London: Covent Garden. 2020
Brightly coloured, little sweet treats with a texture light as air. Your teeth traverse a brittle outer layer as thin as a piece of paper, then a soft and airy inside to finally arrive at a rich viscous ganache. Macarons are a masterpiece of pastry.
The macaron’s shell is based on Italian meringue, ground almonds and some colouring. We have tried making them at our home setup numerous times that summer, but we found it incredibly hard to recreate the refined quality of Pierre Hermé. Our experience has shown us that there are two crucial processes when making macarons: the Italian meringue and macaronage. Once you master the meringue, the hardest and most frustrating part awaits: macaronage. Macaronage is a phase transition of the batter from a foam into a shiny airy gel. It involves ‘beating’ the batter with a spatula, breaking the solid foam structure. If overdone, the resulting shells will be leathery and chewy. If underdone, the air bubbles from the meringue will coalesce when baking, crack the shell and yield a crunchy texture similar to baked meringue. Finding the balance requires immense experience and patience.
If you’d rather not make them yourself, we highly recommend Pierre Hermé’s. The quality of ingredients is outstanding. From Valrhona chocolate, the best varieties of vanilla to seasonally sourced fruits. We have tried his macarons several times and they have never failed us. Delicate to the touch, an ethereal texture. They melt when bitten giving way to an intensely perfumed ganache…
The most remarkable flavours have been: hazelnut, jasmine and Mogador (65% chocolate and 35% passion fruit). Combining more than one flavour in a single bite is one of the signature styles of the house. Such careful equilibrium of intense flavours is difficult to achieve and this is where Hermé excels.
After a brief passage by Ladurée, Pierre Hermé started in Paris and expanded all over the world with a focus on chocolate and macarons. Now his confections can be found in London, New York, Tokyo and Hong Kong.
Before, the world market was dominated by Ladurée, which had been confectioning macarons since their creation in the second half of the 19th century. They tend to be denser and slightly chewier than Hermé’s and their range specialises on the most classic flavours.
In the macaron’s battle between Pierre Hermé and Ladurée, we favour Hermé’s knowledge of chocolate and his bold flavour combinations.