The Rise (and slight dip) of the Macarons

Ladurée is to macarons what Chanel is to the petite robe noire. The absolute crème de la crème in taste and elegance, the boutique stores themselves are breathtakingly beautiful! In fact, I write this feeling very guilty… Searching for Ladurée images, I stumbled upon the gorgeous macarons key ring and although dangerously close to being maxed out on my overdraft, I was hitting confirm payment before even realising what had happened… well what can I say, I like to follow the ‘live for the moment… deal with the consequences later’ attitude. The company also have a stunning range of gifts from scented candles to cahiers and papiers à lettres.

Now world-renowned, this favourite Parisian salon de thé has a fascinating history which few recognise. Dating back to 1862, Louis Ernest Ladurée opened his first bakery at 16, rue Royale in Paris during the time in which the Madeleine was rapidly developing into one of the most elegant districts of the capital. It was actually due to the consequences of a fire in 1871 that the bakery was transformed into a pâtisserie and the interior design entrusted to Jules Cheret. The famous painter sought inspiration from the painting techniques of the Sistine Chaple and l’Opéra Garnier adding depth and relief to the stunning ceilings.

The company’s rise to fame was not until 1930 when Louis’ second cousin, Pierre Desfontaines, first had the idea of joining two macarons shells with a delicious ganache filling (previously macarons had been served separately with the addition of jam, liqueurs or spices). Every season Ladurée adds a new flavour to its range of macarons as a tribute to its most famous creation with this season’s mouthwatering selection including Pomme Granny Smith and Forêt Noir although my favourite is still Pétales de Rose which is a beautiful pastel pink shade.

Once the preserve of high-end pâtisseries, the macarons has sadly also found its home in McDonald’s of all places, with an add campaign depicting the ‘snack’ as a mini hamburger! Like a tuxedo-clad man at a football match, these delicate French treats are totally out of place at the all-American diners and rightly caused a stir in France, my neighbour went as far as to write an angry letter of complaint although she still hasn’t sent it!

Despite the negative feeling about these luxury treats becoming mainstream, the ‘little macs’ are chewy and quite heavy and taste nothing like the light and airy macarons of Ladurée or Pierre Hermé (as Pierre says, ‘there’s macarons and then there’s macarons!’) so if you are heading to Paris for some tasty gourmandises, I recommend you bypass McDo and head to Ladurée or Pierre Hermé to enjoy the world’s finest macarons!

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