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!