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Conquering the French Macaron

Ladurée Macarons (photo from Ladurée)
One of my favorite things to do in Paris is to go to a Ladurée and have a macaron. No, not a macaroon, my American friends, but an authentic French bite of heaven - a macaron. Before you shrug this off as just being a difference in the spelling of an ordinary cookie, read on...

Inside Ladurée (photo by J. Boyer-Switala - 2013)
Although both delicious in their own right, there is a big difference between a macaroon and a macaron. A macaroon /mah-kah-ROON/ is chewy, lumpy, coconutty goodness. They are relatively simple to make, and unlike the macaron, require little to no finesse. A macaron /mah-kah-ROHN/ is chewy, smooth perfection. Although macarons are made with almond flour, they come in a variety of flavors and colors. And boy can they be buggers to make...
Me eating (loving) a Ladurée Macaron Violet at CDG, Paris
My quest to make macarons began a couple of years ago. I was craving them, and well, Central PA is not known for its abundance of patisseries. I knew that I was going to have to learn to make them myself. I used a Martha Stewart recipe a couple of times, then one from Food Network Magazine. They tasted fine, but I could never get them to look pretty. They were never a uniform diameter, and always came out lopsided and misshapen. They were messy and delicate and FRUSTRATING to make. 
I had almost given up hope of ever getting it right. Then, a couple of months ago, my student teacher (who shares my love for macarons) brought in perfect ones. When I inquired, she told me that she had taken a macaron making class at Ladurée in NYC. No wonder hers were so stunning. She had learned from the best! She shared some macaron making secrets with me, the best being the Lékué Macaron Kit. This kit seriously changed my life. If it wouldn't be so weird, I would kiss the kit. (Actually, I might have already done that...)
Lékué Macaron Kit
The kit comes with a silicon baking mat that has slightly raised edges so your macarons all turn out the same size. It also comes with a decomax pen that can be filled while lying on its side - I just poured in the batter, put on the lid, and squeezed. Voila! SO much more convenient (and far less messy!) than trying to scoop macaron batter into a plastic piping baggie. And, it is easy to clean. C'est un miracle!
Lékué Macaron Kit 
The second macaron baking tip she shared with me that has proved invaluable, is to weigh, not measure, your ingredients. Because macarons are so fragile and finicky, and because baking them is not only an art, it is a science, using a kitchen scale instead of measuring cups gives a more accurate reading. (I own an Escali scale - small and inexpensive).
Freshly baked macarons  
Upon leaving in April, she gave me a wonderful gift (as if telling me about the Lékué Macaron Kit wasn't gift enough!) She gave me this GORGEOUS book:
Ladurée Sucré -Recipe Book
The outside of the book is a mint green velvet with the Ladurée insignia embossed in gold. The inside is filled with amazing recipes and beautiful photographs of Ladurée's desserts. It is, by far, the loveliest book I own!
Inside the Ladurée Sucré book
Yesterday, I used my Lékué kit, used my kitchen scale, and followed the Ladurée recipe for Macarons Chocolat. They are the best macarons I have made to date. My daughter and lunch guests thought they were pretty darn good, too.
Macarons Chocolat (chocolate macarons with a dark chocolate ganache filling)
For me, the best part of making macarons is eating them. Last evening, I went out on my back patio with some hot cinnamon tea and a few chocolate macarons. It wasn't Paris, but if I closed my eyes, the taste almost convinced me I was there!

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Comments

Julie Tulba said…
It's not Paris but you should definitely come into Pittsburgh, we have not one but two macarons shops! The one is right in Squirrel Hill so just off of 376. Their macarons (and pastries) are amazing. The owners actually own an incredible French bistro in the city too.

I've always wanted to get a macaron kit but was worried they wouldn't turn out. With your good review, I may reconsider!

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