I didn’t actually know what a macaroon was before my first, succulent bite. I imagined a dense cookie with chocolate and coconut, and certainly not the delicate pastry that has captured the culinary hearts of millions around the world.
The macaron is a sweet confectionery filled with butter cream or jam sandwiched between two cookies. The small cookies are light, airy and come in a variety of flavors. I first laid eyes on this delicious and somewhat addictive snack in Melbourne, Australia on a walking tour of the city. Macaroons are on their way to being a city-wide obsession, replacing the cupcake as the trendy pastry du jour. It just took one macaron, of the raspberry variety, to completely win me over.
Improbably delicate, too firm of a touch will crack the outer shell, the interior of the macaroon is soft and moist, filled with any of hundreds of different flavors. We returned to the macaroon-only shop later that day and bought a supply that would keep us in French confection heaven for at least a week. (You know, in case of emergency) They were gone in just a few hours.
I next ran into my new pastry friend while on a Context walking tour highlighting the foodie side of Paris. It was just a few days before Christmas and the pastry shops were working overtime to satisfy the throngs of holiday shoppers buying special treats for parties and family gatherings. Beautiful window displays of macaron pyramids in shimmering silver and gold were the norm, and thousands of rows of macarons in every color and even size imaginable were the most common purchase.
If I thought the Australian variety was good, the true French macaron put them to shame. Firm but delicate, soft and moist with an instant explosion of flavor upon that first bite all combined to make the perfect macaroon. That’s not to say other cities haven’t mastered the art as well. In Brussels the high end chocolatier and confectionery master Pierre Marcolini has created 25 flavors of macaroon including some unusual choices like the Cuba Libre (Dark rum and Coca-Cola) and Thé Vert (Ganache made from Matcha green tea). Yeah, we bought a box there too.
I’m sure they’re laden with tons of calories and are probably horrible for one’s health, but the allure of the macaron is strong and I soon found out that it’s impossible to eat just one. I just hope they make their way to my town soon, getting tired of all of those cupcake shops.
What’s your favorite dessert or snack you’ve found on your travels?