Yuzu Macarons: Another Parisian Fashion

Yuzu. It’s such a fashionable macaron flavour in Paris just now. A few years ago while studying at Strathclyde University in Scotland, the closest I ever got to yuzu was hearing west-coast, Glaswegian accents with phrases such as, ‘Yuzu’ll have had your tea?’  Or, ‘Yuzu’ll be down the pub at what time?’  That’s as far as it went.

Even the duck was eyeing the Yuzu macaron in the Batignolle Park in Paris

Twenty years on, I’m exchanging dainty conversations with Parisian ladies in the pâtisserie boutique queues, as they point with their perfectly French manicured fingers at the Yuzu macarons. If you haven’t tasted yuzu before, the taste is like mandarin oranges but with a tangy, tart note of grapefruit. I haven’t been lucky enough to actually taste the fresh yuzu fruit yet but I can tell you that I’ve nibbled on enough yuzu macarons to get an idea for starters. I’m convinced it’s good for you too: with a touch of vitamin C packed into a gluten-free treat.

Yuzu originated in China but it is most widely grown in Japan and Korea. It’s also pretty frost-hardy, apparently;  I wonder if I can grow it in our garden?  Have you tried to grow your own yuzu?

Acide macaron makes a great yuzu bergamot tea mac

No wonder it’s considered a luxury item. I could bathe in it. That’s not as daft as it sounds: apparently the Japanese have customary yuzu baths (yuzuyu) in winter to ward off colds and rough skin. Could you live with that, nibbling on yuzu macarons and sipping some Macaron Prosecco just to add to the luxurious experience?

Dreaming of that bath, the Yuzu-Earl Grey Tea macarons by Acide Macaron were luxury enough. It’s not for nothing that the pastry chef, Jonathan Blot, names this flavour Jonathan; he describes that these are the macarons that take the most amount of work to perfect the flavour. Chocolate also makes sense as a partner, to complement the acidic clementine taste; Jean-Paul Hévin makes beautiful yuzu-chocolate macarons;  Patrick Roger makes yuzu and verbena chocolates (you just have to make the macarons!) Saduharu Aoki has stuck with plain and simple Yuzu with nothing else nudging its alluring zing. It didn’t need any more macarons to be convinced, frankly. It was time to get home and make a batch of my own. Where on earth could I find yuzu?

Searching for yuzu-inspired desserts in some French gourmet magazines, I came across yuzu powder in the ingredients. But when I discovered at the Japanese supermarkets near Opéra that the yuzu powder could only be bought in bags of a kilo for over 120 euros, that was pushing it.  I liked yuzu but I’m not that mad.  That’s when I realised how lucky I am to have such a good friend like Nami of Just One Cookbook fame. She heard my cries of help and before I knew it, she had already expressed a bottle of extract and freeze-dried yuzu from her Japanese store in California to Paris. How’s that for the most friendly emergency yuzu service?

Freeze dried yuzu and extract from Japan to California to Paris

Now that I know what the extract and freeze-dried yuzu products look like, it will easier to spot these in Paris.  I can waltz in to the supermarket and perhaps even look like I know what I’m doing, thanks to Nami. She also makes a wonderful Yuzu Sour Cocktail. The packet of freeze-dried yuzu is incredible.  I whizzed it up in the spice grinder.  If only this photo below had a scratch-and-sniff option, since the perfume that wafted out as soon as I opened the top was the most exotic, well, yuzu.

Sniff this photo, but please avoid scratching the screen

Adding a tablespoon of the powder to the shells and a mixture of the powder and extract in the filling, there was certainly no disappointment. After two large boxes of homemade yuzu macarons, I made them quite tart.  Perhaps a bit too much on the extract?  According to the family, it was just right.  I wonder if they always feel obliged to say that?

Next time it’s a white chocolate ganache. I’m still recipe testing and considering another book. It’s a long process – especially if you have no patience. That’s why I’m generally going a bit mental but having fun in between the chocolate walks in Paris.

Many more homemade yuzu macarons. Just testing

How would you like your yuzu macarons?  Acidic with a real bite to it, or sweeter with a more subtle hint of flavour?  It’s important to please our sweet macaronivore friends.

Speaking of Glasgow accents, Antoine and I relived our student days together a couple of weeks ago with fellow colleagues at Strathclyde Business School for a 20 Year Reunion. Yuzu’ll have found us at the local, darlings, this time with a French manicure and arm in arm with my French hubby in a Scottish kilt!

And as macaron decoration on a yuzu cheesecake…

What are Your Best Macarons in Paris?

Since writing my book, Mad About Macarons, readers often ask me, “What are the best macarons in Paris?”

That’s quite some question. It’s not as easy as that to answer with ALL patisseries in Paris – as new ones open and I’m pleasantly surprised with some fabulous macarons; while others are downright disappointing – too dry, or over-perfumed with synthetic flavourings – yes, they do unfortunately exist, which leads me all the more to make my own macarons at home.

Friends sometimes pop in with a few macarons from Pierre Hermé and Ladurée, often upsettingly crushed from transporting them around Paris on a sweltering summer afternoon. Once a whole mixed box of macs merged into one crispy, gooey, melted mosaic. On other occasions, we’ve disguised bashed ex-beauties by serving them as blind tastings. This has helped to choose my personal favourites.

It’s subjective, isn’t it? You will have your own preferences and, like music, it can also depend on your mood and if you’re feeling fluffily fruity or in need of an intense chocolate pick-me-up. It’s what YOU prefer that matters.

I have a good enough excuse to do a macaron crawl: this Thursday will be my first walk as a Docent for Context Travel’s Parisian Culinary Tours. I’ll be taking chocolate and macaron-lovers around St Germain-des-Prés for the Chocolate & Pastry Walk.  As you can imagine, I won’t just be ‘covering’ chocolate…

Another reason is that people often ask, ‘So, what are your favourite macarons in Paris?’ Or, more often, ‘Are you more Ladurée or Pierre Hermé?’

Nibbling at Laduree’s macs by the Seine

Following on from tasting macs on Macaron Day in Paris a couple of months ago with talented artist, Carol (ParisBreakfasts), it was time to catch up on just some of the other Parisian macaron boutiques who were not taking part (as we already covered many of my favourite macarons here too, and I can’t mention absolutely everyone here).

For those of you like me who love light macarons, Ladurée’s macarons are slightly crispy with just enough soft, fondant centre. Some flavours are more up-front than others and I do prefer those that pack a wham-in-the-mouth tasting punch.  Their classics such as orange blossom, cassis-voilet and vanilla are definitely worth a try. Their latest from Les Incroyables seasonal collection include chocolate pure Ghana and strawberry marshmallow candy (fraises guimauve.) My daughters thought they were good, but found the strawberry candy a bit on the sweet side and were not keen on the stretchy marshmallow. But who can really value their opinion when they don’t exactly have French manicured nails?

Laduree’s latest fraises-guimauve (strawberry candy marshmallow ) macaron

Pierre Hermé’s macarons are so different to Ladurée. For the fan of the softer-meringue macaron with a filling as big as the shells, most macaronivores go for his Isaphan, the rose-raspberry-litchi invention he made while at Ladurée, inspired by the Isaphan rose that grows in Iran.

The Ispahan macaron is now out of season (since 25 March) but in his seasonal theme, Les Jardins, try the predominantly Rose with Jasmine. My latest favourites, are Infiniment Jasmin (Jasmine flower and tea) and Infiniment Vanille (try the pastry version too.) Acquired taste, perhaps, but enjoy the chocolate-foie gras with Champagne, darlings.

Signature macarons from the Cafe Pouchkine in Paris

If you’re visiting Versailles or checking out the latest fashions from Printemps in Boulevard Hausemann, then a sumptuous stop at the Café Pouchkine is a real taste of Russian luxury. Their macarons, either with shiny metallic tops or with their signature duo-coloured circles, could have you indecisive between the pistachio with a strawberry heart or the strawberry with a pistachio heart, and so on. Och, decisions – but as the price mounts up quickly as they’re placed in a bag, you can’t help wondering about your choice. One thing is for sure, our family favorite was the good old plain raspberry, which was packed with fruit and not as heavy as the other varieties. Meanwhile, it did put Hugo & Victor’s macarons in the background from the ones we tasted.

I did already mention Sadaharu Aoki on the Macaron Day post, but I couldn’t resist returning to taste his sesame, genmaicha, houjcha and wasabi macarons. Exquisite.

Matcha choose from Sadaharu Aoki, Paris

If you’re into chocolate, then Pierre Marcolini‘s chocolate macarons are a must – especially as the finest chocolate he uses is made by himself. Impressed? You soon will be with his variety of chocolate wonders (sorry, my photos were poor, taken at night and we attacked the whole box at an alarming rate.) Incidentally, le Figaro newspaper recently ran a chocolate macaron tasting and concluded that the best chocolate macarons in Paris were by Jean-Paul Hévin, Carette (Place des Vosges), Hermé, Aoki, Dalloyau, Lenôtre, Fauchon, Ladurée then Dominique Saibron in the 16th. As I said, it’s all a question of personal preference, time to get around them all – and ahem, budget.

Voilet lovers should try Marcolini’s powerful voilet macaron fully coated in dark chocolate. This is a technique also used by pastry chef, Sébastien Bouillet with his Maca’Lyon. Not far from Marcolini is Un Dimanche à Paris, where Pierre Cluizel’s macarons are so light and beautifully perfumed. I particularly love the vanilla and lime-ginger but I recommend tasting them all! And then there’s the Mont-Blanc macarons from Angelina Paris, with chestnut and vanilla in meringue-like macaron shells.

More macarons from Un Dimanche a Paris

Well off the tourist track, hides yet more macarons treasures.  In the 17th, off rue de Rome on rue Legendre, is Acide Macaron where the Parisians stock up on their macarons.

Service with a white glove and groovy colorful squiggly lines at Acide macaron

Pastry Chef Jonathan Blot works with 3 other associates, making all his macarons backstage.  They are smaller than all the other ones I know but I love how they’re just big enough to taste. His Yuzu was just as good as Aoki’s one: incidentally he gives all of his macarons first names. Yuzu is Jonathan; Anonyme certainly didn’t taste anonymous with punchy pistachio and orange blossom floating through. My daughter, Julie, was chuffed that the bubblegum macaron had her name written all over this vibrantly flavored gem – perfect since she wears a brace and so had been in denial. Acide even do a weekly special: this week’s riz soufflé (puffed rice) certainly was as it promised.

There are far more macarons out there to be discussed in more detail; and chocolate; and pastries – all with a dusting of history and techniques. Next time you’re in Paris, join me on my Pastry- Chocolate – Macaron Walks for much more.

Update: I no longer run my tours, but I’ve written a book with the same kind of tour PLUS it’s full of recipes too, in Teatime in Paris!

My wallet has had a fright and so it’s back to making macarons at home. It can be an expensive hobby. In any case, I can’t taste as many macarons as that in one week: I have to keep up with the slender French ladies, you know!

So – what are YOUR best macarons in Paris?

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