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Thursday 15 April 2010

Pierre Hermé Macarons

I wrote this yonks ago, and since I have nothing to post today and am stuck overseas (thank you, volcanic ash!), it's what you're getting. Plus even if I were at home, my kitchen would be unusable. More on that another time. Here's your post!

Like many first time experiences in life, making macarons can be a daunting task. It can feel awkward, and produce intense, mixed emotions: you aren't really sure if you're doing it the right way, or if the experience is going to live up to your expectations; it can be loaded with anxiety and you aren't sure how others with more experience than you will react to your lack of expertise.

I like the Japanese packaging in the background.

In short, making macarons for the first time is just like taking your first driving lesson. (What did you think I was talking about?)

Ultimately though, the end result is worth the trauma, and you feel ready to try again. Practice makes perfect, after all. Just like the driving.

But, unfortunately, there can be no next time in my case. Not yet at any rate, for I am without kitchen. So until the Delicious Delicious Delicious work space is once again operational, we'll have to make do without looking at the results of my labours. Which is fine: we'll just look at what the experts do.

Pierre Hermé is widely considered to be the ne plus ultra of macaron makers, and he has a store in London, dangerously close to my friend's office. So I thought I'd pay him a visit to see if his macs are better than my virginal efforts.

I'll cut to the chase - they are. But while we're on the subject, let's have some fun looking at his wares, and also the man himself. Here he is:

I'm not going to lie to you, I was slightly surprised.
I had envisioned the Kristian Digby of the pastry arts world.

That's a promotional shot - I didn't actually see him in store. I bet he has cronies to make his macarons in the shops now anyway, though the actual cost of the macarons would make you think he'd handcrafted each and every one by himself, and on over-time pay, using a whisk made of platinum and the finest copper bowls.

But I digress. How do mine measure up?

Well, obviously, there's the problem of appearance. Pierre's have beautiful smooth and shiny tops, all flat and perfect. Mine had more of a lumpy, bumpy charm. His were less sweet than mine, but the ones we tried were ganache filled and so were quite firm. I think I preferred the texture of my grapefruit and lychee version, though the sweetness needs attention.

For the record, we sampled the following macarons:
  • rose
  • chocolate and cassis
  • pistachio and something else (I forget)
  • milk chocolate and passion fruit
They were all superb, apart from the last. I just don't think those two flavours go well together.

Anyway, let's draw this to a close. You may think that my initial comparison of macaron production and learning to drive was silly, but as someone who only passed his driving test last year (I was the original '25 and still can't drive' poster boy), I disagree. 2009 was the year of the car for me, and 2010 will be the year of the macaron. I am going to perfect it.

Now I just need a kitchen...


  1. I have considered making these for some time but do find the prospect daunting. In the meantime, I have been acquiring as much knowledge as I can about making them from the internet. Have you heard of ageing the egg-whites first and if so, did you try that? I think I would give it a go even though my mind screams NO in case of resulting illness but everyone seems to say it is ok and the baking process kills any germs.

  2. 1) That sucks that you are stuck because of that Ash...I couldn't believe it when I heard that people were stuck at Heathrow for something that occured half the world over...insane.

    2) I think it's so funny when people don't look like you imagine them to be...Like I totally didn't see a burly looking man as a macaron master. Just like I don't look like I belong at a crime scene, examining dead bodies (yeah that was a bit morbid, but so be it).

    3) I love it when people use latin phrases in everyday life. Ad nausem :D

  3. I believe Herme uses a cooked italian meringue to make his macarons..have you tried this version?

    here is a link you may like

  4. I don't blame you for not liking the passion fruit - I think it's generally an unsuitable flavor for pastry, though. Starts to taste like socks. :)

  5. Just hope that the other volcanoes in Iceland don't erupt then we are in even more trouble...
    Be greatful that your not living in Iceland and getting to know the ash first hand :)

  6. What is that thing behind Pierre Hermé? A seal figurine?

  7. Hey snap! I recently tried these too! Wasn't a fan of the chocolat-cassis, but the pistache was divine! It's funny to see the man in the flesh!...

  8. I love Macaroons, expect me round for a taster soon!


That's what he said.

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