Parisian macaron update

April 17, 2012 § 2 Comments

Just back from our regular easter trip to Paris and Fontainebleau and this year, Bayeux in Normandy too. The focus of the Paris part of my trip was taking part in a couple of pâtisserie classes at the Lenôtre school on the avenue des Champs Elysées (making chocolate desserts and the legendary Gâteau St Honoré). Whilst there, I took the opportunity to use my carnet of metro tickets and my own two feet to explore the city, visit some iconic bakeries and pâtisseries, and try and work out by observation the newest Parisian pâtisserie trends.

In the first of three Paris posts, I thought I’d begin with an update on the macaron trend. In the UK I think I can say they’re officially mainstream now that our local Marks and Spencer Altrincham branch regularly stocks its Own Brand pack 6 pack. Paris is of course awash with them and whilst there I took the opportunity to try a cutting-edge selection from Pierre Hermé and classic favourites from Ladurée.

First stop was the Pierre Hermé Avenue de l’Opéra shop (which, cashing in on present trends just sells macarons and chocolates, not pâtisserie). One unwanted consequence of the proliferation of food bloggers is that polite requests such as mine to take a quick photo inside the shop are sadly refused. So here is a photo of said shop from a safe distance outside:

Here’s the selection of macarons I bought and subsequently tasted. The turquoise presentation box is just a little lurid perhaps?

whereas the bag in which it was presented with its pale blue panels and cut-out broderie anglaise style leaves is much easier on the eye:

The Pierre Hermé macarons are characterised by their generous (some might say overgenerous?) fillings and bewildering palate of flavours. For the record, this is the latest menu with some of the names as fanciful as the flavour combinations. With the aid of Pierre Hermé’s Macaron book which gives instructions in meticulous detail for constructing his signature combinations, I’ve added a little extra information.

MOGADOR: milk chocolate and passion fruit – yellow shells speckled with cocoa powder; passion fruit milk chocolate ganache
INFINIMENT ROSE: rose & rose petals – pink shells; rose buttercream
INFINIMENT CHOCOLAT PORCELANA: pure chocolate origin Venezuala Porcelana – chocolate shells; Porcelana chocolate ganache
INFINIMENT CARAMEL: salted butter caramel – light brown shells coloured with yellow food colouring and coffee extract; salted butter caramel filling
CARAQUILLO: chocolate, coffee & aniseed – chocolate shells; chocolate ganache flavoured with aniseed
AMERICANO PAMPLEMOUSSE: orange, campari and candied grapefruit – orange shells; white chocolate ganache flavoured with Campari, grapefruit juice and orange juice; cubes of candied spiced grapefruit peel embedded in the ganache filling
CRÈME BRÛlÉE: vanilla and caramel shards
INFINIMENT CASSIS: blackcurrant – purple shells; white chocolate ganache made with blackcurrant and redcurrant juice rather than cream; one or two whole blackcurrants in the centre
ISPAHAN: rose, lychee & raspberry – deep pink shells sprinkled with red coloured sugar or ruby dusting powder; white chocolate ganache mixed with pureed preserved lychees and flavoured with rose extract; square of concentrated fresh raspberry jelly in the centre
INFINIMENT MENTHE FRAÎCHE: mint – blue-green shells; white chocolate ganache flavoured with an infusion of fresh mint leaves and Crème de Menthe
INFINIMENT JASMIN: jasmine flowers and jasmine tea – shells whitened with titanium dioxide with dried jasmine flowers sprinkled on top; jasmine tea white chocolate ganache flavour boosted with jasmine essential oil;
MÉTISSÉ: orange, carrot and Ceylon cinnamon – orange cinnamon shells; carrot, orange & white chocolate ganache
PLÉNITUDE: chocolate and caramel – one chocolate shell; one caramel brown shell (coffee extract and food colouring); milk and dark chocolate ganache mixed with salted butter caramel
PIETRA: caramelised hazelnut and crispy praline
HUILE D’OLIVE À LA MANDARINE: olive oil and mandarin – one olive green shell (green colouring and coffee extract); one orange shell; white chocolate ganache flavoured with vanilla mixed with extra virgin olive oil
MOSAÏC: pistachio, Ceylon cinnamon & griottine – natural shells sprinkled with red sugar or ruby dusting powder; white chocolate ganache flavoured and coloured with cinnamon and pistachio paste; stoned griottine (trade name for morello cherry preserved in kirsch) in the centre
ÉDEN: peach, apricot and saffron – peach coloured shells; white chocolate ganache infused with saffron mixed with purée of fresh white peach and small cubes of soft-dried apricot
INFINIMENT VANILLE: vanilla from Tahiti, Mexico & Madagascar – natural coloured shells flavoured with vanilla seeds; white chocolate ganache flavoured with 3 types of vanilla pod
MÉDÉLICE: lemon and crispy praline hazelnut wafer – yellow shells sprinkled with hazelnut wafer shards; natural colour lemon cream filling
INFINIMENT CITRON: lemon – yellow shells; natural colour lemon cream filling

They sound amazing don’t they? The truth is though that sample one with your eyes closed and you’d be hard pressed to say what the flavour is. There’s a healthy dose of psychological trickery going on here and the apparent flavour is boosted if you a) your macaron is strongly coloured and b) you can read the description of what you’re supposed to be tasting.

That said, the macarons tasted pretty good, even the mint one which was surprisingly subtle and fragrant rather than being filled with a toothpaste-like substance as I joked it might be before tasting it.

I didn’t make it to Hermé’s flagship store which is on the Rue Bonaparte on the left bank. He now has a myriad of shops throughout Paris, like the one I visited on the Avenue de l’Opéra selling just macarons and chocolate. Presumably these are shipped in daily by the dozen rather than being lovingly crafted on the premises. Well, I suppose you have to ride that trend while it lasts…

The original and classic macaroon maker Ladurée is playing the same game. You can load up on macarons in various locations throughout Paris, even at their newest outlet Terminal 2 Charles de Gaulle airport, which is exactly what I did. You can opt for the classic eau-de-nil and gold packaging:

Or the dinky duck-egg blue and shocking pink “Hello Kitty” presentation box aimed fair and square at the Japanese market:

The current Ladurée list of flavours runs as follows:

PERMANENT FLAVOURS

Café – coffee
Caramel – caramel
Cassis Violette – blackcurrant and violet
Chocolat – chocolate
Fleur d’Oranger – orange flower water
Framboise – raspberry
Pistache – pistachio
Réglisse – liquorice (black)
Rose – rose water
Vanille – vanilla
Incroyable Guimauve Amande – incredible almond marshmallow

SEASONAL FLAVOURS

Citron – lemon
Fruits rouges – red fruit
Fleurs de cerisier – cherry blossom
Chocolat pure origine Colombie – Colombian chocolate
Praliné – praline
Marron – chestnut
Pomme Verte – green apple
Chocolat au lait – milk chocolate

Read the small print underneath the box to discover the list of ingredients needed to make this range of flavours:

sugar; almonds; eggs; butter; cream; cocoa; blackcurrants; raspberries; pistachios; chestnuts; coconut; hazelnuts; mint; lemons; morello cherries; whole milk powder; glucose syrup; cornflour; pectin; coffee; rose syrup (sugar syrup, natural red colouring, rose flavour); redcurrant; dark rum; honey; candied fruit (sugar, glucose, citron, ginger, lemon, orange); flavourings: orange flower, citron, lemongrass, chestnut, mint, mimosa, violet (invert sugar, propylene glycol, alcohol); cinnamon; star anise; ginger, gelatine (not porcine); emulsifier: soya lecithin; natural vanilla extract; vanilla; lime; rose essence; salt; sunflower oil; vegetable fat; barley malt extract; emulsifier: glycerides of fatty acids; colours: luteine, carmine, carminique, carantho, chlorophyll, spinach, coal black, brilliant blue fcf, carotinoids, caramel.

Yum!

If you still feel like buying some here’s where to go:

Pierre Hermé Paris addresses

72 rue Bonaparte, 6th arrondissement (flagship store – the full range)
185 rue de Vaugirard, 15th – pâtisserie, macarons, chocolates
just macarons and chocolates:
58 avenue Paul Doumer, 16th
39 avenue de l’Opéra, 2nd
Galeries Lafayette concession, amongst shoes in the basement (!); home on ground floor; and designers on the 1st floor, 40 boulevard Haussmann, 9th
Publicis Drugstore concession, 133 avenue des Champs Elysées, 8th
Printemps Parly II concession, Avenue Charles de Gaulle, Le Chesnay nr Versailles

Ladurée Paris and surrounding area addresses

16-18 rue Royale, 8th arrondissement
21 rue Bonaparte, 6th
75 avenue des Champs Elysées, 8th – AT DATE OF WRITING CLOSED FOR REFURBISHMENT
Orly airport West Terminal
Charles de Gaulle airport Terminal 2
Printemps department store concession, 64 Boulevard Haussmann, 9th
Chateau de Versailles, Versailles

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§ 2 Responses to Parisian macaron update

  • Margaret Buddle says:

    I have enjoyed your in-depth blog on your Paris experience and your, resulting clear explanation, of macaroon making. I haven’t made macaroons yet although I bought a macaroon tray, with the circles, a while ago. Having read your enthusiastic appraisal of the process I feel more confident and keener to give it a go. I feel I know now what the mixture should look like at the various stages and looking forward to trying my hand at piping.

    My daughter recently bought some Jubilee celebration macaroons from M & S. They were finished with a metallic gold, silver, and bronze and filled with chocolate; salted caramel, and praline. They looked very attractive and were very chewy and delicious.

    Thank you very much for sharing your knowledge and experiences with us.

    Regards,
    Margaret

    • Margaret

      Best of luck with macaroon making. I think what surprised me most was how much the mixture was vigorously stirred resulting in a semi-flowing batter. I’d always attempted previously to retain the air bubbles in the stiffly beaten egg whites but it’s fine to keep stirring until the mixture flows.
      I think your own home-made macs will beat the M&S ones hands down once you get the hang of them!

      J

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