Les Macarons

Les Macarons. One ET shares the French obsession with them. The other ET is mystified.

Occasionally, the ETs respectfully disagree over a point of French life.  The frenzied, national devotion to the macaron is a serious point of contention, with Nurse firmly on the side of the French.   You can see where that leaves me.

The obsession in question is made of two thin-crusted cookies with soft centers of almond meringue held together with a layer of rich, sweet ganache.  If you’re already spinning from sugar overload, I am sympathetic. 

Nurse has a fondness for the macarons that her friend Pauline made with whipped cream.  So when she saw a patisserie window in full macaron splendor, she was hooked.  I can’t fathom why.  The fumes make my teeth hurt.

A new solar system - macarons suspended by wire over pink sugar, each with a decorative cutout

Macarons come in all colors and flavors.  They’re lemon, raspberry, mocha or pistachio and always a garish hue.  The blinding saucer-sized varieties  from the corner patisserie are Nurse’s favourites. Her blood sugar rose the moment she had the bag in hand.  A circulatory system overload caused by the almond meringue and the lemon ganache made Nurse handle her hotwheels like a NASCAR pro.  No one was safe.

If Proust had preferred Laduree macarons to madelines, perhaps he would have been less pensive. (Photo by Roboppy. Wikipedia Commons)

 

Catherine de Medici’s Italian pastry chefs introduced them to France in the mid-1500s as a simple almond cookie.  The fanaticism began when the famous pastry shop Laduree pioneered the ganache filling in the early 1900s.  Laduree’s website offers this secret to macaron success:

These small, round cakes, crisp on the outside, smooth and soft in the middle, are made every morning in Ladurée’s “laboratory”. The pastry chefs measure out very precisely the required amounts of almonds, eggs and sugar, before adding one final ingredient, a pinch of unique “know-how”, essential to the making of such a delicacy. Once cooked and filled, the macaroons are put to one side for 2 days before going on sale, the time it takes to achieve a perfect balance between texture and flavour.

The part about them sitting around for two days is certainly a point for my side of the argument.  

The discs of delight make creative window dressing a snap. Does anyone but me question why you can use a glue gun on a macaron?

Patisserie owners are enthusiastic about decorating with them and I suspect it’s because profit margins on macarons must be enormous.  If you’re willing to part with 2-3 euro of  “found money” for a few bites of sass and buzz, join Nurse! 

Disagreements over who makes the best macarons are serious and consequential.   In Paris, there are several top contenders.  Laduree and Dalloyau  are two of the oldest practitioners in the city. 

Pierre Hermé –  who has written a book on the subject – has a contemporary flair and unusual flavors like rose and lychee.  (You can devour 20 of them in your own home for just 58 euro plus shipping.) 

Lenôtre  will send you a 116-piece “colonnade de macarons” for 164 euro which will turn your office holiday party into an EMT convention.  Finally Gérard Mulot on the Rue de Seine has fierce adherents who swear that his are the only ones.   

So, Readership, do you have a position to take on the subject of macarons?  Do you back Nurse in her devotion to the colorful, ganache-filled biscuits?  Or do I have the right approach – bisquick and Fluffernutter?

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8 Responses to “Les Macarons”

  1. Ann Mason Says:

    I stand by any meringue, and I can spell it too

  2. Tim Says:

    Viva la Macaron!

  3. Joanne Says:

    Macarons? Poof. Le chocolat est suprême!

  4. Autolycus Says:

    At the risk of encouraging further discord, it’s not too difficult to make your own version, and in chocolate too:

    http://www.guardian.co.uk/lifeandstyle/2010/apr/10/egg-white-recipes-fearnley-whittingstall

  5. Ann Says:

    “If a custard-making has left you with a surfeit of whites … ” This made me smile. It is just what my English friend might say, and no, Jo, I am not talking about YOU. And thanks for the link Autolycus. If ever I figure out how to translate grams into dry weight, I will try some of these recipes.

  6. Belimar Says:

    Ok, I have to side with Ann on this one. Not because I love macarons but because they made the visit to France for a little girl on a gluten-free diet quite special. I think the trip would have been special anyways but to experience a French delicacy . . . Of course, the dairy free sorbet was even better!

  7. Happy Birthday Julie’s Paris « Julie's Paris Says:

    […] and ends around town, the Marais and Monet, and the most-searched term leading readers to the blog, les macarons.  Next time you’re on a conference call, check out the Julie’s Paris archive! The ETs […]

  8. Macaron Wars Part I: Christoph Roussel and Stohrer « Julie's Paris Says:

    […] The Experienced Travelers are amazed that the most searched word that brings readers to our blog is macaron.  Yes we know – macarons are vanquishing the cupcake craze in the U.S.  But really – the most searched word?  (If you want to know more about the lore of  macarons, read our first macaron post.) […]

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