When in Paris ..... Macarons

Macarons (pronounced mack-ah-rohn, and not to be confused with a macaroon) is a dainty sweet meringue-based confectionery where two small cookies (smooth and crunchy on top but soft and chewy in the middle) are filled with a luxurious ganache. Its history dates back to the 1500’s, but in its current format, it is called a Paris macaron, made famous a 150 years ago when a Paris patisserie, Ladurée, invented the pastry as we know it today. So, all in the name of my ongoing education in all things Parisian, my brother and I set out on a macaron hunt to taste the French version of this confection for ourselves. During the week, we rarely walked past one of the famous Paris institutions without wandering in and buying a few. We took our purchases home (well, almost all of them -:) and in the evening we would do a proper tasting. Justine, my French sister in law, would make sure she cleans the knife properly before cutting up each macaron into pieces and we all took the process very seriously (as you should!). It is therefore with great excitement that I am able to announce at the end of this post (drum roll, please) where to find the best macaron in Paris.

Let’s start at Pierre Hermes. His name always pops up in magazines, cooking channels and foodie blogs. Whenever he announces a new flavour, Parisians queue half-way around the block in order to get into his store. We stopped at one of the small kiosks in Galleries Lafayette to buy the “Chocolat au Lait & Fruit de la Passion”.

In a wonderfully charming cobbled street in Saint Germain is Un Dimanche à Paris, a chocolatier and patisserie run by Pierre Cluizel. He comes from a renowned chocolate-making family. His macarons are beautiful and all small works of art. We tried the citrus and strawberry-rhubarb.

In a very sleek boutique, also in Saint Germain, you will find Hugo & Victor. Inside your eyes are treated to the most beautiful tarts, cakes and pastries, almost too beautiful to eat. I bought the mango flavoured macaron.

The crème brulee macaron from chocolatier Jean-Paul Hevin was just one of those “I need a little sugar rush now” moments when we passed the shop in Rue de Saint-Honoré. After each taking a small bite, we immediately packed it away to take home so that Justine could also taste it (that explains the picture below :-).

Café Pouchkine is just such a delight to visit. The salon de thé is located in the Printemps department store and everything here has a Russian accent (the original shop is located in Moscow – see more here). Be prepared to spend a lot of time in front of the pastry display – it is impossible to choose! The bulls-eye macarons, with a perfect, contrasting-colored dot in the center of each one, are stunning. Our choice was the “Fraise Coeur Pistache”, a strawberry macaron with a pistachio center.

Sadaharu Aoki is a patisserie that combines French techniques and Japanese flavors. We tried a few of their macarons, but it was the wasabi that we found to be truly memorable.

That brings us to Ladurée, probably the best know macaron shop in the world. In 1862, Louis Ernest Ladurée, a miller from France’s southwest, created a bakery at 16 Rue Royale in Paris. But it was in the early 1930’s that the shop raised in fame when Pierre Desfontaines, a second cousin of Louis Ernest Ladurée, took two macaron shells and joined them with a delicious ganache filling. The macaron as we know it today was born. 

Now, obviously our list is not nearly a complete one. We could only drool over the ones at La Grande Epicerie and the stripy ones at Fauchon. (Talking about Fauchon, I had to stop and smile at the family below sharing their box of macarons also discussing and arguing about the best one in the box!!) As soon as my blood sugar levels are back to normal, I will have to return to Paris to do more research. Obviously.

Our verdict? The French contingent swears by Ladurée. Justine parleyed about the consistency, the perfect crispiness of the shell and subtle fillings from the famous patisserie. But for me, the mango macaron from Victor and Hugo was a revelation. It is made with black pepper, vanilla, cinnamon, cloves, star anise, and nutmeg. And I could taste every single ingredient in the delicate small little pastry! It was (and I’m going to try hard to avoid the Nigella Lawson clichés here) an amazing amount of taste in a bite of food of which the whole thing weighs no more than a few grams… 

Image credits: All photography by me

1 comment:

  1. hi nani, i'm loving your travels (every few days, I say to A. that i'm missing Paris/Provence). your pics are also getting more and more magical. what an amazing looking trip.x