Sunday, July 10, 2005

A Macaron By Any Other Name - Luxemburgerli

What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other word would smell as sweet

Like so many sweet-toothed others, if I had to pick one weakness, one gourmandise, it would have to be macarons. Which visitor to Paris hasn't made the pilgrimmage to Laduree's opulent tea salon on the Champs Elysees to gawk at their elegant pyramids of macarons, beckoning like jewels? A few very special patisseries making very special macarons hold a very special place in my modest les bonnes adresses. Gerard Mulot makes some lovely ones in traditional flavours, my favourite being the divine pistachio. For chocolate macarons, there's La Maison du Chocolat's coffee macaron with bittersweet chocolate and coffee ganache and Jean-Paul Hevin's Macaron Chocolat a l'ancienne - both houses, incidentally, were awarded "The Best Macaron in Paris" by Le Meilleur Macaron de Paris. Make no mistake about it; Parisians are so serious about their favourite le gouter indulgence they've now created the perfect excuse - an official award - to eat their way through the city's most moreish macarons and argue about their respective merits. For out-of-this-world flavours, there's Pierre Herme (in particular, the breathtaking Ispahan, with rose water flavoured macarons sandwiching a dreamy rose petal-infused cream, lychee puree and whole raspberries, and the delicious caramel au fleur de sel).

Now, scrap that. Like so many sweet-toothed others, if I had to pick one weakness, it would be the macaroon family of cookies, for macarons (or, more specifically, macarons de paris), are but one in the pantheon of ground almond cookies held together by nothing more than whipped egg whites and sugar. The perfect macaron is defined by a smooth domed top, with a delicately thin, barely resistant exterior crust that gives way under your teeth to a soft chewy interior, encircled by a craggy edge known as "the foot". This definition of perfection differs, obviously, across the spectrum of almond cookies. In Italy, Amaretti di Saronno spiked with crushed apricot kernels and wrapped in pairs, powdery Sicilian Fior di Mandorla, and Sienese Ricciarelli that's almost marzipan-like in texture, are prized for their moist, succulent chewiness. English bitter almond-flavoured ratafias are similarly beloved for their slight resilience.

As of late, thanks to W's frequent trips to Zurich, I've become acquainted with yet another confection that's different yet the same, that exhibits characteristics distinct from its Parisian counterpart yet indubitably belongs to the same family. Luxemburgerli from Confiserie Sprungli are the most ethereal little mouthfuls imaginable. In appearance, it is like a miniature Parisian macaron, not much larger than a quail's egg in size. And the top crust is just about as fragile as a quail's egg shell. Thenceforth, it departs from the Parisian paradigm by being all about friability. So how does the cookie crumble? On the tongue, the brittle shell airily dissipates as the teeth sink into a cloud-soft buttercream that manages to be feather light yet luscious.


Blogger the baker said...

now if only i could reach my hands into the computer screen and steal one of your macaroons.. ahh.. i've never really tried macaroons that look as good as those do! i am missing out on a lot am i? haha...

11:36 am, July 12, 2005  
Blogger Pille said...

This is an awful confession, but I don't think I've ever had a proper macaroon. And I have a very sweet tooth. [looking very embarrassed]
Any idea where to get good ones in the UK? Mail order? Nice shops?

2:20 am, July 19, 2005  
Blogger Joycelyn said...

hi the baker, macarons are yummy :)

hi pille, if i recall correctly, there's a branch of la maison du chocolat in london - awesome chocolate macarons :)

6:51 pm, July 20, 2005  
Blogger Pille said...

Thanks for the tip, J. Will check it out next time I'm in London. I was hoping to see some at the Plaisir du Chocolat in Edinburgh, but unfortunately they didn't have any. No problem though, as I ended up enjoying my first ever slice of Opera cake instead:)

1:27 am, July 21, 2005  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

luxemburgerli are so much better than laduree macaroons! they are the first thing I buy on arrival into zuerich.

3:26 pm, March 13, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How does one get them piped in perfect round pieces?? I have made a few batches to date and they come out perfect in taste & texture, they puff up just right, no cracks and smooth as a baby's bottom. But I just can't get them in proper regular round pieces. Is it all in the wrist? is there a trick to piping it right? Or should i do what some of the sites say and just give in to drawing 1" diameter circles on the parchment paper? halp!!!!! pls pls pls.Thnx. Meg

1:35 pm, April 29, 2007  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Luxemburgerli have spoiled me for virtually all other sweets! I've been known to route flights through Zürich so I can swoop in to the Sprüngli at the airport...sigh! Does anyone know if they ever airlift to the States? Periodically I try searching for Sprüngli, but I come up with more Lindt than Sprüngli!

10:35 am, December 05, 2007  

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