Posts Tagged ‘laduree’

Macaron Wars Part II: Ladurée, Pierre Hermé and more

December 3, 2011

Are you salivating yet? More Macaron Wars to come!

The Experienced Travelers continue the scientific macaron-tasting tour of Paris.  If you missed Part I of the macaron wars, read it here.  Like Rousseau and his ilk, we are enlightened thinkers and careful researchers.  In this post,  Melinda and I visit some of the top names in the heady world of macarons – and find a surprise for the ETs.

It took days for Melinda to cleanse her system of the potent ganache from Cristophe Roussel and Stohrer.  We monitored her blood sugar level until she was ready for another go and made a few stops as lesser-known purveyors of the blessed macaron, but didn’t find what we sought.  Onward!

The world according to Laduree

We couldn’t do a thorough test without the world-famous Ladurée  at 16, rue Royale near the Place de la Madeleine.  According to blackbookmag.com, my heroes Proust and Audrey Hepburn stopped here.  (Together? Can you imagine the chit-chat at table. “So madame, do you often meet la Comtesse de Schwah when you have a fitting chez Givenchy?” as he dips a madeleine in his tea.)

Looking for Marcel and Audrey

Thus I felt the hallowed ground at Ladurée merited an quick genuflection, secretly done while Melinda bent over a case of extraordinary desserts.  We waited in line for our macarons and watched the well-to-do of Paris enjoy the small tea room.  No doubt these ladies have actually come from a haunt of haute couture, whereas we just wonder about it.  At last, Melinda made her selection and we got to work.

Pisctachio packs a punch

Caramel is creamy with a slight crunch

Ladurée is arguably the gold standard, and we were about to pass judgement according to our scrupulous ET criteria.  At the first bite, Melinda levitated slightly and smiled.  Could Ladurée be the one?  Firm outer cookies and rich ganache with complex flavor.  A 4 out of 5.  This was looking definite, but we had two more stops to make.

Waiting with la toute monde at Pierre Herme

A friendly French couple gave us two suggestions.  The first was  Pierre Hermé who represents a new generation of macaron artistes that takes inspiration from a variety of flavors (including pâté . Yes.  Pâté.) The line on the sidewalk outside his shop in the rue Bonaparte  is a testament to the popularity of his creations.

The path to goodness is lined with temptations at Pierre Herme

This is a very astute marketing ploy to make you slowly process by gorgeous chocolates and desserts until you succumb to a larger purchase.

Regarding his macarons, the website says “Their flavours solicit the nose and, when one bites into that crisp shell, the ears tingle with pleasure and the palate is finally rewarded.”

At more than $3US each the reward ought to be spectacular.  Melinda geared up and the taste-test ensued; lemon and caramel.  Melinda looked happy, but not elated.  Her nose was mildly solicited, but her ears didn’t tingle.  She found them a tad too sweet.  Really?  So flavored sugar pressed between two garishly-colored sugar biscuits can be too sweet?  I was redoubled in my lonely stand against the macaron.  After our long wait, Melinda awarded Pierre Hermé a 3 out of 5.  Not what I expected!

The ETs are delighted to discover Carette

The second suggestion that the couple made was unknown to the ETs.  Next day, we traveled to Trocadéro, in the toney 16th, to taste-test the macarons at Carette, a very pleasant cafe-pâtisserie in the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.

Sikly smooth scrambled eggs with soft croutons

I had  a late breakfast of smooth scrambled  eggs and wonderful bread.  But Melinda wasn’t feeling well and actually declined food.  In France.   After days of filling her system with the potent French weapon called the macaron, Melinda was weak and turning an odd color.  If the French army had fired macarons from their artillery during WWII, things might have been different.

These exquisite pasteries from Carette make a change from the macaron pictures

So it was up to me – the declared macaron-hater –  to make a swift purchase of assorted macarons and get Melinda back to the hotel.  As our Readership might recall, Melinda made a swift and glorious  recovery and tested Carette later that day.  Ah-hah!  The response I sought.  Her eyes brightened with satisfaction.  The smooth texture of the ganache was complimented by a perfect balance of flavor and sweetness.

At last we have our 5 out of 5 in the ET scientific macaron taste-test.  The holy grail of ganache in cookies is found at Carette, which earns a place in the ET Gastronomy Hall of Fame.

The final tally:  Carette – 5;  Ladurée – 4;  Pierre Hermé – 3;  Christophe Roussel – 3;  Stohrer – 2.  The challenge is on, dear Readership.  Do your own comparison and let us know what you find!

Update: Don’t miss Paris Patisserie’s latest macaron post!

Macaron decor - a typcal feature in Paris patisserie windows

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Les Macarons

November 7, 2010

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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