Let Them Eat Macarons

Dainty macarons are just as cool as cupcakes, but they’re more than a fad in France. Le macaron is a delicacy: a melt-in-the-mouth meringue sandwich with a delicate crispy shell and a creamy ganache or jelly center.

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Original macaron flavors at Sadaharu Aoki include woody Japanese tea, sesame and wasabi.

The basic ingredients are simply sugar, ground almonds and egg whites, but macaron making is an art form. Clotilde Dusoulier, author of the excellent food blog Chocolate and Zucchini, says the secret lies in the balance of color, texture and flavor. Lurid coloring can make the flavor seem artificial. Dual-flavored macarons have to blend together properly: “Raspberry and rose, for example, should be mixed in a balanced way.” Texture is just as important. “The shell should collapse when you bite into it, and there must be contrast between the shell and the filling.” Macarons are such a delicacy in France that even foodies like Clotilde prefer to leave them to the professionals to concoct. But that doesn’t stop them from constantly debating who makes the best macarons in Paris.

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Among the macaron flavors at Arnaud Delmontel are absinthe and fine champagne.

If the answer lay in the length of the queue outside the shop, it would be Ladurée. A Parisian institution, Ladurée has more than 30 Facebook groups dedicated to it. Those mint-green designer-looking bags you see people toting around the 8th Arrondissement are full of Ladurée macarons, not clothes. While Parisians are notoriously disinclined to queue in the supermarket, post office or metro, they will queue for their macarons, lining the pavement outside Ladurée’s Champs Elysées tearoom. The pistachio ones are worth it. I’ve seen business clients order Ladurée macarons by the hundred; if there were ever an expenses scandal in France, it’s likely many receipts would trace back to Ladurée.

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The macarons at Pierre Hermé are deliciously creamy, delicate and perfumed, with generous ganache centers.

Others would lead to one of the luxury chocolate and macaron boutiques of Pierre Hermé. Formerly of gourmet caterer Fauchon, Hermé has been termed “the Picasso of pâtisserie” by Vogue. He’s even written a book on macarons. The Fauchon-trained chef Audrey Baharier, who runs cooking classes at Atelier des Gâteaux, reckons Hermé’s chocolate and passion fruit macarons are as good as it gets, while our very own Girls’ Guide editor Doni swears by the rose variety. Although at the pricey end of the macaron market, they are deliciously creamy, delicate and perfumed, with generous ganache centers.

While the “Ladurée vs. Pierre Hermé” debate always arouses foodie passion, there are plenty of other high-quality macaron pâtisseries in Paris. The two big guns really know how to do classic pistachio, chocolate, coffee, caramel and vanilla (and so does Grégory Renard). But you’ll find many original flavors at smaller shops and patisseries.

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Macarons at Jean-Pierre Hévin.

Arnaud Delmontel makes absinthe and fine champagne macarons as well as tasty, if lurid, apple, poppy, and rose and lychee. Chocolatier Jean-Pierre Hévin has some exotic two-tone creations such as mango and coriander and orange and ginger. The macarons of Japanese pâtissier Sadaharu Aoki aren’t as sickly sweet as most; his original flavors include woody Japanese tea, sesame and wasabi. Macaron flavoring isn’t all lofty gastronomy, either: you’ll find peanut butter and Nutella macarons. I’ve even found Tagada strawberry macarons that taste just like pink Haribos at Boulangerie Hanauer, in the 15th.

New macaron flavors are introduced throughout the year to reflect culinary trends and the changing seasons. After refreshing mint, coconut and jasmine in summer come spicy gingerbread, chestnut and berry for winter. Seasonal macarons do make lovely gifts, but they don’t stand up to long journeys well unless you’re very careful with them (as well as very restrained).

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The Arnaud Delmontel boutique.

Macaron Guide

Ladurée
75, ave des Champs Elysées, in the 8th Arrondissement
16, rue Royale, in the 8th
21, rue Bonaparte, in the 6th
Printemps Mode, 1st floor, and Printemps Maison, 2nd floor, at 64, blvd Haussmann, in the 9th
Boutique at Charles de Gaulle Airport, terminal 2F
Stand at Orly Airport

Ladurée products are also available from Harrods in London and various outlets throughout the world (see website for list).

Arnaud Delmontel
39, rue des Martyrs, in the 9th
57, rue Damrémont, in the 18th
25, rue de Lévis, in the 17th

Arnaud Larher
57, rue Damrémont, in the 18th
53, rue Caulaincourt, in the 18th

Pierre Hermé
72, rue Bonaparte, in the 6th
4, rue Cambon, in the 1st
185, rue de Vaugirard, in the 15th

The e-boutique delivers throughout Europe.

Grégory Renard
120, rue St.-Dominique, in the 7th

Fauchon
24–26, place de la Madeleine, in the 8th

Boulangerie Hanauer
69 bis, rue Brancion, in the 15th

Sadaharu Aoki
35, rue de Vaugirard, in the 6th
25, rue Pérignon, in the 15th
56, blvd de Port Royal, in the 5th
Lafayette Gourmet, 40, blvd Haussmann, in the 9th

Jean-Paul Hévin
231, rue St.-Honoré, in the 1st
3, rue Vavin, in the 6th
23 bis, ave de la Motte Picquet, in the 7th
Lafayette Gourmet, 40, blvd Haussmann, in the 9th

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