The Parisian Macaron
No list of traditional food in France would be complete without addressing the wonders of patisserie. Like other specialties of delicious French cuisine, these pastries utilize simple but rich ingredients to form culinary masterpieces so good that people travel from across the world just to sample them.
Of all of these pastries, the macaron is the most famous and distinct. This sweet meringue-based treat features ganache (or, less traditionally, buttercream icing or jam) sandwiched between two meringue cookies. Traditionally, the macaron only came in a handful of flavors like almond, but as the confection has recently become popular in all corners of the globe, you can find a wide variety of macaron flavors, including everything from green tea to maple bacon.
With their rising popularity, you likely do not need to look far and wide to find a macaron. However, to taste the best macaron in existence, you must travel to Paris.
Brief History of the Macaron
The early macaron first originated in Venetian monasteries as early as the 8th Century. Then, nearly eight centuries later, these simple meringue cookies made their way to France when Catherine de Medici married King Henry II. However, meringue cookies like the early macaron failed to gain popularity until the 1790s, when Carmelite nuns baked and sold them in order to pay for their housing during the French Revolution. These early versions of the macaron, however, did not feature special flavors or fillings like its modern iteration.
The first modern macarons emerged during the 1830s at Laduree, a patisserie in Paris. Chef Pierre Desfontaines is often credited with the invention of the modern macaron, but Claude Gerbet, another baker, also claims that he invented it. Despite these conflicting claims, the Parisian macaron quickly became popular throughout the country. However, despite centuries of dominance within French patisserie, the macaron did not attain global popularity until less than a decade ago. Today, however, you can find bakeries producing macarons throughout Europe and North America, and some have opened in places as far as Taiwan and Japan. As the macaron has flourished globally, it has taken on a variety of local flavors ranging from black sesame to apple pie.
Where to Find the Best Macarons in Paris
Despite their worldwide popularity, the best macarons can still be found in Paris. Some bakeries stick to the basics while others test the boundaries of this simple-but-malleable classic. If you visit Paris, you should visit these bakeries to find the perfect macaron:
The bakery that first invented the macaron remains alive and well today, and it is now the largest macaron house on Earth! Visit Laduree for a well-made macaron and bragging rights for having visited the birthplace of this wonderful confection.
This renowned patisserie is best known for its bold flavors that thoroughly extend into Herme's creative macaron collection, which features a wide palette of unique flavors. Flavors like Mogador, a mix of passion fruit and milk chocolate, keep his creations fresh and seasonal.
La Maison du Chocolat
Although La Maison du Chocolat is primarily a chocolatier, their macaron collection is absolutely to die for. La Maison's macaron is softer and less cookie-like, and with flavors like Venezuela dark chocolate and raspberry praline, these confections are meant to be savored.
Claiming to be one of the very first macaron manufacturers in Paris, Dalloyau follows a centuries-old recipe to create its meringue confections. These authentic, primitive creations retain the chewy and crunchy texture of classic meringue - an uncommon feature given the popularity of more cookie-like shells.
Hugo & Victor
Hugo & Victor prize using the finest ingredients above all else. Chef Hugues Pouget takes pride in sourcing his ingredients organically and from local farmers and producers. The patisserie even foregoes artificial colorants in favor of natural, plant-based colorants, giving their confections a softer pale color.
When he first opened Acide, chef Jonathan Blot focused exclusively on perfecting the macaron. Though his patisserie now offers a wider variety of goods, his intense focus on the macaron is evident through their delicious, hand-made quality and unique array of flavors.
Carette's macaron fillings distinguish this bakery from others in the city. Whether it's filled with a scrumptious jam or rich ganache, a macaron from Carette is sure to delight. Plus, since it's located on the Trocadero esplanade, this shop is an easy detour after taking in the famous view of the Eiffel Tower.
This luxury food emporium features a variety of delightful goodies, but their most delicious specialty is the tea-infused macaron, which comes in flavors such as La Pomme and Earl Grey. To make these delightful treats, house-made Fauchon tea is infused into ganache for a soft and diffused flavor.
With his training in both Japan and Paris, Sadaharu Aoki fuses traditional Parisian flavors with a Japanese twist to make his memorable culinary creations. Though Aoki pleases classicists with his standard macaron flavors like strawberry, Aoki's real talent lies in his unconventionally-flavored macarons like wasabi-horseradish and umeboshi, a Japanese salt plum. This seamless fusion provides a memorable macaron experience for any visitor.
Cafe Pouchkine's grandiose, Russian royalty-inspired decor and pastries make for an unforgettable patisserie experience in Paris. Their bold and brightly colored macarons are delicious, and their extravagant interior and quality customer service will make your experience worth the trip.
Where to Learn to Make Macarons
Although they appear relatively simple, crafting perfect macarons requires a bit of knowledge, skill, and training. Many baking schools offer basic baking classes that teach you the fundamentals of patisserie, but most quality schools will offer courses that focus on specialties like the croissant and other viennoiseries. Therefore, the best way to learn how to make the perfect macaron is to spend a day taking a class on macarons, where you will learn the fundamental skills needed to make this classic pastry.
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