Friday, April 9, 2010

Macaron Titbit

Kirsten Dunst in Marie Antoinette, Directed by Sophia Coppola

     Have you ever watched Sophia Coppola's Marie Antoinette and lusted for all the pastries and
macaroons Kirsten Dunst devoured in so many of the scenes?  The sinful, candy coloured, cloudlike puffs
of cream and pastry were the work of none other than Laduree (featured below). Watching this movie is torturous... But at least we -or rather, some of us - can quickly find a fix at one of Laduree's salons.

Feature: Laduree

Photos Courtesy of Laduree

     Naturally, for my first feature, I had to choose Laduree.  The French patisserie is the mastermind behind the little double-decker confectionery we know as the macaron.  In 1862, a miller named Louis-Ernest Laduree opened up a bakery at 16 rue Royale in Paris.  After a fire, the shop was transformed into a pastry shop with the famous painter Jules Cheret as its decorator.  It was Laduree's wife who had the idea of turning the shop into a cafe/pastry shop at a time when cafe's were becoming popular.  Thus, a tea salon was born -one of the first in Paris. 
     In 1930, Pierre Desfontaines, the second cousin of Laduree extended the tea room.  Pierre Desfontaine was the inventor of the famous double-decker macaron. Laduree was passed down from generation to generation until David Holder and his father purchased the establishment in 1993.  Since then, Laduree has expanded to open several equally architecturally stunning and enchanting salons throughout Paris, Europe, and even Japan.
     Today, many people would agree that no trip to Paris would be complete without a visit to Laduree.
I have been cursed and have never been to Paris!  Perhaps my hunt for macaroons will lead me there someday.  It would be a perfect end, n'est pas?

Source: Laduree

Origin of the Macaron

     I thought I'd take the time to delve into the origin of the maracon. There is so much history behind
this not so simple confectionery. I'm still learning, and to be frank, I'm still a little confused. I've tried my best to simplify my findings into what I've written below. Please correct me if need be.
     The "Macaron" is a French word believed to have derived from an Italian word. In English, we say macaroon. It's one of many varieties of a confectionery where the primary ingredient is ground almond or almond paste. It is also meringue-based. There are many varieties including Scottish, North American, and French. Some varieties are very different from one another, containing coconut and nuts while others are more simple and more meringue-like.
     The French macaron-the one I'm interested in -is characterized by two almond meringue disks filled with flavoured buttercream, jam, or ganache filling. The French macaron is said to be the invention of Laduree. To be more specific, it was Louis-Ernest Laduree's second cousin who first came up with the idea of the "double-decker macaron". It is also known as "Gerbet", or "Paris Macaron". Louis-Enest Laduree opened his shop in the early 1800's. The brand is very well-known in France and throughout the world for their confectioneries and of course, their macarons! -More on Laduree later.
     The origin of the macaroon (not the French macaron) itself has been highly debated and could be French or even Italian, but I won't get into that.
     On a side note, I'm confused by the terms macaron and macaroon... The "macaron" is the French word for macaroon. Some dictionaries say do not confuse the two...  But aren't they the same word?  It's just that there are many varieities of the confectionery from all over Europe.  This is macaroon madness... I have to stop here in case I say something that is entirely untrue... If you are able to make sense of any of this , please, be my guest!
     For reference, I will be using both terms interchangeably.  Based on my research, I guess there's no difference.  I made a crummy drawing (see above) to explain the anatomy of a French macaroon or "macaron" and a macaroon of the North American variety, the coconut macaroon, which is entirely different in taste, look, and texture.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

The One that Started It All

Macaroons from Pierre Herme, Paris

     My brother's sweet girlfriend brought these lovelies back from London. While they had to endure a 7 hour flight, they tasted marvelous to me.
The lemon in particular was my favourite.  There was even a
wasabi-strawberry flavoured one, which surprisingly tasted very good.

     I have always loved sweets and desserts, especially ones that look like little works of art or ones that look like heaven and make you squeal with delight when you see them -the MACAROON is no exception. There's something about seeing macaroons all lined up in their pretty little rows... their colours, their shape.  Even with their descriptions, you'll never know what each macaroon tastes like until you take that first little bite.
Some are not what you expected, some are not very good at all, but some, hopefully more
often than not, make you forget instantly about everything around you allowing you
to concentrate only on the texture and flavours that arose your tongue.

     And so, now, all that is left of our Pierre Herme macaroons is the pretty blue box they arrived in. I am left with no choice but to start a mission. As the name of my blog suggests, I am on a hunt for macaroons!

     While it may seem a little silly and obsessive to create and maintain an entire blog
on macaroons, I on the other hand am very very serious.
Hopefully, this blog will be able to serve other, perhaps more meaningful, purposes.
I'll start with my search for more macaroons, and I'll see where this leads...