Culinary historians write that macaroons can be traced to an Italian monastery of the 8th or 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".
Italian Jews later adopted the cookie because it has no flour or leavening (macaroons are leavened by egg whites) and can be eaten during the eight-day observation of Passover. It was introduced to other European Jews and became popular as a year-round sweet.
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), and use egg whites and almond paste. Mrs Beeton's Book of Household Management includes a typical traditional recipe. 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.
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