Tuesday, October 16, 2007

About a Macaroon

I first came across a proper French macaron in the giant food halls in the basement of Takashimaya and Isetan department stores in Tokyo. The Japanese have a national obsession with French pastry and chocolate -- and that was my circuitous introduction to French patisserie.

In my opinion, the French macaron is the holy grail of cookies (if it can really be called a cookie, it is much more than that). Made of almond flour, egg whites and sugar, it has a crispy meringue shell that covers a tender and slightly chewy center. In between the two halves of the meringue is usually a filling of some sort, be it fruit confiture or chocolate ganache.

Entire books are written about French macarons. I have read that they are notoriously difficult to make. Entire batches are discarded if the weather is too humid for them to set correctly. The French are very serious about their macarons!

My trip to Paris brings me to the mother ship, Lauderée. The original store was founded in 1862 by Louis Ernest Lauderée on the Rue Royal where it still exists today. It was his grandson, Pierre Desfontaine who is credited with inventing the modern macaron in 1931.

The inside of the store still has the original hand-painted ceiling and very small customer service area. They sell over 15,000 macarons a day from this store, but it's hard to tell given that there are only three people behind the counter and waits of over 30 minutes to get a chance to buy your macaron are not uncommon.

I bought two boxes of macarons today, one for B. and S. and one for the road. My box didn't last for long. I barely had time to take a photo before gulping them down. Another signature Lauderée confection is shown below. Sorry, I don't know the name, but sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words.

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