Thursday, 30 December 2010

Macaron Musings

Pierre Hermé's Rose Macarons
and Pietra Macarons
It looks like our Gallic neighbours are determined to wean us off our love for the ubiquitious cupcake by seducing us with the more grown-up macaron.  They could hardly have sent over The Channel two finer examples of the art of macaron making than Parisians Ladurée and, mostly recently, Pierre Hermé. Not satisfied with their iconic status in France, both have now spread their wings to London and are fighting for our attention.  Hermé's credentials for the title of best Pâtissier are impressive, being apprenticed to Gaston Lenôtre at the age of 14 and and having worked for Ladurée before going solo.  For delicacy of macaron, Pierre Hermé wins hands down but flavour combinations are crucial for these featherlight morsels.  Personally I find two flavours irresistible - Salted Caramel and Rose.  Laduree has the edge on flavour in the caramel stakes, I think, but the perfect Rose macaron has to be that made by Pierre Hermé.  Embued with the the subtlest essence of rose petal, it's the one that does it for me.  

Hermé's inventiveness seems unstoppable, constantly coming up with new flavour pairings.  Not all to my taste.  Now, I can get excited by more exotic combinations - Chestnut and Matcha Green Tea for one - but White Truffle & Hazelnut?  It's a step too far for me, Pierre, though I'm told by another macaron lover that I couldn't be more wrong about that one.  As for Quince and Rose, I can see where you're coming from with this as quince is a member of the rose family but I find the flower is entirely overpowered by the fruit.  

If you want to try them for yourself you can find a small Pierre Hermé outlet in Selfridges Food Hall, and a sleek new shop in SW1 where he's had the freedom to recreate the look of his Paris shops.  Ladurée has an outlet in Harrods, but the real character can be found in their tiny but eye-catching gilded shop in Burlington Arcade, with the added benefit of a few tables in the arcade.  

If you want kiddies food, stick to cupcakes and leave the macarons to the grown-ups.

Ladurée, Burlington Arcade, Piccadilly, London W1
Pierre Hermé, 13 Lowndes Street, London SW1X