A macaroon (/mækəˈruːn/ mak-ə-roon) is a type of small circular cake, typically made from ground almonds (the original main ingredient or coconut (and/or other nuts or even potato), with sugar and egg white. Macaroons are often baked on edible rice paper placed on a baking tray.
The name of the cake comes from the Italian maccarone or maccherone meaning "paste", and referring to the original almond paste ingredient. This word itself derives from ammaccare, meaning "to bruise".
The earliest recorded macaroon recipes were made from egg whites and almond paste; Mrs Beeton’s Book of Household Management gives a typical recipe.
Culinary historians claim that macaroons can be traced to an Italian monastery of the 9th century. The monks came to France in 1533, joined by the pastry chefs of Catherine de Medici, wife of King Henri II. Later, two Benedictine nuns, Sister Marguerite and Sister Marie-Elisabeth, came to Nancy seeking asylum during the French Revolution. The two women paid for their housing by baking and selling macaroon cookies, and thus became known as the "Macaroon Sisters". Recipes for macaroons (also spelled "mackaroon," "maccaroon" and "mackaroom") appear in recipe books at least as early as 1725 (Robert Smith’s Court Cookery, or the Complete English Cook).
Italian Jews later adopted the cookie because it has no flour or leavening (macaroons are leavened by egg whites) and can be enjoyed during the eight-day observation of Passover. It was introduced to other European Jews and became popular as a year-round sweet. Over time, coconut was added to the ground almonds and, in certain recipes, replaced them. Potato starch is also sometimes included in the recipe, to give the macaroons more body.