The colorful and delicious macarons

Posted on Apr 11 2014 - 2:44pm by IBC News Bureau

Any New York City guide will tell you to try out the famous cheesecake named after the city, or perhaps suggest the always-trendy cupcakes. But more recently, it’s a dainty little French dessert that has been creating a buzz in the Big Apple. We’re talking about macarons, not to be confused with the commonly-available, coconut-laced biscuits called macaroons. A traditional French macaron, in contrast, comprises of two almond cookies that are held together by a filling of butter cream, ganache or jam.

The perfect macaron has to be baked with the right blend of finely-ground almonds, powdered sugar and egg whites. It needs to be airy rather than dense, and melt-in-your-mouth rather than chewy. It has to have the right balance between being crisp yet moist, so that the cookies are distinct from the filling inside without being dry and flaky. Unlike most cookies, a macaron is not just about the sugar rush, but about the combination of its distinctive flavour and the nutty taste of the almonds.

The macaron in its current avatar is most famously associated with the Parisian bakery Laduree, which claims to have discovered the idea of creating this sandwich cookie in the mid-20th century. More recently, their macarons even had a starring role in Sofia Coppola’s 2006 film Marie Antoinette. Luckily for those of us who don’t live in the French capital, Laduree now has branches in major cities across the world.

For these reasons, a visit to its Upper East Side outlet (the first and until recently, the only branch of the bakery in the city) was on my agenda during a recent trip to New York City. Even if the colourful display of piles of macarons stacked up in Laduree’s windows doesn’t melt calorie-counting visitors, then their taste surely will. There are classic flavours like caramel, praline, pistachio, rose and vanilla; fruity versions such as orange blossom and tangy lemon; and decadent variations in cognac, chocolate and coffee. There are long lines, but everything seems worth the wait when you savour the first macaron. The gentle crunch of the cookie gives way to the filling, and then both come together to create an exquisite symphony inside your mouth. The perfect place to relish them is Central Park, only a short walk away. I relished my little bag of macarons amidst other picnickers on a summer afternoon, and was soon back at Laduree for more.

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