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Posts tagged ‘Macaroon’

Macaron Madness

OK, so for those of you who read my post last week, you will know that I have joined the rank and file who have seen the Ladurée light, indulging in all things macaronic (I’m surprised to find this is an actual work, but sadly not generally relating to all things macaron, but hey, this is my blog, and that’s how I’m going to use it), the sweet, elegant pastry treats which add a sense of past sumptuous delight to our every day doldrum lives. Well, I decided to take things one step further and attempt to make macarons myself. How hard can it be, I thought, somewhat naively, embarking on the project with only half an hour spare, my Ladurée cook book placed a sufficient distance from the hob so as not to pollute its gold-lined pages with icing sugar or jam splatters, and my piping bags and food colouring to hand. Three hours later and I was still cleaning up my kitchen which looked like a trench warfare zone all of its own – huge splashes of pink macaron batter on every conceivable surface, three limping icing bags all leaking their contents, flung in frustration across various aspects of the kitchen, and the macarons… well, see for yourself…

Ok, so from the side they don’t look too bad. The jam is oozy and the two sides of the macaron have their “feet” (the little crunchy bit) and the smooth bit on top which miraculously didn’t crack too much (with the one blaring exception). But then look at a random sample from above…

Indeed, not a round macaron in sight. I just could not get the bloody things to stay round! I literally piped them about five times, trying different sized nozzles, practically securing my wrist in a scaffolding-like contraption to ensure an unwavering hand, adding more icing sugar to make the mixture thicker but no no no, they just splurged all over the place into cloud-shaped disasters. On top of that, I couldn’t find any peptin for the jam, so basically had to add thickener, resulting in a jam which is more like gravy. Oh, and I should probably also admit that when these macarons went into the oven, they were pink. When they came out, they were decidedly orange.

So after all this, I have realised that £1.40 for a single macaron at Ladurée really isn’t that extravagant, when making these things requires the skill of Michelangelo painting the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel. But forever determined to succeed, these macarons won’t get the better of me. I will succeed! With this is mind, can anyone tell me how to make round macarons? I’ve realised subsequently that I used caster sugar instead of granulated, which perhaps had something to do with my mixture’s refusal to conform, or is the problem more scientific?

On top of all this, I have subsequently cottoned on to the fact, after a great number of previous misspelling disasters, that a macaron is spelt with only one ‘o’ and not two, the latter type denoting the coconut cake of which my father is rather fond. According to wikipedia, “since the English word macaroon can also refer to the coconut macaroon, many have adopted the French spelling of macaron to distinguish the two items in the English language”. I won’t be making that mistake again.

Macaron madness indeed.

PS Today I have been nominated for a HUG Award for which I am hugely grateful and honoured in my receipt. I will give the matter some thought and make my obligatory re-nomination in a post soon.

Elegance overflowing: Ladurée Covent Garden

For those of you who have been reading my blog since its inception, you’ll know that I am unashamedly obsessed with all things Ladurée. Not only is the café/salon/patisserie emblematic of all things Parisienne, it is also the height of elegance wherever it is situated (apart from the rather aberrant gold cave-like cacophony that is the Mayfair branch). There I was in December freezing my you-know-whats off in a huge queue for the Champs-Elysees branch in the heart of Paris, when all the time I had no idea that a spectacular new branch of the macaroon masters had opened up almost on my doorstep in London’s Covent Garden. And what a branch it is – large outdoor terrace on the cobbles made famous by My Fair Lady, a retail shop which glistens like the Hall of Mirrors at Versailles, and an upstairs salon of which Marie Antoinette herself would have been proud. To top it off, there’s even a small roof terrace overlooking Covent Garden’s market and plaza – the perfect view of street entertainers and the continental café culture underneath. All hail Covent Garden’s Ladurée!! It is a joyous thing for all us Londoners, and finally, a well needed injection of elegance has come to CG. And Ladurée is not alone. Joining it are new branches of Ralph Lauren, Burberry and the huge new glitsy Apple store which is for Guggenheim architectural contemporary glitz what Ladurée is for Louis XV glamour.

Ladurée's Covent Garden branch: the elegant retail counter

Ladurée's Covent Garden branch: upstairs salon

Ladurée Covent Garden - roof terrace

I visited this luscious Ladurée a few days ago. I had seen the shop and the outside terrace, but I had no idea what gems lay in store upstairs. There in the little salon, small Parisian-pavement style tables are matched with elegant velvet armchairs, small sofas, and even a chaise longue  topped by a four-postered curtained canopy. Meanwhile on the walls, elegant swept frames surround antique portraits of landed gentry, reminding those supping upon coffee and macaroons that they are in the company of the upper echelons.

Ladurée: Present indulgence in Past elegance (pen on paper, 2012 © Nicholas de Lacy-Brown)

Saint Honoré

So what did I partake of on this auspicious occasion? Well, it was a Saint Honoré pastry for me, although the choice was overwhelming and all-tempting, a rather shoddy iphone picture of which I enclose. This was theatre on a plate. One choux pastry dome surrounded by several miniature renderings, all filled with and surrounded by a delicate cream imbued with the subtle elegant perfume of rose, balanced with deliciously sweet sharp raspberries and an indulgent raspberry icing. It was phenomenally delicious, and while it doesn’t come cheap (£6 for the cake alone), it’s an incentive for any eater to sit up straight, mind their Ps and Qs, and hark back to the sophisticated society of a more dignified past.

Talking of dignified, the staff were fastidious in their approach, refined in their perfect appearance, and charming in their manner. And when they speak French to one another, I could so easily be back in the 1eme Arrondissement in Paris that I would consider moving into the café full time, except it would probably bankrupt me in about a week.

This Ladurée, in fact any Ladurée, is a must for all champions of tasteful pursuits. All that remains now is to recreate the patisseries themselves at home… I have the book, I have the ground almonds, the eggs, and I have the icing bags… I think, with some trepidation, I’m going to try my first macaroons this weekend. I’ll let you know how that goes…

À bientôt!