14 December 2006


A macaron is a French confection, one which has little to do with the coconut macaroons that we Americans associate with the word (although the word derives from the French, and the cookies are related within several generations).

The thing is, for some strange reason, I had never yet tasted one of these delectable creations, but due to their cuteness, gracefulness of form--smooth rounded top! ruffled inner layer! satisfying symmetry!-- and compelling variations in color, I had been longing to try some. I had seen them in Paris and in Brussels, often in chocolate shops or in fancy cake shops, so I was guessing they had to be something special.

But perhaps subconsciously I was putting it off, because in my experience it is often the case that the pastries and cookies that are the best looking end up being the worst tasting, or too bland, or at least not what you expected. (Case in point: In Porto last week I bought a huge pastry dusted with powdered sugar--for only thirty cents!--that looked like it was going to be a fluffy chocolate thing, but instead turned out to be a dense Christmas-style gingerbread. Still tasty, but definitely not what I was expecting.)

So Sunday after church, when we headed to Au Bouquet Romain, a posh coffee/chocolate shop decorated in hot pinks and oranges, and I spied macarons in the window, the moment had come. We ordered four, each about the size of a dollar coin. One was an intense pink color, almost maroon (hah! a maroon macaroon!), another deep chocolate brown so there was no mistaking what its flavor would be, another a light brown, and finally a sorbet orange.

I thought they would be crunchy, like merengues or other cookies, but instead after the delicate crunch of the thin crust, the inside was dense and gooey, and then the filling even denser, giving the whole thing an incredibly satisfying texture. And the flavor! Each one was an intense double-burst of flavorings: rasberry, dark chocolate, mocha, and orange. Like gelatto, the flavor seem to be intensified by the texture, and probably the visuals had something to do with it as well.

I've looked into recipes for making my own macarons, but it appears that I lack the equipment: mixer, food processor, etc. Plus, I encountered warnings of how difficult it is to make them correctly. So I'll just have to be satisfied--oh, so satisfied!--with stopping by Au Bouquet Romain during the day when the store above the coffee shop is open and they give away free samples (and then buying a few to tuck into later).

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