For those of you who may not have a chance to experience Paris in the spring time this year, there are still ways to celebrate this spring’s sweetness and color in small, tasty, little bites. The delicate confection of the French macaron has made its way stateside. Blooming all around us—it’s macaron madness. The colors and lightness can be found on bakery shelves, pastry stands and cafes where this light and decadent cookie offers a bit of hope and optimism.
Although the history of the macaron is still under debate, some of the most popular re-tellings include its first appearance in Italy, cooked up by Catherine de Medici’s personal chef, but following her marriage to the Duc d’Orleans, who went on to become the king of France, the cookies were refined and made popular there.
From Paris to New York and onward…
In New York, there are many places in which you can find these colorful treats. One of the most famous, “Laduree”—which first established itself as a “tea room” in Paris in the 1860’s, and which rumor has it, truly established the French macaron as we know it today in America—two small, round cookies held together with a sweet filling. The cookies here are authentic to Paris, as are the price.
Thomas Keller’s Bouchon Bakery, which has multiple locations in New York, and a motto mentioning, “It’s all about memories,” prominently features a larger version of the cookies in its cases in a rainbow of colors and flavors. Although some purists may complain the size is an issue, they are still one of the most popular things on the menu. As Bouchon Bistros have opened up in Beverly Hills, Yountville and Las Vegas, there are other places to find the treats.
A French Classic
Dave Crofton, Co-Owner and Chef of “One Girl Cookies,” in Brooklyn, works to keep the window display interesting and seasonal—and this means macarons prominently displayed as spring rings in. “Cookies in general tend to be not as colorful, so we find them fun…that extra color in the macarons makes you feel even more hopeful,” he says. The bakery is currently collaborating with Kate Spade on a collection of gift boxes of French macarons. They’re also offering a French Macaron class in April to, “learn a fool-proof version of this French classic.”
“They’re pretty fragile and don’t have a huge shelf-life, so we don’t always have them in the café. But, we love them, and love to make them,” Crofton says, adding with a light and joking laugh, “It’s okay to like the French again!”
“They’re seen as somewhat decadent, but really they’re not. It’s almond flour, confectioners sugar… handle them gingerly as you’re making them or they won’t rise the way you want them to. It takes skill and patience.” Crofton says.
For those celebrating the Jewish holiday of Passover, also taking place in the early spring, another type of macaroon, the American type—with two “o’s”– offers a respite from some of the other less-desired Passover fare. Often made with chocolate, vanilla or coconut, these cookies are much less delicate, but are very easy to make and enjoy. They too can be found in bakeries and homes around the country, and often evoke fond flashbacks.
And for those of you who may be dieting and love to look but can’t eat, the Paper Source in Brooklyn (or online) is serving up plenty of non-caloric macarons in the form of giant paper-made ones in the window display, and inside, macaron-themed gifts from colorful gift-wrapping, aprons, magnets, books, pot holders, books and more depicting these confections.
“Maybe you’ve been to France, and this will allow you to have that great memory come back. You’re transported. Just saying the word, ‘macaron’ makes people happy,” Crofton reminds us.
For those who want to indulge asap but don’t necessarily have the time or skill to make them yourself, either head out to buy, or take the simpler, alternative, yet still tasty route and try this American Macaroon recipe courtesy of “One Girl Cookies”:
Makes about 36 Macaroons
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
2 ½ cups unsweetened shredded coconut
¾ cup sugar
¼ cup Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/8 teaspoon table salt
2 large egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1.Preheat the over to 350 degrees F.
2.Put the chocolate chips in a microwave-safe bowl and heat on high for one minute. Stir, and then heat for another minute until completely melted.
3.In a large bowl, combine the coconut, sugar, cocoa powder, and salt. Stir to combine.
4.In a small bowl, thoroughly mix the egg whites and vanilla with a fork. Stir the egg whites into the coconut mixture. Add the melted chocolate chips to the batter, and mix with a rubber spatula to combine.
5.Using a small cookie scoop or spoon, scoop out small rounds of dough—about 1 ½ tablespoons each—onto a parchment-lined baking sheet, leaving 1 inch between cookies. Using your fingertips, shape each cookie into a neat, little dome. If the batter is too sticky, wash your hands thoroughly and leave them a bit wet.
6.Bake the cookies for 12 minutes, or until they are slightly crisp on the outside but still soft inside. Do not overbake. Transfer the macaroons to a wire rack and let them cool completely.