Thursday, November 8, 2012

Thursday, November 08, 2012 - 1 comment

A Macaron Crawl of Royal Proportions

It was love at first cloud-filled bite.  

My first experience with a macaron, it turns out, wasn’t really with a macaron at all.  It was a “luxembergerli,” which I have since learned is a near, and in my opinion, superior cousin to the classic French macaron.  Smaller and airier, luxembergerlis are made by Sprüngli, the Swiss patisserie/chocolaterie where I tasted my first one.  On an early morning quest for coffee during a long-enough-to-explore layover in Zurich, I had the divine pleasure of sampling a couple alongside my cappuccino.  My favourites were definitely the caramel fleur-de-sel, for its salty sweetness, or the champagne d’or, for its shimmering gold dust.  The only thing that kept me from eating one of every flavour right then and there was my duty to pay equal attention to the rich truffles occupying the other half of the plate.  Not that that stopped me from taking a little box home on the plane with me...

Such was the beginning of my sweet love affair with macarons.

A few days after my tastebuds were introduced to the colourful joy of macarons in Zurich, my aunt brought me a package of the real thing from Thierry for my birthday.  My curiosity to try every one in the tube (vanilla, chocolate, lychee, pistachio, orange-chocolate and lemon) was tempered only by my even stronger desire to photograph this edible rainbow.  My little models co-operated beautifully, though I had to keep transferring them back to the fridge for refreshment when the late June heat made them sweat and their shells started to slide away from their creamy centres.

A few hundred images later, I had the beginnings of a calendar and a new card series in my head (check them out at my site, and, along with my mom and a neighbour, we devoured the models.  I can’t say I liked the texture of the Thierry macarons as much as that of the Sprüngli luxembergerlis - it was slightly more dense and cakey, and lacked that bit of crispiness in the outer shell.  But perhaps that was more due to the fact that I’d forced them to perform for me for several days before actually eating them.  :)

Wanting to round out the pictures I’d need for a twelve month calendar and, even more so, eager to try out as many flavours of my new favourite treat as possible, I grabbed every opportunity I could to try out new macarons while I was in Vancouver this summer.  

Mom and I took a trip of our own to Thierry downtown and picked up several new flavours to sample at a potluck with friends.  (After they’d obediently posed for several hours of shooting, of course.)  The Earl Grey was really nice, as you would expect from a bergamot tea flavoured cookie.  I liked the salted caramel, too, though not as much as the salted caramel and Canadian bacon ones by Kitchening with Carly that I picked up at Edible Canada on Granville Island.  The texture of the latter was closer to what I remembered of the luxembergerlis and I was amazed at how much flavour was packed into such a tiny morsel.  The smokiness of the bacon and the sweetness of the caramel were a perfect match and I declared this one my new favourite.  

From what I’ve read, I think the Thierry macarons are closer in texture to what a true Parisian macaron is supposed to be like, so it is entirely possible that future macaron experiences could be hit and miss.  However, for their photogenic nature and the endless possibilities of flavour combinations (like strawberry wasabi, vanilla basil, mango chili), I am hooked.  

It seems I might be a latecomer in my relationship with these little ganache-filled cookies, but I’ve decided to declare this my own “year of the macaron” and am on a quest to seek them out whenever I get the chance.  Google Amca has already found me several places in Istanbul that are on my list for the next time I head up there (including a Laduree, the Parisian patisserie where they were first born) as well as a few more closer to home that I intend to hit up on a day off in the near future.  I even found a box macaron kit at the grocery store and am looking forward to trying it out once the weather gets less humid.  (Apparently macarons are temperamental and don’t like moisture much.)

I’m heading to the UK today for a retreat, and as I’ll have a day to spend roaming around London tomorrow, I’ve scouted out a few macaron-makers to put on the itinerary.  I’ve been to London three times on layovers, and each time kind friends living nearby have taken me out for proper English experiences like afternoon tea and a Tesco picnic in a Kensington park, but due to time constraints, I’ve always had to stick pretty close to Heathrow.  

This time, though, I’m actually going to get to “do” London - at least as much as can be done in a day.  On the agenda are Buckingham Palace and the Tower of London, the Borough Market (under London Bridge - a foodie’s playground of samples and stalls) and some wandering along the Thames.  But honestly, as much as the “royal sights” I am excited about the macarons I’m going to find!  Laduree and Pierre Herme, the two most famous French macaron-makers, have stores in Harrods and Selfridges respectively, and I also plan to head for La Maison du Chocolat at Piccadilly Circus.  

I’ve read about people doing “macaron crawls” in places like New York City where a group of friends or strangers meet up and go bakery-hopping to sample as many macarons as possible without going into a sugar coma and then publish the results of their taste-testings.  So that’s kinda my plan for tomorrow.  I’ll let you know how it goes!

I’ve never really had a desire to go to Paris (sacrilegious for a traveler, I know) but I think now I might have a reason to visit one day.  Think of the macaron crawl one could do there......


The line, "love at first cloud-filled bite" is just perfect! Totally enjoyed the post - hope you enjoy the macaron crawl.