shaped cookies with definite flakes of coconut still visible. Anna’s cookies spread and fell so were more like little hills rather than pointy pyramids, and the coconut flakes disappeared into the sides of the cookie.
two: texture. Winner: Martha Stewart. Martha’s macaroons were dry so you could feel the flakes of coconut on your tongue. Anna’s macaroons were moist and felt more like biting into a really soft, chewy cookie than a mound of coconut. We all agreed that we preferred the dryness of Martha’s because it elevated it to more than just a cookie and really brought out the coconutyness.
three: taste. Winner: Tie. This was a trickier one. Half of us preferred Martha’s because it just tasted like coconuts, simple and pure. The other half of us preferred Anna’s because of the extra sweetness and almond flavouring, even though it overshadowed the coconut. I feel like Martha’s recipe is more what is expected of a macaroon because the emphasis is on the coconut, but Anna’s recipe is a sweeter and more cookie-like experience. If I were to dip one in chocolate I would definitely use Martha’s recipe because Anna’s wouldn’t benefit from any additional sweetness.
four: preparation. Winner: Martha Stewart. Martha’s recipe was really simple and only required a few ingredients, plus they turned out looking perfect. Anna’s recipe required more ingredients, a more complicated method, and more time since they required heating and cooling before baking. Plus, they didn’t quite look right despite the extra effort (even though they tasted amazing!).
Overall winner: Martha Stewart. We chose Martha’s macaroons as the winner because they looked the prettiest, they tasted the most coconuty, we preferred their dry texture, and they were much simpler and faster to prepare. However, if texture and appearance are less important and if you’re wanting a sweeter, gooier cookie then go with Anna’s because they are worth the extra work and ingredients.
And now for the recipes! Martha’s yields 12 and Anna’s yields 30 according to the recipes. But I must have made Martha’s smaller and Anna’s bigger because I got more like 15-20 each.
Martha Stewart’s Macaroons
0.75 cups sugar
2.5 cups shredded unsweetened coconut
3-4 large egg whites
1 tsp vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
one: preheat oven to 325 F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.
two: in a large bowl, use your hands to completely combine all the ingredients together. I only needed 3 egg whites but if your cookies are too dry to hold together then add the fourth egg white a little bit at a time until they hold.
three: use 2 tablespoons to form mounds and put them onto the cookie sheet 1 inch apart. Use your fingers to shape the mounds into pyramids. Martha suggests dampening your hands in water but I didn’t find that to be necessary.
four: bake until golden brown, rotating half way through. Martha says to do 16-17 minutes but mine only needed 12. Let them cool on a wire rack then store them at room temp for up to three days (they won’t last that long!).
Anna Olson’s Macaroons
4 large egg whites
1.33 cups granulated sugar
0.33 cups sweetened condensed milk
Dash of salt
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond extract
2.5 cups shredded unsweetened coconut
0.25 cup all purpose flour
one: preheat the oven to 300 F and line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Sift the flour into a heavy saucepan and add all the other ingredients, stirring to combine. Cool over medium heat stirring constantly for 5 minutes. Increase to medium high and store constantly for 3-5 minutes until it thickens and pulls away from the sides and bottom of the pan. Transfer to a bowl and let cool slightly at room temperature before chilling completely in the fridge.
two: I created the cookies the same way as Martha’s recipe above in step three but leaving 2 inches between each cookie. Or you can simply drop the cookies by the teaspoon onto the cookie sheet and forego the pyramid shape altogether as Anna’s recipe calls for. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until pale golden and cool on a wire rack.
Now that you have all this information I hope you give macaroons a try. Let me know in the comments which recipe you prefer!
Maxwell and Williams Basics Sandwich Tray: Hudson’s Bay