Tuesday, June 8, 2010

The French Macaron

Adding yet another macaron post to the growing plethora of on line content dedicated to this gorgeous French treat.    I admit, prior to this visit to Paris, my only exposure was to the sticky coconut macaroon we eat in the United States.     I knew of the French version but had never tried it.   Until now.

It is kind of impossible to be in Paris and not be hit with the macaron everywhere you turn.     I read a lot of French blogs and every single one at some point has something dedicated to the macaron.     They are everywhere.

And so I decided that I too should find out what all the fuss was about.     They certainly have one thing going for them from the start.   They are beautiful.   In an airy, French, pastel-ly way.     If there is any treat that embodies the essence of Paris, this is it.    Very feminine. 

If I am going to do something, I am going to do it right.   I went straight for the top.     It wasn’t hard to figure out who the favorites were so I quickly narrowed it down to the famed Laduree and Pierre Herme.    I knew my first experience would need to be from one of these guys.    No skimping on this one. 

My decision process went something like this.   On one of my daily walks, I ran right into one of the Lauderee shops.   There was literally a line almost down the street.   I don’t like lines.    Pierre Herme  won my vote.

After some additional research, I learned that Pierre Herme is equally as crazy if you hit it at peak times.   Wanting to avoid this, I plotted my visit to align with my post Shakespeare and Company trip,  a rainy afternoon and a Wednesday.   Odds were in my favor.  

Besides the line thing, there were a couple of other details that caught my attention.   First, the pictures of the shop were absolutely gorgeous, described as a little jewel box.   Then, they have the most amazing brochure ever on their site.   How can you resist this?     And last, but certainly not least, Pierre Herme is often described as an innovative pastry genius, someone not afraid to take a little risk and stray from the norm to create beautifully unique and wonderful items.  Sold. 

The whole experience was idyllic.  I actually felt a little special standing in front of the counter contemplating my selections.   My planning was perfect.   Me and another woman.    We basically had the place to ourselves.    Although I wanted one of everything, I knew that I needed to proceed with plan.   Three small macarons.   Rose.   Pistachio.   Salted Caramel.   I knew these would be the three before I stepped foot inside.  

The transaction was perfect.    Very kind and professional.    I watched as they selected each of the three from the case and very daintily arranged them within a clear bag which was subsequently perfectly folded and labeled and handed carefully over to me.  I felt like I had won a prize.

I was pretty knowledgeable heading into this experience.  I knew all of the risks associated with purchasing macarons and attempting to save them for later.    They were to be my evening dessert.    These things are so delicate that I read story after story containing cautions on how to handle and transport to ensure they arrive safely at destination.

Having been forewarned, I figured I had it under control.    I walked through the streets of Paris at a slow pace, gingerly carrying my sweet little clear bag by the top so as to not disturb the contents.    I protected my little macarons from the heat of my hands and tried to shield the package from the elements when a little breeze would crop up.  I had this down.  There was no way any of these would suffer even a scratch.   For the three or so miles walking back to my flat, these macarons were my little babies.  I would protect them with my life.

And I did.   For the first two and a half miles or so.

What I hadn’t factored in or understood was that no amount of coddling would prevent these from eventual harm.   Macarons by their nature are sweet airy little delicate beings and at some point they will start to meltdown.    My perfectly beautiful treats did just that.   They actually started to melt a little.   Once this happened, the cracks started appearing.    My only hope at this point was that they would still taste good.

I made it back to my apartment and threw my darling babies in the refrigerator hoping that a chill would help firm them up and bring them back to the original state.   It helped.   A little.

For the rest of the day, my thoughts wandered back to the pastel macarons that I had waiting for me.      Eventually, I just gave in, poured myself a glass of perfectly chilled rose, carefully unwrapped my un-perfect macarons and dug in.   I started with the rose and I have to tell you that once I started, it was like a little religious experience.   It was that good.   Sweet, light, airy, full of essence.    Ahhhhhh… each one was perfect in its own way.   

On a side note, the wine was a very nice complement to the macaron.   In a less celebratory time, I probably would have gone with tea.    I digress...

It didn’t matter that they suffered a little on the outside, they were still beautiful on the inside.   And really, that’s the most important thing anyway.     I feel badly that the pictures here do not capture their real beauty, but hey, I was kind of in a rush!

And now I knew.   I knew what all the fuss was about.  I was hooked.  

Like everyone else who has indulged and fallen for these beauties, I know this won’t be my last ode to the macaron.    Yes, I too, will attempt to learn how to make these.   The thought of it makes me all a little nervous…. But hey, you only live once, what’s the worst that can happen?    They turn out horrible, you feed them to the fiancé and you start all over again.     There are worse things in life.

For anyone that may be planning their first tasting experience, consider yourself forewarned on the transportation issue.    Oh, and I highly recommend Pierre Herme.    Fabulous. 

PS – Once I tried these, I began to see macarons everywhere.  Literally everywhere.   I swear one afternoon I breezed past a McDonald’s and out of the corner of my eye I caught a display of pastel macarons in the window.  I don’t know if this was real or my imagination… but I thought to myself... only in Paris!


  1. Oooh, those look SO good!

  2. Thank you for such a wonderful post! My husband and I just returned from a trip to Paris and indulged in our first real macaroons. Your post brought back sweet memories!

  3. i love this post. i LOVE this post. anyone who can devote such vivid and detailed description of a gastronomical indulgence ranks pretty high on my list. i love food, especially experiencing new food. and now you have me dying to try a macaroon. i wonder, is it hard to find these french style macaroons in the states? i'm going to have to do some research, because i too have only ever had the 'americanized' version, and really didn't even know what these pretty little pastel things were until their image literally EVERYwhere on Etsy lately.


    thank you for sharing your experience. it was truly a delight!

  4. Awwww... you all have made my day! In fact, I was having one of those "I'd rather be in Paris than NC days...." but I feel better now that at least I can share the experience with others who love it just as much as I do!

    Kelli - no idea if we can find these in US, but I'm going to be on the look out now also. Partly why I need to learn to make them myself... the ultimate challenge. And they are so worth it too! Hard to explain the perfection until you try one... and you must try one! or three! :)

  5. You didn't imagine it! I was just reading an article about mcdonalds serving mc-macrons and the french being insulted by it


Thanks so much for your comments! I love hearing from you and read each and every one!