Friday, August 3, 2012

The Art of Le Macaron

Foodie Fish

Most people think of the baked condensed milk balls of coconut or almond, and sometimes they are even covered in chocolate.  When I think of the macaron (usually still pronounced as macaroon) I think of the French delicacy of a dessert. 

The macaron is very trendy in New York City right now, and some have even called it “the new cupcake.” Macarons are sweet cookie-like sandwiches filled with jam or cream that are on average about one inch in diameter.  The cookie part is made with egg whites, icing sugar, granulated sugar, and sometimes almond powder.  The cookies are extremely difficult to make, so difficult that Macaron Café (server of one of New York’s best macarons) published an entire cookbook with all their “secret” recipes knowing.  With the exact ingredients and techniques published, this only goes to show that the macaron is 70% the artwork of the pastry chef. 

The macaron can be so hard to perfect, the most famous maker of the macaron is Ladurée.  Ladurée is a French-based bakery that had to come all the way to the United States for the desirable macarons to be within reach of hungry Americans.  Ladurée’s macarons are imported all the way from Paris to New York every day for New Yorkers and tourists alike to enjoy macarons made by professional French pastry chefs.  The macarons at Ladurée have almost a cotton candy type quality to them.  Biting into one is first fluffy like a cloud, and then it melts in your mouth.  The rich creamy filling of Ladurée’s macaron is extremely buttery and they are definitely worth the trip to New York and the wait in line.  They are so delicate; I cannot fathom how they do not dissolve simply by being held in the hands of the chef.  Their rose is extremely fragrant, and it feels as though you smell actual rose petals while devouring it.  The pistachio is just the right amount of sweetness—not overwhelming the flavor of the pistachio.  My favorite Ladurée macaron is the orange blossom, which is both fruity and fragrant, much like herbal tea.
The second most famous macaron in the city is Macaron Café, as I have mentioned earlier.  Their macarons are brightly colored and beautifully decorated.  They come in all sorts of amazing flavors such as Italian wedding cake, green tea, rose lychee, and cassis jasmine.  The flowery flavors are not too fragrant, helping you avoid the feeling of drinking perfume.  They are less rich and fluffy than the ones at Ladurée, but there are more options and have a more classic cookie-sandwich kind of mouth feel.  Personally, I prefer these macarons here.  I love the variety, the appearance, as well as the slightly heavier feel to them, but that’s just me. 

There are also places like the well-known Bouchon Bakery that have macarons that are 3-5 times the size of the classic.  Although I cannot deny the fact that these macarons are absolutely delicious, they do not have the same airy light feel to them that macarons should have.  If you are looking to try one of the absolute best desserts ever invented by man, visit either Ladurée or Macaron Café, and you tell me which one you think is better!