“You know that thing when you see someone cute and he smiles and your heart kind of goes like warm butter sliding down hot toast? Well that’s what it’s like when I see a store. Only it’s better.” Rebecca Bloomwood’s line from Confessions of A Shopaholic may be defining the experience of shopping high fashion (and I can perfectly relate to how she feels) however, in addition to clothing, that quote also perfectly sums up how I feel about macarons. I don’t even know where to begin! These beautiful sweet treats are the height of edible luxury and my all-time favourite desert.
Macarons are the most coveted cookies in France. With a simple list of ingredients comprised of almond flour, sugar, and egg whites these tiny treats are synonymous with Paris and French culture. Today, some of the most famous prominent purveyors of these delicate treats include Gérard Mulot, Fauchon, Lenôtre, Pierre Hermé and most famously, Laudrée. These exquisite pastries possess a flakey outer shell and burst with a sweet, smooth interior that surprises the tastebuds with a contrast of hard and soft textures. Today Macarons are some of the most sought after delicacies in the world.
The Macaron has a regal history. In 1533, the Italian chef of Catherine de Medici introduced fine dough cookies that were simple to make and easy on the palette. These cookies were flavourless and colourless, however were enjoyed by royals as an afternoon snack with tea. Throughout the years, Macarons became a highly desirable treat amongst royalty and the upper echelons of European society (they were served at the wedding of Louis XIV and Marie-Therese of Spain in 1600!)
In 1790, French chefs in Reims, Nancy, Saint-Jean-de-Luz, Châteaulin, Boulay, Montmorillon and Amiens began developing their own gourmet recipes turning these basic almond based cookies into splendid specialities topped with jam, spices or liquors. Louis XIV of France and Marie-Antoinette ate macarons every day in their palace in Versailles.
With the rise of Ladurée in the 1890s, Macarons underwent their final bedazzling to the treat we recognize them as today. Pierre Desfontaines, second cousin to Louis Ernest Laduree, increased the level of “oh la la” to his macarons by filling the cookies with but ere créme, compote or ganache. Throughout the 19th century Ladurée became famous for their beautifully coloured Macarons which we still lust after today.
Bottom line? Macarons embody couture in a culinary form! From their humble origins in the royal Italian court of Catherine de Medici to their glamorous presence on the table of Marie Antoinette, it is impossible to deny these treats are truly reserved for the most glamorous and beautiful moments in life.