The Perfect Parisian Macarons

The Perfect Parisian Macaron

Vancouver is producing so many macarons that we have the option to be picky and choosy with them. I’m not talking about the dense American coconut macaroons, but I’m talking about the light Parisian macarons that are made with almond flour and not coconut.

It boggles my mind that they have only become popular in Vancouver in the last few years, since they’ve been around for centuries! They’re all over France, and Parisian macarons are almost their “chocolate chip cookies of America”. Here we seem to see them as a highly prized delicacy, although even in France the same has happened when it comes to their gourmet modern day macaron. It’s only the last decade or so when they started to get really creative with the flavours.

However there’s much more of a science behind these dainty cookies and there are specific things to look for when distinguishing a well made macaron from a poorly made one. On another note, even a poorly made one will likely taste delicious, since it is after all a sugary cookie.

The perfect Parisian Macaron can be forever debated as well as how authentic it is (origin from Italy or France), but for the average consumer it usually comes down to tastes, which is very personal. I’m not a professional pastry chef and I haven’t tried all of them out there, but to put things in perspective these are the things I personally look for when having a macaron.

What I look for in a Parisian Macaron:

1) Smooth shells with no cracks or bumps
2) Macarons that hold their shape and don’t fall apart when you pick them up
3) Feet (the rim or edges of a macaron)
4) A gap between the shell and the inside of the cookie (if no gap, should be still crisp)
5) A crisp thin shell that cracks like an egg shell
6) Moist, soft, tender and smooth inside with slight chew
7) Sweetness (flavour of ground almonds and not just sugar)
8 ) Filling (ratio, chocolate/buttercream/jam)
9) Quality of ingredients (natural, local, fresh or extracts)
10) Freshness/shelf life (best eaten 1.5-3 days after it’s made, not fresh or stale)
11) Size (authentic ones are bite sized, but I’m not picky about this)

Okay so I know I sound critical and maybe I am a little bit of a macaron snob… but it doesn’t mean I don’t enjoy a lot of them even if they fall short on my list of criteria. Nothing in this world is perfect, so I take what I can get, and overall the macaron scene is good in Vancouver. They are pricey, but they’re a bloody pain to make (I’ve tried – see here).

There’s nothing like a crisp macaron shell with a tender, soft and moist centre that is perfectly balanced with almonds and not just pure sugar. The more easily they melt away in your mouth, usually the more sugar they have. Sweetness in a macaron can be said to be one of the toughest challenges to balance in a macaron. I’ve always preferred chocolate ganache fillings, as opposed to buttercream, even though both are used in France. The use of jams can also aid in the flavour of a macaron. All can be good, but buttercream is the more affordable route, so when I get a chocolate one, I savour it.

I do prefer Thierry‘s use of fresh and real ingredients over Kitchening with Carly‘s natural extracts. Thierry’s macarons are larger and more affordable and Thomas Haas and Thierry do use dyes in their macarons, but so do macaron gods Pierre Hermé and Ladurée, which are both considered the institutions and models for Parisian macarons. My favourite in Vancouver so far are Soirette Macarons & Tea, but it really depends on the flavour as well as when they’re made, purchased, and eaten.

It may be seen that I’m comparing creme de la creme of macarons (which could be the case), but I encourage you to explore your options, even beyond the ones I listed.

Other (but not all) Parisian macarons in Metro Vancouver include: Stuart’s Bakery, Ganache Patisserie, Kreation Artisan Cake, Saint Germain Bakery, Bel CafeMeinhardt Fine Foods, La Baguette et L’Echalot, Urban Fare, French Made Baking, Paul Croteau Confections, Say See Bon Patisserie, The Urban Tea Merchant, Boulangerie Chopain, Chicco Cafe, Well Seasoned, Chef Kev, J’adore les Macarons, OrganicLives, and many others!

33 Comments

  • I’m addicted to these amazing treats and am trying to muster enough courage to actually try making them myself. Might have to take a cooking class first!

  • Silviu says:

    Well-made macarons do not have a gap. Good macarons will be stored in the fridge, and they also last a long time in the freezer. The markup on them is also amazing. The cost to make a macaron is less than 50 cents.

  • Linda says:

    mmmm i was hoping you’d go to laduree in NYC! i hope there’s a nice little post about it later… *hint*hint* 🙂

    i’m a major macarons snob and i love so many of them but so far, my palate is still leaning towards the ones at thierry.. i’m heading to nyc next year so i’ll make my own comparison with the ones there too 🙂

  • KimHo says:

    Macarons, along with “fusion”, cupcakes, frozen yogurt and “casual fine dining”, are one of those things that I don’t get. Is it a hype? Or it is one of those things that there is a real merit behind it? I guess, since I am not their target audience, there is nothing for me to see/check. Instead, will “celebrate” that by going to Timmy’s and order a maple bacon donut (A maple/Canadian donut plus a side of bacon).

    In terms of Vancouver, what I wonder if it will stick or it is becoming an oversaturated market. After all, macarons seem to be popular with a limited market segment and you can have only that may places producing them.

    Silviu, as a (former) fellow blogger who have had to “bite” into the food to be able to show “where is the beef”, if you can suggest an easy way to show how the food looks inside, by all means, let us know!

  • Patricia says:

    Since you know so much about macaron places in Vancouver. Would you happen to know where in Vancouver you can learn how to make them?
    There is a place in Toronto, but the class is sold out to Nov.

  • whiners says:

    Patricia, vancouver pastry school offers a one day course on macarons.. here’s their site http://www.vancouverpastryschool.com/pastry-bakery-courses/serious-pastry-classes/

  • Mijune says:

    @Stay-At-Home=Chef – They take forever to make! But good luck and kudos for trying!!! I rather buy them lol

    @Silviu – Hi there! I would have to respectfully disagree. The gap doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a “good” or “bad” macaroni, I just prefer a gap. As long as it has a crisp exterior it’s a good macaron. That’s why I stressed in my post these are “personally” things I look for. And personally I think the mark up is reasonable because they take a long time to make. I’ve tried before… and some places use all natural ingredients which will cost even more. Labour is money as well…. so even though their expensive I can see why. Thanks for your comment though.

    @Linda – yes I will have a NYC post! 🙂 I think I may have been a bit tough on Thierry’s but the texture was soft throughout and there should be a textural contrast between the shell and inside… so I’ll have to try them again 🙂

    @Kim – Everything will have it’s hype… even doughnuts are becoming a revived trend.. along with pies and chocolate chip cookies… all food gets hyped. It’s just probably not your thing though which is fine… pork belly is though! Pork belly is hyped too! Delicious… but hyped. There’s a market for everything. You should come to New York and see how many freaking cupcake places there are.. you think how can it sustain!? But I guess they do… it’s infested with cupcakes here.

    @Patricia – hope the links help!

    @Linda @Whiners – thank you for helping! 🙂

  • Nikki says:

    I actually tried Carly’s macarons for the first time today (what a coincidence!) and I have to say they are amazing. Although I haven’t tried Thierry’s before, I love the delicate texture of Carly’s, particularly the super thin outer shell. And the flavours! My favourite so far is Carly’s almond macaron with rosemary salted caramel and vanilla cream.

    Macarons everywhere are expensive, but I agree with you Mijune – not worth the trouble trying to make the finicky things!

  • David says:

    Thanks for the link Mijune! Seizing the opportunity to let you know I’ll be opening my French bakery and macarons shop soon, probably before the end of the year, and I’m planning on offering classes in 2012, if you’re interested in taking a Level 2 macaron class after the one you took last year 😉

  • Mijune says:

    @Nikki – I love that one too!!! That was my fav! The Almond macaron with rosemary salted caramel 🙂 Yum! Glad you liked Nikki! Let me know what you think of Thierry’s!

  • Hi Mijune:

    hope you’ll get a chance to try the macarons from J’adore les Macarons. They are made with secrets from Paris and made with the finest ingredients like Valrhona chocolate from France and come in very unique flavors.

    Be sure to look for us at the http://www.bakersmarket.com starting in Oct. – Dec. 2011.

    Thanks!

  • If you’re looking for a Macaron baking class, there will be one on Sept.21 in Vancouver.

    there are 2 spots left.

  • Anna says:

    Mmm. I know how to make those, succeeded after 4 tries. I would suggest trying the Italian Meringue method (though the french one is faster) if you want less chance of failure (shells turn out good-looking), but everybody has their own opinion on which is better/easier. I’ve tried both and I say: just make sure you know how your mixture should look like….
    People say that the hardest part is the macaronage, while part of that is true, I believe that a good meringue is equally as important.

    As for the “gap”, I do prefer a macaron without a gap (though I’ve always ended up with gaps). honestly, if you bit into one with a gap, you wouldn’t notice it much :\ The most important is that the macaron is cooked through.

    Thanks Mijune! I look forward to your future posts!

  • Carly says:

    Hey all! Liking the discussion here. Great post Mijune and I enjoyed our dialoguing on “the gap” front as well as general texture etc.

    Silviu – Yes, it can at first seem off that perhaps the apparent INGREDIENT cost doesn’t match the price you pay at the store, but of course, ingredient costs doesn’t equal cost overall. Time is key here and also skill.

    Let’s put another item in the “what I look for” list. How about those macaron feet? In France, we were taught that they should grow vertically while baking rather than horizontally (flying saucer look).

    You know, I have to admit, I’m enjoying my own research of trying macarons around the city. All in the line of duty 🙂

  • Steve says:

    Who has a good French Macaroon recipe please e-mail me 🙁
    thank you very much~

  • Mijune says:

    @Mademoiselle Macaron – thanks! I will ad your link to my post as well! Congratulations!!

    @Anna – oh see I always like the little gap because it gives me that additional crispness! but thank you for sharing your methods! Kudos to you for trying so many methods on making them at home! 🙂

    @Carly – Thanks for the “feet” tip Carly!! You’re great! Loved out talk about macarons as well! You research because you’re passionate and care! I totally respect that and thanks for improving our macaron world! 🙂

    @Steve – I have one in my post for “Stuart’s Bakery”… you can click on the link above following “Other (but not all) Parisian macarons in Metro Vancouver include:…”

  • Nikki says:

    Hi Mijune, I tried Thierry’s macarons and I must say, Carly’s are still the winner. While his were still tasty, they seemed much less refined: too sweet, and they lacked that requisite delicate shell. You’re right, they’re a little too chewy/heavy and not delicate enough. As well, some of the lighter fruit flavours (the blackberry one in particular) had a funny aftertaste that only happens when too much food colouring is added in. While the bright colours are really fun to look at (especially when they have them in such an impressive display case!), it’s no good when it starts affecting the flavour. I also prefer Carly’s flavour combinations, which I found more unexpected.

    Now I’ll have to try Thomas Haas’! Obviously for research purposes.

  • Mijune says:

    @nikki – well looks like we’re on the same page! I do love Carly’s (hi Carly! if you’re reading this)… but I do like pistachio paste and the fruit flavours to have real fruit in them and that’s the only aspect that makes me slightly keen to Thierry’s flavours sometimes.. not all the time… but some of them. i totally appreciate Carly’s use of all natural ingredients and extracts, but I just sometime prefer the real fruit flavour as oppose to natural extract. Thanks Nikki for commenting! continue the research and we’ll discuss back on here 🙂

  • Bo Nobouti says:

    ironically, I wouldn’t have known or cared about macarons and petit-fours if it wasn’t for Gossip Girl, the show mentions them following Blair’s return ifrom Paris (season 4 i believe–so around this postings’ date) and since then, I have been trying my best to get my hands on some. I wish they were even more popular so you could get them anywhere including any starbucks or something because us folks living in the burbz dont want to have to come into vancouver everytime we feel like having teas and macarons. sigh.

    anyways, i really want to try the macarons made by Carly. maybe this weekend.

  • Mijune says:

    @Bo Nobouti – there’s actually a lot of options for them now! What area are you in? maybe I can help! Carly is located in the suburbs by the way! PS: I remember that episode 🙂

  • Bo Nobouti says:

    i actually recently had some macarons from sugar patisserie in cloverdale, bc.
    they were pretty good. they had pistachio macarons and nutella/hazelnut/chocolate ones. had them with some margaritas–they were definitely worth the wait.

    ps. love this blog.

  • Mijune says:

    @Bo Nobouti – wow! I’m honoured! Thank you so much for reading and following along! Thank you for telling my readers about Sugar Patisserie! I will have to check that out myself one day! Pistachio macarons is probably my favourite flavour!

  • Jo says:

    Hello
    great article, with really intersting details.
    According to me the best macarons in Vancouver are the one made by Chef Paulin Calot for Gourmand Macaron and Pastries.
    I think they have now a website: http://www.gourmand-macaron.com
    I have tried all, and they are delicious

  • Sergio says:

    I wish Vancouver is not so far away from Toronto. That way we could share our macarons.

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