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MACARON MADNESS: An in-depth look at Ladureé as the exquisite snack staple

Forget chocolate chip cookies. Macarons are the way to go, if you know which kind we’re talking about. During a recent trip to the city that never sleeps, DAMANPREET went to heaven and back when he paid a visit to a little macaron shop known as Ladurée. He vividly recounts that experience:

Ladurée, the Parisian bakery renowned for being  the one and only macaron powerhouse, has finally set up shop in the United States. Should we be excited?

Just to clarify: Ladurée’s macarons are not to be confused with the more familiar coconut macaroons. These macarons consist of two small, almond flour based cookies with, traditionally, a filling of buttercream or jam. Recently, bakeries specializing in macarons have been popping up around the country, and these heavenly little cookies have slowly been taking foodies by storm. These unassuming pastries are more than just a glorified cookie–they are sweets at a whole new level. They are as much about the bright colors and unusual flavors as they are about representing perfection in the form of a cookie.

Before Ladurée opened a few weeks ago in New York City, La Maison du Chocolat arguably dominated the gourmet macaron market. Instead of filling its macarons with the same flavoring that is in the cookie, as is done traditionally, La Maison du Chocolat filled its macarons almost exclusively with chocolate ganache. Thomas Keller’s casual bakery-cafe chain, Bouchon Bakery, specialized in innovative flavors (pumpkin cheesecake and carrot cake, among others) and a larger-than-usual size. While none of these (and there are many others) disappointed, Ladurée, where the original recipe was apparently created, was long-awaited. The macarons did not disappoint. They have the same filling as the flavor of the cookie, and were of the traditional size. They have the airy, melt-in-the-mouth texture Bouchon perhaps lacks (but makes up for in its flavors and size), and, of course, they have the Ladurée name. We decided to go with a selection of their more classic flavors in our sampling to see whether Ladurée lives up to the hype.

Even though these little beauties are very expensive ($2.70 for a macaron), everything adds up at the end–from the box to the bag to the experience of being in the shop, the $2.70 is well worth the macaron magic.

Chocolate: A+

This was the first flavor we tried. Perfect for the dark chocolate lover, the ganache at the center of the subtle cookies is extremely smooth and rich. As promised, the cookies are airy but substantial, rich but not really. It’s almost too hard to finish the macaron once you’re up to the last bite, but it’s also too hard to resist.

 Pistachio: A

Being that we’re suckers for pistachios in any form, it’s no surprise that these very extremely satisfying. The real pistachio bits in the cookie emphasized the freshness and authenticity of the ingredients, and the pistachio ganache was a delicate reminder of the pistachio without being overpowering.

Coffee: A-

At first bite, it’s hard to place the coffee flavor, especially if you’ve sunk so deeply into a macaron coma that you can no longer think (something like this happened to us). But after the first bite, the coffee flavor completely blossoms and is soft and not too sweet.

Caramel with Salted Butter: A+

Very buttery, and the caramel is rich and smooth and the perfect glue for these dignified little pastries. The salted butter cuts the sweetness of the caramel just enough to prevent the caramel from taking over the flavor of the cookie. We’re suckers for salt on desserts, so this was a very, very welcome new flavor. The only problem was that after a few days, the caramel began to melt and stick to the box. (But that’s just more of a reason to eat them all right away.)

It was hard for us to discern which was better than the other in this box of utter heaven, but chocolate does come out first for us. The right amount of bitterness, sweetness, and utter chocolatiness of this macaron won us over. We’d do anything for a box of 18 chocolate macarons? (An early birthday present, perhaps?)

 Ladurée, as well as La Maison du Chocolat (and fine, Bouchon’s “innovative” macarons as well), themselves all make a trip to New York City well worth it. Ladurée is a welcome addition to the macaron line-up we here across the pond now have to offer. Here’s to hoping for a Boston shop opening soon.

– Damanpreet Pelia

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