No trip to France is complete without sampling at least a few
dozen of one of the most popular sweets around. Not quite a cookie but not a candy either, macarons are about to become your new favorite sweet treat. These trendy little circles have graced the pages of bridal magazines, made cameos in shows like Gossip Girl and have even made their way to New York’s Upper East Side. Flavors like pistachio, rose, caramel, vanilla and a host of others will have you falling in love with France one bite at a time — and I have to say that I’m happy to live in France for maybe that reason alone. After just one taste, I guarantee that these expertly flavored treats will have you coming back for more.
First, let me start out by saying that French macarons are nothing like the heavy coconut macaroons that Americans think of upon hearing the word. French macarons are light, airy and taste like a little piece of heaven. They’re a meringue-based sweet made with egg whites, sugar, almond powder and several other ingredients. Two circular halves sandwich a yummy filling that’s usually jam, ganache or buttercream. Are you salivating yet? Many bakeries in our area sell macarons, but it’s not every day that we buy a box.
History of French macarons
In France, almost every pastry shop has their version of the macaron, but where did these yummy treats come from? According to MadMacNYC, the macaron originally came from Italy and was introduced by the chef of Catherine de Medicis in 1533 around the time she was married to the Duc d’Orleans who became king of France in 1547 as Henry II. It’s said that “the term ‘macaron’ has the same origin as the word ‘macaroni’ — both mean ‘fine dough.'” But it wasn’t until the beginning of the 20th century that the macaron became a sandwich-like sweet. Pierre Desfontaines, the grandson of Louis Ernest Laduree, came up with the idea to make a cookie sandwich with a sweet filling between the two halves.
French macarons in New York
Over the holidays, I was in New York at the French Consulate getting my visa and just had to make a pit stop at Laduree on the Upper East Side. Laduree is THE place to get macarons in Paris (and the Dublin airport) and the trendy little treats are making a killing in New York. While the actual shop sported the same decor as the Parisian ones, the actual macarons seemed different. They weren’t bad at all, but they just seemed a little heavier. Maybe it’s because they sustained a transatlantic flight (flown in from Paris several times a week I hear), but the more obvious difference was the taste. They weren’t as dainty and light as the French macarons. But maybe that was just in my head. Does anyone else share my opinion about Laduree New York? The price was pretty much the same. At over $2/macaron, be prepared to pay if you’re feeling hungry.
What else is cool about Laduree? The little box and bag! The macarons come in a gorgeous little box and the cute pastel green bag will make you feel like the coolest kid in school if you bring your lunch in it.
French macarons on vacation
This week, we’re on vacation in the Brittany region of France and had the pleasure of stumbling upon some great little macaron shops whose wares were good enough to eat… and we did. I took this pic yesterday at the very distinguished Pierre Le Petitcorps in Dinard, France:
Make your own
Ready to whip up some French macarons? If you’re more of a DIY type, try your hand at making your own. According to Amazon reviews, this book entitled Macarons: Authentic French Cookie Recipes from the Macaron Cafe is a great place to start. Great to try on a day you’re feeling ambitious! Let me know how they turn out!