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  • Writer's pictureParisian Niche

French Symbols - Les Macarons ...


Ok, Ok, I hear you - is the Macaron really considered a French symbol? Not officially, but if you have ever attended or planned a French themed event, you likely added them to the list of offerings or décor - before the fleur de lys, the Napoleonic bee, or even the Tricolore flag.


Let's take a P'Niche peek to learn a little bit more about these sweet petit French jewels...


We'll have to revisit the Renaissance period court of Catherine de Medici. Originally produced in Venetian monasteries, Catherine requested that Italian pastry chefs produce them so that she could take them with her to the French courts as part of her trousseau for her marriage to France's King Henry II.


Queen Catherine got much wrong during her reign, but the macarons? She had a truly great idea here... Or did she?!



Another theory (and the one published in the Official Larousse Gastronomique) is that the macaron was created in 1791 in a convent, located near Cormery France.


Two Carmelite nuns, Sisters Marguerite Gaillot and Marie Morlot, seeking asylum during the French Revolution (in 1792) baked these macarons.



These "Macaron Sisters" then traded the (now famous) treats for other goods, in exchange for their upkeep, room and board. When Sister Marguerite passed, her secret recipe was passed down (orally) to her niece, and her macarons have been sold ever since in "Maison des Soeurs Macarons" in Nancy, France, with each baker, (orally) passing down the recipe.



Now, back in ye olde days, these macarons were basically just wafers, without any additional flavors.


It was not until the 1930s that two of the almond-y meringue wafers would be sold -together with jam, buttercream, and/or ganache inside - making a perfect little "dessert sandwich" of sorts.



And here is where we get to another mystery. Monsieur Pierre Desfontaines, of famed French pâtisserie Ladurée, claims credit for what we recognize as the "Paris Macaron" whereas a rival baker, Monsieur Claude Gerbet takes credit for his "Gerbet Macaron" creations.

Such drama over a little yumminess!



Well, these tiny delights actually add up to big bucks - very big bucks.


According to sales figures, Ladurée, one of the most famous sellers of the French Macarons, sells over 15,000 of these gems every day.


How sweet it is!



In fact, you'd be hard pressed to find a pâtisserie that does not sell macarons, which leads to many the delicious debate over the dessert table of who makes the best, are they hand crafted or mass produced, are the flavors too traditional or too modern, etc.



As the macaron's popularity continued to grow, so too, did its prestige. The delicate colors, paired with feather light discs (not to mention the fabulous array of sweet and creamy fillings) set a fire among the elite, making the macaron the epitome of class in gift giving.


As the popularity spread nationwide, each region of France added her own flavor and loving touch to the confection.


Quite popular now, too, are the macaron towers in many the baker's window display - and wedding dessert tables, where pyramids of goodness are served in place of the American triple tiered wedding cake.


In the words of James Taylor, "How sweet it is to be loved by you!"



You might look at these little jewels and think that given their simple and humble ingredients (almond flour, egg white, and sugar) that these meringue discs would be easy to make my the dozens, if not hundreds. Not so fast....


Bakers of macarons are in fact, considered artisans, as the skills that go into the creation of the macaron discs are highly tuned and honed, often taking years, or even decades, to perfect.


Perfect macarons must be smooth, not matte, but not shiny, and have the perfect "foot" to stand upon to hold whatever filling the baker selects to grace them with.



Once you have the perfect macaron disc (using the finest of ingredients, naturally), the baker turns to the creation of a creamy center.


These days, anything goes. Chocolate, fruits, jams, creams, coffee flavors, nut spread centers, delicate florals, the wildly trendy salted caramel, etc. are at the forefront of many the bakery display case.


Macarons are a wonderful way to step out of your culinary comfort zone to try something new - you might surprise yourself!



So proud of this delicacy is France that a day was set aside for its honor. While not an official public holiday in France, National Macaron Day (now globally celebrated on March 20th annually) coincides sweetly with the first day of Spring. Don't the traditional colors of the yummy macaron tell of lighter, happier days to come? P'Niche sure thinks so...



In Paris, and want to grab a selection of macarons to try for yourself? Hooray!


Ladurée (many locations, but P'Niche likes):

16, rue Royale (75008)

Métro: Madeline (Lines: 8, 12, 14)


Pierre Hermé

4, rue Cambon (75001)

Métro: Concorde (Line 1)


Jean-Paul Hévan (Marais location)

41, rue de Bretagne

Métro: Arts et Métiers (Lines 3, 11)


Maison Caffet

13, rue Duban

Métro: La Muette (Line 9)





Au Petit Versailles du Marais

1, rue Tiron (75004)

Métro: Saint Paul (Line 1)


Sadaharu Aoki

56, blvd de Port-Royal (75005)

Métro: Les Gobelins (Line 7)


Lenôtre Paris 10, rue Saint-Antoine (75004)

Métro: Bastille (Lines 1, 5, 8)


Carette

25, place des Vosges (75004)

Métro: Saint Paul (Line 1)


La Grande Épicerie

38, rue de Sèvres (75007)

Métro: Saint Placide (Line 4)




In Paris and feeling really adventurous and want to try and make your own at a class (taught in English?) Amazing!


La Cuisine de Paris

80, quai de l'Hôtel de Ville (75004)

Métro: Hôtel de Ville (line 1)


La Cuisine de Paris for fees, schedules, etc.


So - are you ready to try some scrumptious macarons in Paris, dear P'Nicher? Already an expert and want to share your favorites? Let us know in the comments below et à bientôt!



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Debra Borchert
Debra Borchert
21. März

What is French for WOW!? The images are almost as alluring as your writing! I can't wait till you write about Madeleines. Debra

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chrissy
22. März
Antwort an

Oh thank you - and what a lovely thing to say - and ouiiiiiii to Madeleines in the near future!!


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