The Macarons of Paris
How to tell your macaron from your Macron
It’s small, round and oh-so-French. It’s beautifully presented and its appeal is as much visual as taste. Yes, it’s the macaron and it is unquestionably the superstar of the patisserie world.
Before we proceed it’s worth some clarification of terms to avoid future confusion.
- A macaron is the dainty sweet cookie that is the subject of this article.
- A macaroon is a heavier, sweet treat traditionally (in France) featuring coconut and chocolate.
- A Macron is the new French president. The three are all quite different, though the question has been posed: what flavour would it be if a macron actually was a sweet treat.
The joy of a macaron
The macaron is a huge favourite of sweet-toothed Parisans, with sales easily double those of the éclair. Indeed, it’s a common sight to see a smartly dressed Parisian heading home with an elegantly boxed and tied parcel containing a selection of handpicked macarons.
In the UK they have made inroads into our sweet preferences, but quite possibly, the delights of the less elegant yumyum and the humble jam doughnut still outstrip the macaron in volume sales.
A macaron is a thing of beauty. But it’s simple too. Ground almonds, sugar and frothy egg white are combined to create meringue disks with a buttercream, jam or fondant filling acting as a mortar.
A little history
Macarons were first conjured up in monasteries around Venice in the 8th century and were subsequently linked to Catherine de Médici whose chefs certainly knew how to keep her happy.
Early on, they were known colloquially as ’priests’ bellybuttons’, a nickname that while evocative was not particularly alluring. As part of an early marketing drive, this name was quietly ushered out and became lost in the mists of time.
Over the centuries, the myths, the stories and the traditions intertwined but it seems that only in the mid-19th century did someone have the idea of doubling up two macarons with a sweet fondant filling. This is the format we know today: a small, dainty sweet sandwich – not unlike a mini hamburger but far more sophisticated.
What is the appeal?
Well, aside from their obvious sweet charms they are small, brightly coloured and look amazing stacked high in a colourful, tempting mound, or elegantly presented in a gift box. And there is also something cute about them - perfect little irresistible morsels of sweetness. No surprise the macaron has become a global cult in recent years, not to mention an instagram darling and social media starlet.
Each country seems to have its own variations on the macaron, while retaining the visual appeal and sophistication of the original.
I’m in Paris, where do I find these little gems?
Ladurée on the Champs-Elysées has laid claim to the title of ‘inventor of the macaron’ though this is by no means a cast iron claim. Others lay claim for such a prize.
Pierre Marcolini, a Belgian chocolatier, applies the same stringent selection criteria to his almonds as he does with his cocoa beans. His is a quest for intense flavour and the highest quality ingredients.
Acide An obsessive approach here, with the chef clearly enjoying coming up with novel, quirky combinations of flavour for maximum fun and popart appeal. Popcorn, coconut milk and cinnamon feature, along with unashamedly bright colours.
Gerard Mulot is known for elegant macarons, popular with the locals.
Aoki Sadaharu The chef here is Japanese and his macarons reflect this heritage with unusual twists on the traditional flavours. Wasabi and black sesame are not often seen in Parisian patisseries.
Article from Dictionnaire encyclopédique de l'épicerie et des industries annexes, by Albert Seigneurie, edited by L'Épicier in 1904 Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/...
Pierre Marcolini Haute Chocolaterie Truly Experiences https://trulyexperiences.com/u...
Gerard Mulot https://www.renfe-sncf.com/rw-...