Macarons are quite possibly my favorite confection. I don’t think they’re going to be “the next cupcake”, since they’re tricky to make and involve some fairly expensive ingredients (almond flour, finely milled, is not cheap). Macarons are, essentially, egg whites, sugar, and almond flour cookies with something sandwiched in between– sometime jam, sometimes ganache. Traditional flavors include vanilla, chocolate and raspberry, but many producers do “fun” flavors like peanut butter and jelly (Frieda’s in Madeira) or fruits of the forest (Bouchon, New York and Las Vegas). They’re not macaroons, which are coconut, sugar and egg white; delicious but not quite the same.
I fell in love with macarons in France, at Laduree, which has a line around the corner most days (but elegant, gloved women serve you chocolate as you wait). The hotel we stay at when we’re in Paris is around the corner from Pierre Hermes, who is also known for macaron. You can get them at just about any patisserie (bakeries that focus on pastries; boulangeries focus on bread), and there’s always a tiny macaron on top of our annual bouche de noel (a rolled cake that looks like a log, covered with frosting; the macarons look like mushrooms growing on the log). Whenever I go to Las Vegas or New York for conferences, I always stop by Bouchon and pick up a six-pack of their giant macarons and gingerly protect them on the airplane. I’m pretty much not allowed to come back home from either of those places without some macarons.
There are only two places that I know of, currently, in Cincinnati to get macarons. Frieda’s in Madeira has some lovely ones, and the peanut butter and jelly is truly delicious and the Bonbonerie carries them occasionally. Jean-Phillipe Solnom, the chocolatier, does them, but he doesn’t have a storefront. The newcomer, however, is Macarons by Jean-Francois, also known as Taste of Belgium. Now, macarons are not Belgian, but they are Jean-Francois’ favorite cookie, so he found a local woman who could bake them and has set up shop, selling them at their Taste of Belgium headquarters at Findlay Market, and he’s expanding around town.
Full disclosure– Jean-Francois provided these to me to test.
The macarons are packaged in gift boxes that Jean-Francois designed in order to minimize breakage. Macarons are incredibly fragile (though even tasty when broken, as The Boyfriend will attest), so the boxes that he designed holds each macaron in an individual slot, good for gift giving or just bringing them home. Very thoughtful.
There are a variety of flavors, and I got to try a few of them. To the left: lemon, chocolate, tangerine, cinnamon bun, berry and s’mores. He also has green apple, which I’ll try the next time I go to Findlay.
The lemon was my favorite, filled with a tangy lemon-curd filling. A close second was cinnamon bun, which had a cinnamon-y, vanilla ganache center. My least favorite was the s’more– it was filled with marshmallow fluff which made for an odd texture. Maybe I’m fuddy-duddy, but I like the traditional flavors better.
If you haven’t had a macaron, march yourself to Taste of Belgium to grab some. They’re great as bridal or baby shower favors, and Jean-Francois told me he had a request for using macarons instead of a wedding cake. I’d totally buy them for a dinner party instead of cupcakes or cookies; they’re a bit more sophisticated and a little different from the ubiquitous cupcake.
$2 a piece, 3 for $5, giftbox of 6 pieces for $12. They’re out until next week as their pastry chef is out of town.