Jour du Macaron – Macaron Day in Paris, 20 March 2012

Macaron Day may be over in Paris but it’s time to relive the experience now that the last macaron is finished today from le loot bag.

Our sunny Paris macaronathon started out at Pierre Hermé’s boutique at Opéra, with talented artist, Carol Gillott and clever ‘Bear’ of Paris Breakfasts fame. Where was the queue at 10h opening? There wasn’t even time to wait in line and think about what first flavour to choose. Pressure. Many other boutiques were taking part in the Paris Jour du Macaron but as time was limited, we didn’t manage to do all of them. However, we did well.  Really well.

A donation for a macaron

This was the deal with participating macaron boutiques: give a donation to Autistes sans Frontières and pick a macaron of your choice. Hermé had 25 enticing flavours. My first choice was the classic Ispahan (rose, litchi & raspberry) with Hermé’s characteristic spots of metallic food colouring. Don’t ask me how it happened, but we didn’t eat them when we came out. It was for saving until later. Since we were across the road, a quick stop was needed at the Japanese Supermarket, Kioko, as I’m craving yuzu powder for some pastries to make at home. Forget it. A kilo bag for over €120? Back to the macaron hunt.

On to Galeries Lafayette. Where were the queues? The sudden rush of excitement came at Jean-Paul Hévin: with one donation you could choose THREE of his chocolate-something macarons. The sugar rush was on. Quick, next on the list was Dalloyau just in macaron crumb distance. The server took one pitiful look at us as she explained they were certainly not participating in the event. Why do I never get it? After 20 years experience of living here, I should have just shown her The List in black & white. But when in Paris, you must remember that the client is the lowest form of being.

Already with 4 macarons, how could we transport our macarons without the inevitable crushing in a handbag? Time to look for boxes. Could we buy a pâtisserie box or bag, s’il vous plaît, Madame? But of course not. What do you think this is? A charity or something?  You have to buy boxes with macarons in them. But why would we do that on the Fête du Macaron?  You just don’t get it.

The delightful ladies at Sadaharu Aoki understood. Mon Dieu. They were selling macaron shells: macaron à la rusk. What a great idea! As the prized yuzu macaron was delicately placed in its perfect pochette, our loot was looking good stacked in a shiny bag. We still had room in there for more. The macaronivores in us crescendoed as we sped downstairs to Pierre Hermé like kids in a giant sweet shop. Then upstairs to Pierre Hermé. Hm. They know we’re fans, as they stick little stickers on your coat.  I wonder if that’s secret code for Triple Greedy PH Macaronivores?

Americano Pamplemousse; Rosehip, Fig & Foie Gras. Top: Hévin’s chocolate combos.

Another quick stop. But at €1.50 to spend a penny we decided to give the throne room at Galeries Lafayette a miss. We didn’t really need a posh seat, you know – even if we were holding an Aoki Paris pâtisserie bag.

It was time to get out of the store and the 9th Arrondissement. Carol had a great idea: back to Hévin for 3 more in the 7th – metro stop  Ecole Militaire. I have a soft spot for this area, since Antoine and I had a doll’s house apartment here for 5 years. Was it the stickers on my coat? The loot bag? Not enough thudding sound in the donation box? I somehow got flashed le look from Madame as I left with yet another three macs…

My favourite from Hévin was this Chocolate-Yuzu

…then another three from the Hévin boutique in rue Saint Honoré in the 1st Arrondissement. Final stop was Hermé again in rue Cambon. This time the most exquisite dark chocolates were offered as a tasting at the door, as the charming ladies smiled at our greedy PH stickers. So thoughtful for people like us who weren’t actually tasting our macarons sur place. Until later.

It was time to return home since the piano students would be waiting. It’s just as well they practised this week otherwise they’d have to donate a macaron for every wrong note. If you’re reading this, take note for future lessons.

Not bad, she said. Smugly. Tea and tasting time!

Hévin’s macarons are delicious but they generally lack the depth of flavour that you get from Hermé, although they are lighter and ‘easier to eat’. My personal favourite was his Chocolate-Yuzu. Fabulous. The plain Yuzu macaron of Aoki certainly hit the spot with a perfect bite. Hermé’s Ispahan is incredible, but it does have the impression of eating into butter: it’s so rich and sweet.

The fois gras, fig and rosehip was incredibly original: the foie gras notes were pronounced and the macaron was distinctly sweet. It’s meant as a dessert, so the foie gras was kind of strange. You couldn’t really serve it as an apéritif. Today I opened the chocolate-foie gras and the whole thing had turned to mush after 2 days. Boohoo.

Today I tasted Hermé’s new additions and loved them: Americano Pamplemousse for its bitter-sweet (reminded me of hibiscus-Campari-blood orange) and slightly more crunch to the shell, plus my favourite: his new Infiniment Jasmin, as part of his 2012 collection, “Les Jardins”. The jasmine was slightly lighter than the others and packed full of flavour of the flower and jasmine tea – plus with Pierre Hermé’s distinct metallic food colouring hue.

Infiniment Jasmin de Pierre Hermé

Have a wonderful week and don’t worry: macaron day may be over but Spring is here and macaron day continues in my book. Won’t you join me?

Update: Macaron Day Paris info 2013

Guide to les Merveilleux de Fred in Paris & Giveaway Winners

Isn’t it wonderful to have one of these glad-to-be-alive days? The other day it was marvellous. With the back finally better after so many frustrating months of agony and the sun out to play, this was a morning escapade in Paris to catch up with my talented friend for a coffee-croissant-chatter before whizzing around the corner in the 16th Arrondissement to the dentist – inevitably showing a toothy display of what I had for breakfast.

My clever friend, Marinella, is Italian. She’s not only a wonderful (yet modest) cook, but she knows Paris like her pocket, as the French say. After 20 years as an adopted Parisian, she’s now sharing her insider’s guide to the City of Light by writing a Paris guide book, soon to be published in Italian. Meanwhile – stop press! – her blog, finestra su parigi (Window on Paris), is just launched. This is ideal for Italian visitors wanting more information on noteworthy Parisian addresses and useful for residents wanting news updates. Gradually, Marinella will also be translating each article into English for us non-Italian speakers.

“Are you taking some Merveilleux home while you’re here?”, Marinella asked. What? Merveilleux? Is it a marvellous cake or a meringue? (Friends are not obliged to laugh at my often ghastly clichéd jokes but for those unaccustomed to silly Scottish speak – ‘a meringue’ sounds like ‘am I wrong?’)

You mean to say I’ve been coming to my Parisian dentist in the 16th all this time and not checked this out yet?  (See the first of my blog posts, It’s a Small, Small World in Paris” for the same area.) Sure enough, on the same street – rue de l’Annonciation – in the 16th Arrondissement where I used to work – the posh baby clothing shop on the corner had disappeared since my last visit. Sad, since that’s where I bought my darling niece’s first posh outfit. In its place was an intriguing shopfront.

It wasn’t disappointing after all. One of the happy looking pastry chefs was preparing these particular Merveilleux pâtisseries directly in front of us, as we were just about licking the window.

That gooey chocolate wasn’t all; it was whipped into the lightest chantilly cream. These meringue hearts were then coated in it and rolled in dark chocolate flakes – the final touch being a dusting of powdered sugar then a dollop of chantilly on top.  Truly marvellous, n’est-ce pas?

This exquisite display is found at Aux Merveilleux de Fred. There are 2 other boutiques in Paris, 3 in Lille, one in St Omer and one in Belgium. To cater to everyone’s taste, they come in big, medium and baby bear sizes.

What would you go for as a first timer? Medium sounded good for a start.

What’s more, check out their cute logo on these beautiful boxes.

The medium ones deserve a bigger box with a huge logo. Foxy. For the moment, I have my eye on the boxes. They’re handy and chic for storing the homemade macarons later, bien sûr.

A couple of Incroyables (cinnamon speculoos added to the chantilly), a Merveilleux and an Impensable. All fit snuggly into one pastry box.

Next time I’m going back for the Belgian brioche and the BIG ones… What do you think? Marvellous, incredible or unthinkable? The Unthinkable/Impensable was our favourite – rolled in a crispy meringuey coffee but without the little blob of chantilly. We could deal with that, though.

Thanks to Marinella, my trips to the 16th arrondissement have never been the same again: a box en route home is compulsory. She knows – as well as my dentist – that I have a sweet tooth.

I’m looking forward to meeting up again soon with Marinella, my personal guide to Paris. Don’t forget to check out Marinella’s blog, finestra su parigi, for your own window onto an insider’s Paris. It’s packed with many more marvellous and incredible addresses like this one.

Christmas Giveaway Winners!

Waverley Books have announced the following winners, chosen randomly from the Christmas Giveaway. Bravo to Amalia Pagura, Carsley Paige Fuller, Ivy Liacopoulou, Jessica Hose, and Rachel Jacobs, who will all receive a copy of Mad About Macarons from Waverley Books. For those who wish to order a copy, you can find it on Amazon.com, Amazon.co.uk and from The Book Depository, who ship for free internationally.

Going Macarons at the Paris Salon du Chocolat

How come I’ve never been before? It took my talented artistic American friend, Carol Gillott of ParisBreakfasts, to entice me along finally to the 2011 Salon du Chocolat in Paris. Was I too busy making macarons? Perhaps more because it’s at Porte de Versailles, an area that’s a nightmare to park and with all the exhibition halls for someone with no sense of direction, it’s like suffering an orienteering course for a sports exam when it’s not your sport. Arriving seriously late with a lame excuse of being too nice in traffic jams, she was an angel to still take me under her wing.

Who was more mad about macarons? Check out Carol’s eye-catching gear of tee-shirt and matching macaron bracelet. Not difficult to lose her – although she might tell you the opposite. Each stand visited, we were greeted with “Superb T-Shirt!” followed by more chocolate tastings, thanks to her savoir-faire.

Carol knows a thing or two about Paris fashions – not surprising, as she has the artist’s eye. Macarons are definitely à la mode (by that I don’t mean the American ice-cream on top, I’m talking trendy Parisian fashion here.)

See?  Macaron ruffled necklaces are obviously in.

Another necklace – this time just like her bracelet, plus macarons dotted around the dress.

Should I perhaps give some macarons to the French fashion creator, Jean Colonna? We could create Le Colonna macaron dress. Just an idea…

Meanwhile, looking around, it’s macarons galore – perfect for a macaron blog.

A rather foxy (get it?) macaron-shell tower in all its glory by Gregory Renard and then his Eiffel Tower of macarons…

While we’re gazing at the Paris monuments, what about l’Arc de Triomphe by Léonidas?  It’s the one time I can negotiate the traffic around it without needing a bumper or aspirin.

Eye-spy, my little eye falls on chocolate-dipped macarons by Christophe Roussel.

Then a tasting over at Arnaud Larher‘s stand, even if the taster macaron bits were so near yet so far behind the counter.  Pain d’épice (gingerbread) and orange. What a gorgeous filling texture, although I didn’t really get the orange, sorry.  Hm – what’s that electric green colouring for pistachio? Never mind, it’s delicious!

Quite the chocolate treat from Arnaud Larher: these are chocomacs. They’re not macarons but chocolates in the shape of macarons. Now when you see macaron molds, you understand it’s not to make macarons but chocolate-shaped macarons.

There’s also a Professional Salon du Chocolat downstairs, including packaging, equipment and all kinds of tricks for the trade. This macaron-making machine might be rather bulky for the kitchen, n’est-ce pas? It also looks rather complicated but worth it if you need to make macarons in their thousands daily. Give me the simple piping bag any day.

Meanwhile, time to check out the World Chocolate Masters 2011. It’s serious business between the top chocolatiers strutting their stuff until something catches my eye in the audience. I should really learn to concentrate.

Imagine this blissful scene: somebody is just sitting with their arms out, holding these miniature macaron beauties.  Of course, I asked if I could try just one since I LOVE macarons. Wouldn’t you do the same on seeing this sight?

This was a Grand Marnier mini macaron, with a macaron shell on top of the most exquisite chocolate by Spruengli in Switzerland. What lovely people!

Then came Sébastien Bouillet. He’s a pâtisserie legend in Lyon and his speciality?

The Macalyon.  It’s a salted caramel macaron dipped completely in 70% dark chocolate.  Only €6.80 for a box of four…

It was with his Macalyon that I was inspired with this bitter chocolate macaron for the book, but only dipping it in half. Then Christophe Roussel also does it. What do you think? Personally I prefer seeing a macaron’s feet, rather than hiding it all. Although…

Chocolate macaron from my book, “Mad About Macarons”

 

My chocolate! Is that the time already? Now if I was really Smart, I could get in this nifty Salon du Chocolat special edition car and whisk myself home, weaving in front of the crazy drivers, just in time for school pick-up. It’s sweet but macarons were missing on it, don’t you think?

If you’re in Paris, then do check it out: the Salon du Chocolat is still open until Monday 24 October!

It’s guaranteed you’ll have a smashing time!

Ah. Just as well I’d made more chocolate macarons back home for dessert. All this chocolate is making me crave more.  I wonder why?

Paris Pâtisseries and Perfect Macarons

I think I upset some friends on Facebook.  I “rubbed it in”, as it were.  Well, yes I did and I’m sorry.  Sorry because now I’m going to talk about it yet again: eating pastries in Paris.

These last few days I’ve taken a break from baking.  The weather has been surprisingly summery after such a LONG winter that for once, it seemed wrong to stay in the kitchen.  So there was nothing else for it but to take the short ride into Paris for a taste of some pastries and macarons. Would I do it on my own?  Of course not.  The pastry binge was with one of the most serious pastry tasters I know.  Here he is in action:

Adam from ParisPâtisseries.com

My gourmet friend, Adam Wayda, has finally arrived from the US to spend the next few months in Paris, tasting his way around the best pâtisseries in the City of Light. You probably already know him from ParisPatisseries.com fame.  Tasting pastries with the reviewer himself was seriously fun.  I mean, this was my breakfast and lunch: for Adam, he had already a head start beforehand! How does he do it? Fat pants, he says.

Genin’s luxury boutique is more like a chocolate museum

This was my first time at Jacques Genin’s chocolaterie in rue de Turenne and I was so glad that Adam had suggested it.  The luxury chocolate boutique is full of the most incredible sculptures that are showcased like museum pieces.  Time for a seat and a taste of Monsieur Genin’s Ephemère: a mix of chocolate mousse and passionfruit on a charlotte base, while Adam attacked a caramel éclair. Would he stick it under his nose like a moustache first? Just take a look at that hot chocolate. It’s not for the faint hearted.

What did Adam think of the caramel éclair?

We couldn’t leave without getting a few of Mr Genin’s legendary caramels.  Adam persuaded me (it didn’t take much convincing) to try the mango/passion fruit caramels and the caramels au gingembre.  True, at 110€ a kilo, one or two is fine.  But you know me, that’s inspiration enough to make some at home à la Jilly.  In the meantime,  why not add some ground ginger and finely chopped glacé ginger to a crème au beurre salé?

Genin’s boutique was wonderful but he didn’t have any macarons.  So Adam suggested a wee stroll up to rue Rambuteau to drop in for some macarons at Pain de Sucre.

macarons from Pain de Sucre patisserie Paris

macarons from Pain de Sucre, Paris

This is what was left from my doggy bag: chocolate mint, caramel au beurre salé, morello cherry-pistachio and chocolate-passionfruit.  My first taste was his Fleurs de Sureau (Elderflower) macarons.  Absolutely delicious.  Cassis/Blackcurrant was excellent, too.  The chocolate mint was just so refreshing with a dark chocolate button in the middle.  Although it was hard and I had to take it out and eat it at the end, it was full of flavour. In fact, all of Monsieur Mathray’s macarons are just bursting with flavour at Pain de Sucre.

That’s what I adore in a macaron. But as you can see, the shells are not quite perfect.  Some were coarse, some had cracks and some not perfectly round.  But does that REALLY matter? Even Monsieur Mathray isn’t worried about absolute perfection.  Some of his macarons may have a slightly bumpy shell (or “homestyle charm” as Adam calls it) but the taste is just fantastic.

Pain de Sucre’s refreshing chocolate-mint macaron

On the other hand, there are also many famous Parisian macarons that LOOK absolutely perfect but if you were given a blind tasting (i.e. not influenced by its colour or fancy name associated with it), it’s often difficult to tell the exact flavour you’re eating.

Beautiful macarons…

Many readers are excited when they get their macarons perfect first time.  That’s brilliant! Even my Dad made fabulous macarons recently for the first time ever and he doesn’t even BAKE for goodness sake!  But I’ve been amazed at some readers who make macarons for the very first time and are expecting complete and utter perfection.  They worry when they have a slight crack or feet that are not big enough.  Please, don’t be so hard on yourself! It will come …

Giant macarons in a luxury pastry shop

There are macarons – expensive macarons –  in many great pastry shops in and around Paris that have been making them for years and they’re sometimes not quite “perfect”: not the perfect looking shell or perhaps a perfect shell but not enough flavour.  They are made by professionals with the right equipment with fancy ovens.  Professionals have access to liquid egg whites in cartons that do act differently.  Many use macaron-making machines.  We’re making them at home in our own kitchens, often with ovens that are so-so.

There’s no end of macaron flavours

Just remind yourself of this and have confidence that the next time you’ll get it right, once you’ve ensured you’ve done everything in the recipe and followed the tips in the book.  Have you checked the oven’s exact temperature with an oven thermometer?  Did you whisk your egg whites enough to stiff but still glossy peaks? Feet not good enough?  Then leave your macarons out to dry a bit longer before baking them.  Some people say they don’t need aged whites or they don’t need to dry out their macarons.  Great.  But again, we’re baking them in our own home kitchen and not as a professional baker. We can get perfect macaron results each time but if you have the odd crack now and again, don’t worry. It could also just be your egg whites – are they organic? These are best. If you’re going to the trouble of making macarons, don’t skimp on so-so ingredients.

Making macarons is not a competition: it’s about having fun, being creative and above all, enjoying them! There’s nothing quite like getting that rush of excitement when the feet form in the oven and you can think up your own flavours, bringing out the artist in you.  To be able to say “I did that”.  I mean, have you done the macaron dance out of sheer excitement with these things? The proof in the pudding, though, is the taste.

OK “I did that” and admit I did the macaron dance…

Talking of being creative…. for all macaronivores who are fans of the forthcoming Royal Wedding of Prince William and Kate, I’m looking to showcase YOUR inspired macaron creations for a Special Royal Macaron Procession on Le Blog on 29 April.  It’s not a competition.  Just a fun post to share our macaron ideas; it could be a typically British inspired flavour or on a decorative flag theme of red, white and blue.  Please send me your photos to jill(at)madaboutmacarons(dot)com and I’ll add them to LeBlog.  Have fun!  But wait…

pineapple curd egg yolk recipe

1st guest post and new series for egg yolk recipes with pineapple curd

Before you go, just a word for anyone who missed our first Blog Post from Erin, author of BigFatBaker.com.  She is kicking off a brand new series of egg yolk recipes on the site with her organic pineapple curd.  Just perfect for all those egg yolks left for making macarons!