French macaroons have become popular over the last few years in the United States. In Europe, they have been fabulously popular since the 1800s. A French macaroon is different from a regular macaroon in that the French macaroons are two small, extremely moist almond cookies with crusty edges that are sandwiched around a filling of either ganache or fruit preserves. Your first one will have you swooning in your seat wondering how on Earth you ever could have done without one of these delicious little jewels.
Laduree is the most famous macaroon maker in Europe with stores in Paris, Tokyo, Nagoya, Dublin, Zürich, Lausanne, Geneva, Monaco and London. Enough said. They are the place to go for the macaroon. Ernest Louis Laduree opened his first bakery in 1862 located at 16 rue Royale in Paris, France. The shop became one of the most elegant businesses and places to be seen in the area. Ernest married a very smart woman by the name of Jeanne Souchard who felt that women needed a place to have tea and socialize. Ernest took his wife’s advice and Laduree became the first tea salon of Paris. Laduree was where all of the affluent women went to see and be seen. The tea room enlarged in 1930 and has been growing ever since.
Laduree’s chocolate macaroon was actually the invention of a man called Pierre Desfontaines. He was Ernest’s second cousin and heir who was inspired to make such a treat after a trip to Switzerland. He never said where exactly the inspiration came from only that it resulted in a chocolate macaroon. Was it a pastry? A cookie? A chocolate? We will never know. Over the years, Pierre’s creation of the macaroon grew in Ernest’s shop to feature a variety of flavors depending on both the season and the whim of the head chef. The macaroons are made fresh daily but then are put aside to set for two days before the reach the selling shelves which
enable the flavors and textures to blend properly. In 2003, Laduree claims to have baked 110 tons of macaroons. That’s a lot of macaroons! The permanent flavor collection include Chocolate – Bitter Chocolate – Vanilla – Coffee – Rose – Pistachio – Raspberry – Black Currant Violet – Caramel with Salted Butter – Red Fruits – Orange Blossom – Liquorice – Lemon. Seasonal flavors are Coconut – Mint – Almond – Spice and Soft Fruits – Chestnuts – Praline – Lemon – Fig and Date. Two of the newest flavors are Cherry and Apple.
Although Laduree started out as a bakery and then tea shop, it has evolved into a tea salon, pastry shop, restaurant, chocolate shop and an ice cream parlor. The next time you are in Paris, make sure to stop by the original Laduree at 16 rue Royale in Paris. Enjoy the afternoon and start with lunch. May I suggest the duck fois gras served with a bergamot macaroon, the Marie Antoinette salad or the Laduree house omelet? For dessert, order the Elysee which is “Cocoa “succès” biscuit, crispy praline, thin crispy chocolate leaves pure origin of Madagascar, smooth chocolate cream, chocolate zabaglione mousse, chocolate biscuit and cocoa soaked in cocoa syrup”. If you are with some people who like to taste a bit of everything and share, do it. Order a few desserts too.
Before you leave, make sure you buy yourself a nice big box of Laduree’s macaroons to nibble on throughout the day. You not only won’t want to share, but you most definitely will want to stop by to purchase more before you leave for home. They are open Monday through Thursday, 8:30am to 7:30pm, Friday and Saturday from 8:30am to 8:00pm & Sunday from 10:00am to 7:00pm. You may phone in reservations or do so online.
2 cups confectioner’s sugar (480g)
1 cup plus 3-1/2 tablespoons ground almonds (280g)
7 egg whites
An appropriate filling (or, try more than one filling with a particular meringue flavor to see what combinations you prefer—for example, pistachio with pistachio buttercream versus chocolate ganache or white chocolate ganache)
A few drops of flavoured food coloring, such as raspberry
1. Preheat the oven to 355°F (180°C). Line two baking trays with parchment paper.
2. If using whole almonds, pulse in a food processor until very finely ground, 2 to 3 minutes.
3. Add the confectioner’s sugar and process to a fine powder. Sift to remove any lumps.
4. Beat the egg whites in bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed, adding the food coloring as you go until you reach the desired shade. Then increase speed to high and continue to beat until the whites just hold stiff, glossy peaks.
5. Quickly and carefully add the almond-sugar powder. (Meringue will deflate.)
6. With a wooden spoon, mix from the center of the bowl outwards, turning the bowl as you go. You want to achieve a smooth, lightly colored mixture.
7. Spoon batter into a piping bag with a 1/4-inch round tip. If you don’t have a piping bag, use a plastic freezer bag, pressing out excess air. Snip off one corner to create a 1/4-inch opening. Pipe inch-wide macaroons onto the baking trays, about 1-1/2 inches apart. You should have peaked mounds of batter, about the size of a chocolate kiss.
8. Cook for eight to nine minutes, leaving the door of the oven slightly ajar.
9. Remove the macaroons from the oven. Pour a little water between the baking tray and the parchment paper; this makes the macaroons easier to lift off when they have cooled. Cool completely on racks, about 30 minutes.
10. Cassis MacaroonsCarefully peel macaroons from parchment; they are fragile. Sandwich a thin layer of fillings between two macaroons—ganache, marmalade, jam or whipped cream. The two bottoms face the filling.
11. If you can, leave the finished macaroons in the refrigerator for 24 hours. This allows the flavors and texture to develop and intensify.
12. Whipped cream macaroons must be stored in the refrigerator; others can be kept in airtight tins at room temperature for up to three days after production.
Laduree’s Chocolate Raspberry Ganache
3 ounces quality bittersweet chocolate (buy a 70% cacao chocolate bar), finely chopped
1/3 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1/16 teaspoon quality raspberry extract
1. Melt chocolate with cream in the top of a double boiler, stirring until smooth. If you don’t have a double boiler, use a metal bowl set over a pot of barely simmering water. The bottom of the bowl should not touch the water.
2. When the chocolate is melted into the cream, remove bowl from heat. Add the butter and raspberry extract, stirring until butter is melted.
3. Let stand at room temperature until cooled completely and slightly thickened.