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August 06, 2007
Because I try to be the best friend possible, when people ask me if I'll eat a macaroon for them when I'm in Paris - and people ask all the time - I always say "yes" and I'm always good to my word.
These are the kinds of macaroons I'm expected to sacrifice my girlish figure for. (The picture is from Pierre Herme's window)
They're the macaroons that Parisians go crazy for, traveling from
one end of the city to the other to get their favorites from their
favorite patisseries. And they're the ones that pastry chefs are
having the most fun with these days. (These are from Laduree)
Made with ground almonds, sugar, egg whites and a touch of magic,
perfect macaroons (the correct French is macarons) - the term refers to
both the little cookies that sandwich a creamy filling and the finished
sandwich - have a crust that's thinner and more fragile than an egg
shell, innards that are preternaturally light and moist and a filling
meant to contribute mightily to the sweet's swoon factor.
They might be the most popular sweet in a pastry shop's case, but
they can also be the most finicky to produce. To get an idea of what
it's like to be on the "macaroon team" at Pierre Herme's, read Fanny at Foodbeam. And, if you want to try making the little cookies yourself (and you can work with a French cookbook), get a copy of Lecon: Macarons.
There are so many things about macaroons that interest me: their texture and flavor, of course, but their sociology too.
I'm not sure when macaroons were first made, but in a recent issue of Regal magazine (a French food magazine), Pierre Herme recalled that during his apprenticeship at Lenotre,
they made macaroons in just four flavors: vanilla, chocolate, coffee
and raspberry. Today, the number of flavors (they're called parfums)
borders on uncountable and patisseries like Laduree post their new
flavors-of-the-month outside their shops, the way restaurants advertise
their plat du jour.
I also don't know when macaroons went from being a polite little
sweet often found on a good French restaurant's petits four plate to a
full-fledged fetish, but I do think I can put my finger on when the
flavor fest began - I think it all started when Pierre Herme showed his
first pastry collection. (Maybe it was in 2001?) At the end of the
collection he introduced his newest macaroon, which, if my memory is
right, was hazelnut and white truffle.
After that, the sky was the limit and it seemed that new flavored -
and shaped - macaroons could be discovered daily. (These were from
Lenotre - I don't know if they make square macaroons any longer.)
Caught up in macaroon madness, I asked a friend of mine who lives in
Angers if there was a patisserie with great macaroons in her town.
"Macaroons," she said, "are very Parisian - the rest of France doesn't
really care about them."
She was almost right. France does care about macaroons, just not
the ones you find in Paris. There are rustic-looking almond-based
macaroons made all over France and I recently had the chance to sample
a pair of them.
This one came from Maison Adam in the beautiful oceanside town of Saint-Jean-de-Luz
The cookie is small, intensely almondy - I've since learned that
it's made from a combination of Valencia and Marconia almonds from
Spain (just across the border) - and possessed of an enviable pedigree:
it was enjoyed by Marie-Therese and her husband, King Louis XIV. Among people who love this kind of macaroon, Maison Adam, founded in 1660, is a landmark.
The other macaroon I had was from Mme Blanchez in Saint-Emilion, the medieval village outside of Bordeaux that's a must-see. Actually, Saint-Emilion is a must-see and Mme Blanchez's macaroons a must-have.
When I spoke to Madame B, she told me that it was her husband's
grandmother who had bought the secret recipe in 1930, and that today,
the macaroons are made by three women who work just as the bakers had
worked decades and decades before. The almonds for these cookies are
peeled, soaked and dried by hand, then ground between marble rollers
before they are added to the beaten egg whites and sugar. The recipe,
the techniques and the oven that Mme Blanchez oversees may be old, but
the papers that the cookies are baked on are new (Madame says they've
been using them for about five years now) and so clever: they are
perforated squares that can be pulled apart to serve as a little plate
or a frame for each macaroon.
After my trio of tastes, I pondered how the same ingredients could
produce the city-sleek "Paris" macaroon and the comfy sweets of the
provinces - this is part of what makes food so fascinating to me.
Of course you could have a Pierre Herme Ispahan
(rose-litchi-raspberry) macaroon in Saint-Emilion or a rough, chewy,
crackled-topped macaroon from Mme Blanchez in Paris's chicest
arrondissements, but in both cases they'd seem exotic. Eaten where
they're made, they're just right. I guess that's really what regional
cuisine is all about, isn't it.
IF YOU GO TO SAINT-EMILION
Because even we sweet-lovers don't live on cookies alone, I suggest
that before you indulge in Mme Blanchez's macaroons, you walk up the
street and have lunch at L'Envers du Decor (11, rue
du Clocher, Saint-Emilion), a bistro that takes its food - but not
itself - seriously. The restaurant, cleverly decorated and beautifully
situated - the large garden backs up against the stone walls of the
church - is the chou-chou of owner Francois des Ligneris of Chateau Soutard,
the favorite watering hole of the local wine trade and a place where
you'll find lots of wines by-the-glass and a daily menu based on the
On the Road
Patisseries, Boulangeries & Chocolate Shops
| August 6, 2007 8:45 PM
I only understood the complexity of a beatiful macaron when I attempted to make my own at home... Let's just say that the word "macarronage" (really the most important step while making them) now makes me cringe...Anyway, I learned the hard way to never again complain about the high prices thay can reach in Paris ! It really is "la poule aux oeufs d'or " of french patisseries!!
| August 6, 2007 11:43 PM
You hit on one of my real obsessions, Dorie (both eating and making!). After a year and a half of making them twice per week at work, I am still inconsistent. There are so many variables; it's a real science! It is odd how difficult it is to find recipes for them, so thank you for the suggested source. Bouchon has a carrot cake version that is unreal, but I am just as impressed with the most basic version that is executed perfectly. I am so glad you devoted a post entirely to this delightful treat!
| August 7, 2007 9:15 AM
What a *marvelous* article. I only wish I'd had it before I was in St. Emilion in June.
| August 7, 2007 9:47 AM
Ah, macarons! So wonderful to eat, so frustrating to make. I love them, and I love the Bistro that advertises "English Spoken with a French Accent." Of course, one must therefore imagine the sign having a French accent as well, n'est-ce pas?
| August 7, 2007 10:09 PM
Hello there miss Dorie!! So this is a bit off topic from macaroons but it does have to do with a french-inspired wedding! I'm the bride and making my own cake (am I crazy?) and I have a bit of a question! I wanted a nice white cake with peach filling. So I ended up testing a Martha Stewart white cake and it's working fine, I made peach curd to fill between the layers, and I'm wrapping it all up in Swiss Buttercream. It's all working except for one thing, it doesn't taste very 'peachy'. I have ordered a peach extract from Watkins. I'm thinking of adding it to the batter before baking, any tips on how much I should add for a nine inch, two layer cake? That would just be one recipe, if that makes more sense. I am a little scared of extracts because I know they are super concentrated! I was also thinking of a simple syrup glaze to put on the warm layers, even adding a peach liquor. Many of the guests attending don't drink so part of me doesn't want to weird them out with a liquor taste coming through in the cake... any advice on how to make my cake taste pleasantly peachy?? Thanks so much!!!
| August 8, 2007 1:15 AM
it's fascinating to see "provincial" macarons, vs. the couture parisian ones like herme, mulot, hevin et al. how did they compare in structure and taste?
| August 8, 2007 3:41 AM
Ah the joy of macarons! Just as I mastered them in Seattle, I moved here and haven't once had the urge to try when compared to pierre hermes. I cannot wait to explore more parts of France and I can't think of a better way than by studying the variations in pastry. yum. I can tell when you leave Paris Dorie because it starts to cry (it's raining non-stop!).
| August 8, 2007 1:21 PM
Macarons really are a treat! I do enjoy them...I think I need to take a trip to Paris again!!
I just made your Dimple Plum cake, it was fantastic! Thanks for another great recipe. The plum trees are going crazy this summer. I was glad to put them to use!
| August 8, 2007 5:05 PM
I am sitting, right now, in a rental on rue de Mezieres in the 6th in Paris and I was just assembling my list of must-see (eat) patisseries. It's funny, I emailed your site to myself to savor while on vacation, before your macaroon post. Tonight I was congratulating myself on having chosen a rental so close to Laduree and Pierre Herme when I looked at your site again. Quel serendipity! Well now this means I must try every macaroon flavor, at both patisseries. Geez, this neighborhood is lush with boulangeries and patisseries. I arrived at 2PM today and have already downed a loaf of bread and an apple tart from Poilane.
| August 8, 2007 8:32 PM
Wow. These sound so much better than the Manishevitz macaroons I grew up eating at Passover. (That was the only kind I knew about.)
| August 9, 2007 9:58 AM
macarons are my favorite eye candy and real candy...but I'm really writing coz I don't know how else to email Dorie (I must have missed it on the site) and i have a question with regards to a recipe in her Waffle cookbook. I am a collector of her cookbooks, the cheese cake recipes in her new baking book are the best, bar none, but I seem to have problems with the cornmeal waffle recipe.
How can I email her?
| August 11, 2007 6:20 AM
tnx once again for this wonderful post .
PH hd set up a standard for his macarons, which are worth for it. Ispahan is in my top most to hv list. With small red square(?) inside da macarons ,they R chewy still melting in mouth. Ispahan r most favourable macarons of mine.
I had oso taken a photo of a macaron 'tree', & passbiers were looking at me as if i am ???
Tnx again Dorie, for introducing macarons to me ( from your Choc. Dessert with PH)
| August 12, 2007 11:28 PM
Wonderful post Dorie!
I still have the macaron paper of Mme Blanchez of 10 years ago, so that means it's now vintage and could buy me a place in Beaune if I could bring myself to part with it on ebay...
I love L'Envers du Decor too in St. Emilion..
All the best places :)
| August 16, 2007 3:44 PM
I loved this post! I still have a box of Madame Blanchez's treats...I toted them all the way home from France even though they are now crusty and crumbly and stale. I just can't seem to throw them away. This may be the dividing line between enjoyment and obsession, I'm afraid. It was so great to meet you last month, Dorie! Take care.
| August 18, 2007 10:57 AM
If you are in the Basque Country be sure to try the Mouchous (Musu means "Kiss" in Basque) at Paries in St Jean de Luz, Bayonne and Biarritz. They have a soft almond filling and are delicious. (They also have Macaroons) Also in St Jean de Luz there is a new cafe "Street Cafe" that sells American pastries (brownies, cookies) fruit smoothies, specialty coffee drinks and hamburgers. It's very interesting to find these foods in a small Basque town...and the cafe has such a great atmosphere.
| August 21, 2007 10:42 PM
Thank you all for such thoughtful comments.
Flavia - it's true that the price of macaroons in Paris is high -- I still haven't gotten used to what it costs to buy pastries in the great shops -- but as indulgences go, this one has a pretty good price-to-pleasure ratio, don't you think?
Robyn - I know how hard it can be to make macaroons. When I was working on Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme, I made the macaroons 13 times before I finally wrote the recipe! Yet, I have seen pictures on so many baker's blogs showing first attempts at macaroons and they've been stunning! They can be tricky, but it's fun to have such a delicious obsession.
Casey - Mme Blanchez's macaroons -- along with the town's beauty -- will give you a reason to go back to St. Emilion.
Ruth- you're funny and right: just the act of putting that sign at the door shows a French accent, a very amusing one.
JoJo - the difference between Parisian and "provincial" macaroons is so great that you wish you didn't have to call the two sweets by the same name. It's not unlike the difference between Parisian macaroons and the macaroons we know in America. While the Parisian macaroons are feather light (close to meringue)and can be any flavor from delicate to strong, from chocolate to fruit, the provincial macaroons are more substantial and, at least the ones I've tasted, always almond.
Laura - you're such a wonderful baker that I'm sure your Seattle macaroons were terrific. But I can understand your not making them in Paris. When I'm in Paris, I bake much less than I do when I'm in the States and, when I bake, I'm much less likely to bake something French than I am when I'm Stateside. And thank you for your sweet thoughts.
Maria - isn't it true that almost anything can make us think that it's time to take another trip to Paris? Glad you liked the Dimply Plum Cake -- it's a simple cake, but I think it's got good flavor and texture.
Nelle - you really did choose the best location. I'm so late responding to everyone's comments -- sorry -- that you might not be in Paris any longer, but if you're there, there's a really nice "health food" market on your street and, as you've probably discovered, you're not far from Sadaharu Aoki's pocket-sized patisserie. Enjoy!
Wendy - reading your comment makes me think that it would be great if French macaroons, particularly the Parisian kind, had another name because they are so *not* like the kind you grew up with.
Tanya - I'm thrilled that the chocolate macaroons in Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme were your introduction to this treat. And, of course, you love Ispahan -- it's impossible not to. I think that it's a brilliant combination of flavors (ie, raspberry, litchi and rose).
Paris Breakfasts - I can see why you saved the paper from Mme Blanchez: it's beautiful and so very paintable in your lyrical style.
Cindy - holding on to Mme Blanchez's macarons might be an obsession, but it's a good one. Why don't you just say you're engaged in a science project in which it's vital to discover just how long an almond macaroon can last? I loved meeting you in Paris and hope that I'll see you again soon.
Sarah -- thanks for all the good tips for places in Saint-Jean-de-Luz. Since I fell in love with the Pays Basque, I expect I'll be returning and I'll take your addresses with me.
| August 23, 2007 9:12 AM
We spoke on the telephone in CT 12 years ago when I moved to Rowayton. I was a member of the CCA and IACP during the 12 years I lived on the E coast. I worked with Mary Goodbody, Kathy Kingsley and Irena Chalmers during that time. Now I live near Bordeaux!
Love your site it's so inspirational.
Missed you by 1 week at the Hidden Kitchen in Paris. It was cooler when we were there!
If you get to this area again would love to meet up. I run cooking weekends for Brits here as well as daily cooking courses for locals.
| August 28, 2007 8:56 AM
AUTHOR: adrian delaney
DATE: 08/28/2007 08:56:21 AM
AUTHOR: adrian delaney
DATE: 08/28/2007 08:56:21 AM
Jessica "Su Good Eats"
| September 23, 2007 7:17 PM
The macaroons that I make are very similar to Mme Blanchez's. (My recipe comes from Alice Medrich's Chocolate and the Art of Low-Fat Desserts.) I could never figure out why they don't have the sleek Parisian tops. Every so often, a dud is smooth, but still. I wonder if it's because I grind the almonds myself and use granulated sugar. I wonder if there's a resource in English that spells out all the variables.
| September 24, 2007 8:39 AM
Jessica, I don't know that I can help you much, since I don't know Alice's recipe. Is it meant to turn out Parisian macaroons? Or Mme. Blanchez's macaroons?
I hesitate to offer advice, but if you're making Parisian macaroons, the problem could be the fineness of your almond powder (although I don't think coarse almonds are fatal), but you can solve that by sifting it. It's more likely the culprit is the egg whites: you might be beating them until they are too stiff and/or you might be folding them in with too much exuberance.
If the macaroons are to be like Mme. Blanchez's, then I'm not sure why the "duds", as you call them come out smooth; maybe it's orneriness :)
| September 29, 2007 12:33 AM
Thanks for that information! It sounds like my almonds aren't ground fine enough. Alice's recipe is: process 7 ounces of blanched almonds with 1 1/2 cups of granulated sugar in a food processor until very fine and the mixture packs to the side of the bowl. With the processor running, drizzle in 3-4 egg whites, or until the consistency is like thick mashed potatoes. Pipe, let sit for 20 min., then bake at 300F for 20 min.
I once tried the same recipe but folded in whipped egg whites. (I didn't sift my ground almonds) I got a meringue-like cookie with a gap between the innards and the top.
| September 29, 2007 9:00 AM
Jessica, from reading the recipe it does seem like you're meant to get macaroons like Mme Blanchez's. To get the sleek-topped macaroons, your almonds must be finely ground and dry -- not processed to a paste -- and your egg whites and sugar must be whipped to a marshmallowy meringue and folded into the nuts. Same ingredients, different technique, different cookie -- this is why I think baking is so fascinating.
| November 26, 2007 2:31 PM
Is it possible to order Lecon:Macarons from the Amazon France? Or, is there somewhere you can suggest ordering this book in the states?
Thank you so much.
I truly enjoy your website.
| November 26, 2007 3:23 PM
Deborah, I don't know where you can find the book in the States, but here's the link to French amazon, which is selling the book:
Clicking on Lecon:Macarons in my post, will also get you there.
| January 11, 2008 12:15 PM
Last night I went to an extraodinary dinner in a Paris apartment of Italian friends(extraordinary, enough)and the hostess served a dessert that she had made herself(third extraodinary thing....even our friends who are the best cooks, buy something from the patisserie. It was a divine rasberry and lichie gelatin topped with a white chocolate and rose infused foam. She said that it was a Pierre Herme recipe and gave me the French version. Mon francais n'est pas mal, mais dans ma cuisine parisienne(et aux Etats Unis), j'ai besoin des recettes en anglaise. Can you help me find the recipe(is it in one of your cookbooks? Thank you
| January 11, 2008 12:17 PM
Last night I went to an extraodinary dinner in a Paris apartment of Italian friends(extraordinary, enough)and the hostess served a dessert that she had made herself(third extraodinary thing....even our friends who are the best cooks, buy something from the patisserie). It was a divine rasberry and lichie gelatin topped with a white chocolate and rose infused foam. She said that it was a Pierre Herme recipe and gave me the French version. Mon francais n'est pas mal, mais dans ma cuisine parisienne(et aux Etats Unis), j'ai besoin des recettes en anglaise. Can you help me find the recipe(is it in one of your cookbooks)? Thank you
| January 22, 2008 10:47 AM
hello every body,
I am a french student and I have to make a study market concerning macaroons in United State and especially in the State of washington.
I would like to know if their is somewhere where we could find macaroons in USA?and at what price we could buy them?
I hope you could help me.
thanks in advance Lucie
| March 3, 2008 1:46 AM
Lucie, Patisserie Philippe in San Francisco makes Parisian Macaron. Philippe makes several flavors. Philippe makes one of the best macarons in San Francisco. He is french and trained in France.
| March 4, 2008 1:20 PM
Thanks for the link to lecon:Macarons! Ordering french cookbooks is becoming a habit of mine. It took a while for me to be confident enough in macaron making to start a business selling them. Consistency in ingredients is the key. Like when I changed hazelnut suppliers and they provided me with ground toasted hazelnuts which were greasier than I was used - not very good for macarons feet they tend to spread out like duck beaks.
| December 28, 2008 1:34 AM
You can buy them at the Bouchon Backery there is one in the Venitian in Las Vegas, and one in New York.
| December 29, 2008 9:26 AM
I tried making macaroon for the second time. As I have never tried one from France but very much intrigued by it, I never had a first hand experience of what a true french macaroon is supposed to taste like or feel like when you bite into it. When I make the "macaroon, it is nice and dry and crispy when bite into it. But, after sandwiching it with the ganache and let to set, the macaroon is soft and chewy when I bite into it. Is it supposed to be like this?
| January 11, 2009 4:45 PM
I'm allergic to tree nuts, is there a substitute to almond flour?
The Purple Foodie
| April 24, 2010 2:08 PM
French macaroons are suddenly such a fad. Can you beleive that they're growing popular by the day even in Mumbai. I work with a french patisserie here and we were so overwhelmed with the response that the macaroon got! We've been churning out batches after batches of so many flavours. Thank for pointing me to foodbeam.. loved that site!
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