Mad about Macarons in Paris (and a giveaway)

Yes, I ate some macarons last month in Paris.  And made them too. So many in fact that I believe I went into a state that I am going to call “macaron fatigue”. Yes, folks, it is possible.  However, now I’ve been removed from them for a while, I feel ready to look at my pictures and write a little bit about them.  I didn’t set out to eat so many but everywhere you turn, on nearly every street corner in Paris, there they are. Looking cute and tempting. And of course you can’t resist. Well, I can’t 😉

My first encounter with macarons in Paris this time was rather unexpected. I was meeting a friend for a drink over on the Left Bank and popping out of the Métro, I literally stumbled upon this…

La Maison Georges Larnicol.  A MOF! A MOF!  Since seeing The Kings of Pastry, I have to admit I am a little bit obsessed with the Meilleurs Ouvriers de France.  Basically, a MOF is an award unique to France according to category of trades in a contest between professionals – so, like pastry chefs –  (you can read more about it here) and the competition requires years of preparation. So when you see the MOF label, you know that you’re getting, well, le meilleur.

Apart from the MOF label, what drew me in was this:

And then once inside, I was surrounded by a magical chocolate wonderland. So much chocolate, some of it too beautiful to eat!

And pastries!

Of course I had to buy some macarons….  I chose les classiques: chocolate, pistachio, coffee and salted caramel.  Larnicol’s macarons are made with no animal fats and only natural colours so I was surprised by the bright green of the pistachio.

These were not only pretty with lovely little ruffly feet and shiny shells, but nicely sized (About 1 1/2 inches in diameter – I don’t like my macarons too big – for me a bite-sized mac is better because then you can justify having more than one!).  And at 2€50 for four, most definitely a good deal.

A slightly crunchy texture on top with a slightly chewey layer underneath and filled with a soft, not-too-sweet ganache centre. Sometimes I find the ganache too overpowering in either volume or flavour but these had the perfect ratio.  Of course this means that they are somewhat flat but I am happy to sacrifice some height for a perfect flavour and texture. Well done M. Larnicol.

A trip to Paris for a macaron lover is not complete without a trip to “l’incontournable” (essential, that which must not be ignored) Pierre Hermé

Because I wanted the pretty box, I paid 17€ for these 7 which I find a little steep but one must, I guess, pay the price for the pretty future props, right? 😉

The Hermé macarons are gloriously attractive, it must be said.  Perfect shells, with even feet and interesting flavours like Arabesque (apricot and pistachio, the dual-coloured one fourth from the top). The colours are vibrant and beautiful, though for me, I find they sometimes border on the extreme.  His ganaches are smooth and creamy but I find them overly sweet.  They are also slightly bigger than I prefer and, because they are made with Italian meringue, they feel much sturdier and less delicate than macarons made with French meringue (you can read about the different types of meringues here).  I know I will be on my own here in saying that these macarons, beauty aside, are not my favourite Parisian macarons.  I mean, I wouldn’t turn one down but I wouldn’t go out of my way.

Another macaron must is, of course, Ladurée.

I was interested to see what I thought in comparison to the Hermé ones.

A completely different look from Hermé’s packaging but toujours aussi classe….. (just as classy)

Slightly smaller, less “puffy” than Hermé’s, the Ladurée macarons are also less vibrant colours but I actually prefer this.  Smooth tops and fairly regular “feet” make these macs easy on the eye and the smaller amount of ganache really suits my palate.  Much less sweet than Hermé, though I do believe it’s really a matter of personal preference and I may be alone in preferring less vibrant, flatter macs…. At 14€40 for 6 in the pretty presentation “coffret“, they are also slightly cheaper than Hermé.  These *might* just be my favourite Parisian macarons but this list is definitely not exhaustive – there’s only so many macs a girl can stomach!

Now for something completely different – who can guess where this is?

Well, you’d be right if you said McDonald’s McCafé. Uh huh…

It had to be done...And the verdict?

Well definitely more brownie-like than a macaron but not unpleasant. Not a classic macaron, though.

And how about these?

Well I am sorry Mr Franprix but these were pretty unpleasant.  Obvious problems with the feet and empty shells made for a macaron that fell apart as soon as you bit into it.  That coupled with the fact that they went soggy after about 10 minutes out of the freezer and you have a pretty un-macaron-like experience all round.

Continuing in the depths of despair in macaron-land…. Boxed macaron mix….

Ok, I admit that I did not have access to my Kitchen Aid but I did have an electric mixer and I followed the instructions to a T.  There are no photos of the horribly chocolately mess I got myself into because you really don’t need to see that. An unmitigated macaron-disaster. Worse than some of my very first tries. Seriously. I think I need to take a packet home and use it with my own equipment and in an oven I know to really pass judgement but the first encounter was not so promising.

To cleanse my palate and get back to le vrai macaron, I headed to Lenôtre.  Those of you who have been reading my blog for a while might remember when I learned to make macarons at Ecole Lenôtre.  Well on that trip, the only Lenôtre macs I ate were the ones I made.  So this trip I decided I needed to taste the Lenôtre ones, especially given that they are made with French meringue, as a comparison to (especially) the Hermé ones.

These are much smaller than any of the others I tasted – about 1 inch in diameter – and much more delicate. They’re much lighter in their little bag, to start with.

Delicate colours, ruffly little feet, the Lenôtre macarons are definitely my favourites in terms of appearance. Gorgeous, not garish, and  bite-sized. You can definitely tell the difference in the meringue – delicately crunchy on the outside and with a slight chew on the inside; filled with a small amount of ganache, subtle is the word which comes to mind… They *do* sort of fall apart when you bite into them but since they are so small, you can just pop them into your mouth all in one go. And still be lady-like about it!  At 5€40 for the four, they are reasonably priced.  So depending on the day, these might be my choice over Ladurée as they are just that smidge smaller and lighter.

Ouf!

I certainly hope my “research” will come in handy when I get home next week and make some more macarons. I am most definitely ready to tackle them again after over 6 weeks away from my own kitchen. But I might have to be giving them away. It might be a while before I can face eating another on! (Or not….)

Whilst I was in Paris, I had the absolute pleasure of meeting Jill Colonna from the wonderful blog and book Mad about Macarons. We actually had such a wonderful time chatting and eating pastries that we forgot to get a picture of us (doh!) but I did manage to get her signature in my own copy of Mad about Macarons.

Now I am excited to give away not one but TWO copies of the book and this giveaway is open to everyone everywhere – thanks so much Waverley Books 🙂

How to enter?

Simply tell me why YOU are “Mad about Macarons” in the comments below.

For a bonus entry, simply tweet “I entered to win a copy of Mad about Macarons from @eatlivtravwrite and @waverleybooks and you can too: http://bit.ly/rpZSgv” and leave me a comment below letting me know you did.

 

Contest closes Tuesday August 16th at midnight EST and I will choose the winners by Random.org and announce them the following day. (Edited to add: Contest closed on August 16th at midnight – winners announced here)

I am also extremely excited to announce that I will be teaching “Marvelous Macarons” at Le Dolci in Toronto on Friday September 30th.  If you’re interested, you can register here. I am so excited to put into practice what I learned at my classes in Paris this summer (and I *will* be blogging about those classes soon too!).

Keep up with me this summer through my Summer 2011 Flickr set.

114 thoughts on “Mad about Macarons in Paris (and a giveaway)”

  1. I am immensely Mad about Macarons! A beauty to look at, I can never stop at one. Little dessert sandwiches that I want to surround myself with everyday. A dream – to try every macaron flavour available from all over.

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  2. What a thorough research! I learnt a lot about so many kinds of macarons. I only tried once… Not very successful! Will try again with your recipe. i am sure you must have one on your site, right?

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  3. Me? Mad about macarons? Bien sur! Beyond their great taste, I just adore their delicate, unique texture. A single bite into the shell is a rich experience. First the rigid surface of the shell then the soft mattress of the fluffy inside and finally the sweet comfort of the ganache. Macarons are the definition of French sophistication.

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  4. Mardi, I am so glad you tried that Alsa mix because I have been so tempted because, yes, I was incredulous! And a big chocolate mess as results does not surprise me. I am also surprised that you found Ladurée macs less sweet than Hermé because I found them so cloyingly sweet I couldn’t even finish one. Loved most of the Hermé flavors but they seemed to go soggy too fast (the boys brought me a box home from their trip to Paris. Maybe just more than I could eat?) but his flavor & sweetness balance was perfect. I wish you could taste the Vincent Guerlais macs. The best so far! I love Larnicol’s kouginettes (MUST be warmed before eating) but have not tried the macs yet. I will. They have a shop in Nantes.

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  5. Oh, I would LOVE this book – and do I really need to explain why? Or why I am mad about macs? Not to mention that I run Mactweets (with Deeba) but that as someone who loves baking, macarons are the ultimate – or one of – challenges. Sometimes mine come out perfect, other times absolutely abysmal but I keep on trying. I also love books on macs for flavor ideas. Great giveaway! And lucky you for the baking classes in Paris. Am so jealous!

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  6. I started being “mad about macarons” when I visited Paris in 2008. I have made them painted them blogged about them I have macarons earrings.

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  7. I’m “mad about macarons” because I had the pleasure of living in Paris for a couple years of my youth but didn’t grasp the privilege. Now, I have to make do on the west coast and wish I hadn’t gone a day without Ladurée.

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  8. I’m not quite as mad about them as you are, Mardi, but they’re growing on me! All the more reason to have a book on hand to switch up from cookies every once in awhile 🙂 Also, I’m disappointed that I didn’t try the macarons at Pain de Sucre until after you left Paris, they are by FAR my favorite now!

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  9. This is a wonderful write-up! I love macarons and think my tastes run similar to yours. I’ve never been a big fan of Pierre Herme and think the classic vanilla from Laduree is probably one of the greatest. Have you tried Dalloyau?
    I tried making macarons last year for a Daring Bakers’ Challenge. The taste was great but the presentation was less than stellar. I’d love to win a copy of Mad About Macarons so I can give it another shot — I also love to bake! Thanks for this review and the contest. Will be retweeting as sugar_daze. Best, Cat

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  10. your post made me wish I can be in Paris to taste all those macarons! I am guilty for being mad about them, you can do so much with them, the endless flavor combos.

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  11. What an absolutely beautiful view of Paris and macarons Mardi! I am so envious of the wonderful time you had… but so thrilled that you shared such beauty here! Merci!! I would LOVE a copy of the book. Jill’s book has been on my wish list for a while… maybe I get lucky this time!! Fingers crossed!!

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  12. Oh My Word! These all look amazing, and I’m utterly disgusted that McDonalds can get it right and I can’t! I NEED this book to rescue me, homemade things should be better than McDonalds; I can do burgers, sausages and chicken nuggets, but now they’ve raised the bar and I just have to master the Macaron. Maybe I’m mad with Macarons because I haven’t mastered them yet, but that also makes me mad about Macarons!

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  13. I have never made macarons nor have I ever eaten one in my 76 years of life. I do love reading about all the variations in flavors and seeing pictures of the beautifully colored macarons. I have been inspired by your commentary on macarons and am eager to try making them. I only wish I could take your class but since I can’t Mad About Macarons is second best.

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  14. WHAT A WONDERFUL POST…

    I am obsessed with macarons due to the presentation. I just think they are the most beautiful cookie.

    Thank you so much for the wonderful travelogue. Gonna be a few years before I get back to Paris, but I just loved every word and image..

    But McDonald’s??????

    Sigh

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  15. Okay, I am wild with jealousy at the Paris trip, and especially about meeting Jill because I heart her! I haven’t ever tried a macaron (*gasp* and I call myself a food blogger) but I have been dying to get my hands on a copy of her book!
    McDonalds????????????????????????????????????????

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  16. First off Mardi, congrats on this post. I enjoyed it so much that I completely forgot you are having a giveaway. I like the natural food coloring and animal fat free mac and your journey into macs in Paris. Gorgeous post and congrats on the class!

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  17. What’s not to love about macarons- these sweet little sandwich type cookies has everything a huge sweet tooth like me can ask for !! I have never attempted to make them and this book would be perfect to get me started ; anyways love your efforts to spread some cheer ! wishes!!

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  18. What wonderful research (it must have been hard to suffer through eating them :)). I am aghast that McDonald’s has even attempted the macaron…anyway! Why am I mad about macarons? I think it is the appear that makes me crazy. They are so colorful and small, for me packaging is the key. Of course the taste is out of this world, but the colors make me “mad.”

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  19. I am mad about macarons because they are so cute, delicate, and delicious! I feel super classy eating one, and I must say, bigger is not better in the case of macarons.

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  20. I’m not entering the contest as I can’t honestly say that I’m mad about Macarons. In fact, I’ve never even tasted one yet. Enjoyed this Parisien *research* tour on them however. Only in Paris will you find Macarons at a MacDonalds! Looking forward to your future posts on your own Macs and perhaps one day I may actually find myself eating one…or two or…

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  21. Wow. is all I have to say – I have never been to Paris and I have never made a macaron but this post has some fabulous pictures and has suddenly made me want to delve into the macaron world! I would love a copy of the book so I can try my hand at making a macaron or 2!

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  22. Love that first crunch when you break the shell and then the melting in your mouth of the softer bits underneath. And as it’s melting, you are hit with the flavor in a wonderful and subtle way. Sigh. Can I hide in your suitcase?

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  23. I really really really need to get my hands on some macarons! I seriously dreamed about them yesterday! Sadly when I was in Paris I didn’t have any! I know I know…. it’s my own fault, but I didn’t realize it until I returned home! 🙁 But constantly seeing posts and photos of macarons is just making me crave them! I can feel the hard texture and soft middle right now! Mmmmmm

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  24. Beautiful pics Mardi. I like macarons but can usually take them or leave them, and your pics and post have me seriously craving them. I actually stumbled upon a lovely little macaron shop and patisserie right near my house- I’m going to get the name of it for you and will email it over. You can see what you think!

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  25. To me, the macaron is the perfect dessert – it goes well with everything, but it stands amazingly on its own. The flavours, the colours, the texture, and the history of them delight me! I’m so “Mad about Macarons” that sometimes I can barely stand to eat them because they are so pretty. But once I do…

    I also tweeted:
    http://twitter.com/#!/tiffing/status/101364375218163713

    By the way, I’ve been lurking on this site for awhile, and I just wanted to say how great it is to see such a wonderful photographer and chef from Toronto (who also involves kids in cooking). I know there are others, but as I’ve just recently gotten interested in food blogs, it’s amazing and inspiring to know this information is coming from my city! Thank you!

    tiff.ing@gmail.com

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  26. I love macarons because I am intrigued by their delicate selves. I’ve only made one batch and it was absolutely nerve racking. You could almost say that I went Mad because of the Macarons that afternoon.

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  27. I’m mad about macarons because my first experience with them was in Paris at Pierre Hermé and Ladurée and I almost got kicked out for trying to take a picture 🙂

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  28. McDonalds has Macarons? How funny! I guess it makes sense, tho. When I was in Italy, they had an antipasto bar and served wine. As for mad about macarons – I’m almost embarrassed to tell you, but I’ve never had them! I LOVE the idea of them – they sound AMAZING! The ingredients and the pictures of them….but where I live, the don’t have any to buy and I’ve been shoring up my courage to make some…..

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  29. I also ate a bunch of macarons when I visited paris last year. In adddition to a few of yours I also stopped at Gerard Mulot. They were actually my favorite! I’ll have to stop by a few more of these next time I’m there, thanks for sharing! (and I already have Jill’s book, love it!)

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  30. Wow, a fairly comprehensive review here, Mardi and I really enjoyed all of it through your eyes, or rather, tastebuds. I’d like to get my hands on that boxed macaron mix and see if they could turn out better than my first 8 tries (I’ve stopped making them since). Why am I mad about macarons? Because they remind me of my first love, because I love the way they feel in my mouth and because I find it maddening that I can’t make them in the exact same way I imagine in my head!

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  31. Oh, what FUN! I am impressed with all your macaron research! AND jealous that you met Jill!!!! I’ve just entered the world of macaron making…and I’m hooked~

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  32. I love Macs because you never know how they will turn out in the end. I love that you can make so much variety with them, oh and I really love the colours – like a rainbow on your table.
    I also tweeted about it ;o)

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  33. This is macarons heaven here! I cannot believe this… McCafe macarons??? I need to go to Paris now. And the packaging of Herme macarons is absolutely adorable.

    Love macarons because of their vibrant colors and the light and fluffy texture. Nothing is quite like it!

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  34. I’d love to tell you about how “Mad about Macarons” I am, except I’ve never had one, never even, not once, seen a macaron. I think I’ll just have to attempt making my own and hope they are right since I’ll have no comparison… but first I could use a good book of instructions 😉

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  35. I’m Mad about Macarons in more ways than one!
    First, they are the perfect treat – all the beautiful flavors and colors to try! Second, I’ve tried THREE times to make them, still no luck – definately maddening :-p That’s what led me to your site, I’m looking for advice for the NEXT time I work up the courage to try!

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  36. Hi Mardi! You don’t need to enter me into your contest because I don’t need a copy of the book but, I just wanted to say, if you feel the need to make them when you get home, you are quite welcome to bring any extras with you to Vancouver in a few weeks. I know somebody who’d be most willing to take them off your hands!! 😉
    The pics are lovely!

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  37. I love macarons. I am taking a class at BGC in September but I definitely want to make sure I take your class. Just found your blog through Pinterest and so glad I did. LOVE it. 🙂

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  38. My 24 years old daughter and three friends are in Paris even as we speak. I had a fabulous meal, of course with macarons, at Ladurée last summer so told her all about these fabulous, colorful treats. Then, just last week the Houston Chronicle devoted several pages to the macaron. So she is prepared to be as marvelously, maniacally, mad about macarons as her mama!

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  39. I am simply mad about them after seeing all the pretty colors and tasting my first one not too long ago! I have been wanting to try and make them for myself, in flavors that would be heavenly for me, and your post gives me renewed interest in finding some solid recipes to do just that!

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  40. Since I dont have a twitter account, I posted this on my facebook wall instead! Thanks for your love of macs! Your photos are lovely by the way, and I too would have paid the extra Euro for the box…!

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  41. Oh my, they looks so gorgeous. Macarons is something I’ve never yet attempted, but am very tempted. I’ve never even had one before, so I definitely have to give these a try soon. Gorgeous pictures.

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  42. Thank you, dear Mardi, for taking me on this lovely Tour de Macaron. I’m not going to enter the contest because I’d be taking a chance away from someone who could put it to better use than I. If it were for a shipment of macarons themselves, now…

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  43. Now that I’ve stopped drooling over this post, I can confess to being mad about macarons because they are gluten-free and because lavender macarons might be one of the most perfect desserts in the world! I bet those salted caramel ones were pretty delicious as well…

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  44. Haven’t had a chance to try a macaron yet. They look so lovely. They are at the top of my list to try should I ever visit a bakery that sells them. Or make my own with “Mad About Macarons.”

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  45. Pingback: Macarons with Lemon Buttercream Filling | Diethood
  46. I have Jill’s book and I absolutely love it!!! I learned so many tips and tricks… patience was one of them! 🙂

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  47. I love macarons and I love to bake, but I’ve always been a bit intimidated by the macaron, possibly unnecessarily so after reading your blog and Kate’s blog at Diethood? I would absolutely love a copy of your “Mad About Macarons” to be my guide and help ease me into the process! I would love to be able to add them to my Christmas cookie baking bonanza this year! Thanks for the opportunity!

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  48. Wow! What exhaustive research you’ve done. My next trip to Paris is in October and I’ll certainly try some of the fabulous places you mention and then I’ll be mad about macarons!

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  49. Macarons were one of the most delightful moments of my stay in Paris! I love their airy sweetness and the acres of potential flavors. I didn’t make it to Laduree, but the macarons at Gerard Mulot were wonderful…

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  50. I am absolutely mad about macarons! Not only are they delicious but they are amazing beautiful to look at. Macarons are airy and light while the filling satisfies my sweet tooth. Although I could eat the shell by itself! I’m so mad about Macarons that I will traveling to Switzerland just to eat Macarons at Laduree. Ok maybe there are other reasons too but I will definitely be stopping by all 4 Ladurée’s in Switzerland for the Macarons.

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  51. I have macarons as my wallpaper on my laptop right now! 🙂 I love the colours, the crisp exterior, the slight chew of the interior, the ooey gooey ganache inside, the wildly variable flavours, the tiniest cute ones, the biggest indulgent ones, reading cookbooks about them, watching Zumbo make them, dreaming up new recipes myself, and most of EATING THEM!

    kate1485 at hotmail.com

    Reply
  52. Sweet and informative post! Why am I ‘Mad about Macarons’? Very simply, they are a perfect mix of delicate and decadent. And so very indicative of the French! I also prefer Laduree over the uber sweet Pierre Hermé. (Rose being my favorite!) Though I wouldn’t turn a macaron away… good luck with your macaron making!

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  53. Loved reading about your appreciation of the MOF title and that you’ve seen Kings of Pastry. Chef Jacquy Pfeiffer was one of my excellent teachers last year while I was enrolled at his French Pastry School in Chicago. It was a wonderful 6 months – he’s a fabulous chef, super funny, and a great mentor. (MOF Chef Sebastian Cannone is the co-founder of the school and another wonderful teacher.) Hope more people have a chance to see the film! During my time at the FPS we had another chef from the school preparing to take the MOF exam and had a first hand look at the stress of him practicing daily for the incredible sugar sculptures!

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  54. I have always wanted to visit France and you are making it so easy to give in!!! France, to me is synonymous with Macarons which is why I am MAD about them!! I would absolutely love the Macaron book–they are on my list to make but am sort of intimidated by them! I think a book would help a lot!

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  55. I recently treated myself to my second batch of Pierre Hermé macarons and despite loving the eclectic choice (and falling for the olive oil & vanilla), I found them too sweet. I swear my teeth almost fell out.

    Last week I tried Fauchon macarons, which were nice but let’s be frank, nothing can beat the Ladurée version. The texture, taste and packaging are utter perfection.

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  56. I am “Mad about Macarons” because they look so lovely and are so very tasty. I’ve always wanted to try and make them but haven’t gotten up the courage yet. Thanks!

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  57. omg mardi i can’t believe i missed out this post of yours! I did almost the same thing as you did, going to Paris and eating my way through Paris on macarons. Seriously, I was that Mad about Macarons because for a few days, I survived solely on macarons and other pastries for lunch AND dinner. And even breakfast heh ;p

    And ps, I never knew about the Kings of Pastry DVD! Am definitely getting my hands on it! Sounds like something I’d wanna watch!

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  58. I am MAD about Macarons! Ever since my first attempt at making them six months ago (which I had then failed — all the shells cracked) I have been addicted to perfecting the shells. Frustrating when it doesn’t turn out but oh-so-satisfying when they’re perfect! And absolutely delicious.

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  59. I have been “Mad about Macarons” for awhile now, but have been scared to try making them. This book would be awesome and is on my Amazon wishlist for when (if) I stop buying things for my new grandson!

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  60. Mardi,
    Sorry I missed your wonderful post on hols. What a great review and so glad we managed to meet up. You know, I returned to Un Dimanche à Paris a week later and tried their vanilla macaron. Excellent: I believe we have the same macaron tastes 😉
    Too funny on the Alsa mix. One of these days I must try MacDo’s version, too. Beautiful photos, as ever.

    Reply

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