Sunday, May 16, 2010

Macarons...the new cupcake?

French macarons seem to be everywhere these days. They have been heating up the food scene in Chicago and around the US, though up until a few months ago it was pretty hard to find them here in the states. No, no I'm not talking about the coconut macaroon cookies but the petite little hamburger-like cookies in bright pastel colors that are made with almond flour. These divine Parisian treats have blown up in popularity recently yet this little cookie can trace its roots back to a convent in central France in 791. It was popularized for modern delights by macaron powerhouse Ladurée. When I visited Paris I had the opportunity to take a fabulous pastry tour there and got to taste several of these sugar gems when I visited Pierre Herme.

I love macarons and my good friend Lesley does too. We have baking and cooking dates and one day a few months ago decided to tackle the macaron. Though they tasted great, our cookies lacked some finesse. We told our friends at the Elysian Hotel about our baking debacle and pastry chef, Alissa Wallers, graciously offered to help demonstrate the fine points of creating macarons herself. Alissa learned from French-cooking great Francois Payard himself and let us in on a few of the macaron cooking "secrets" if you will.

I don't know that I'll be attempting to make these myself again (or without my trusty pastry friend Lesley - she's the one with the steady hand and the pastry bag) but it was a truly memorable experience and the macarons were melt in your mouth delicious!

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