Okay, maybe only scoot a over just a little, cupcake. . . we’ll always love you and your mini counterpart: your delicious cakey goodness, sometimes filled with a whipped cream or haupia surprise, always topped with rich frosting and happiness-evoking multi-colored sprinkles and adornments. You will always be our childhood, birthday, and pick-me-up-any-time-of-the-day favorite.
But the French Macaron! With it’s crunchy outside shell, soft, chewy center, and deliciously-flavored filling! is. . . irresistible.
The history of the French macaron adds intrigue to this delicate sandwich sweet. According to CAKE WORKS’s Pastry Chef, Abi Langlas, the cookie portion of the macaron–made of meringue and ground almond meal–has been around since at least the 1800s. It was in the early 1900s (according to Ladurée) that Pierre Defontaines, a cousin of the Ladurée family (think old French family, fancy tea salon in turn-of-the-century Paris, and modern-day purveyors of the macaron) “first thought of taking two macaron shells and joining them with a delicious ganache filling.”
On Chef Abi’s most recent trip to Paris this past February, she attended the La Coupe du Monde de Pâtisserie–the World Cup of pastry, if you will–where she saw that “French macarons were everywhere!” In the last few years, macarons have been on fire: one can find them now in almost every patisserie in Paris, they are wildly popular in San Francisco and most of California, and are increasingly featured as favors or in dessert bars at parties and weddings. Chef Abi began making them here at CAKE WORKS when she returned from Paris this spring.
Our current offering of flavors include Chocolate, Green Tea, Strawberry Guava, Liliko’i, and the all-time favorite: Caramel with a dreamy caramel sea salt filling (taste buds: salivate). Now, for you die-hard foodies, Chef Abi will get a bit into the mechanics of the macaron. She learned how to make them years ago when she attended culinary school at Westminster College in London. The macaron, a French sandwich cookie, is available in a plethora of colors and flavors. The cookie is made out of a meringue–a whipped egg white and sugar concoction, along with almond meal. The fillings are versatile, and usually are a fine matching of flavors between the filling and cookie; they can consist of jam, buttercream, or chocolate ganache. Macarons are the result of a sophisticated process–Chef Abi starts with an Italian meringue, which differs from a simple meringue in that it is cooked. In an Italian meringue, the eggwhites and sugar mixtures must be added at the exact moment when they are just the right consistency and temperature. No sooner. No later. Otherwise you risk cookies that are too flat, or bumpy. The mixture is then hand-piped, requiring the same amount of exactness (because no one really wants to eat a mis-matched macaron right?). They are baked and cooled. And then are filled with just the right amount of creamy goodness. Sometimes you will find an added treat inside, as in the case of the Strawberry Guava–a chunk of guava gel, or in the Liliko’i–a dollop of liliko’i curd, hiding beneath all that the buttercream goodness.
But, not too much, says our chef. A good macaron is crispy on the outside, chewy on the inside, and has just enough filling to give everything a good flavor. Chef Abi adorns our macarons with dark or white chocolate striping, a dusting of gold, or powdered sugar. Our macarons are great with tea or coffee, or dessert wine. Or a sip of enough lemon-infused water so you can clear your palette for the next flavor!
Come in to the shop to have one. Or a few. Or if you have a potluck gathering, take a box, your coworkers will love you for it. If you have a larger event, be sure to call us in advance for bigger orders. Custom build-your-own (within reason!) flavors or mini macarons can be ordered at a minimum of 3 dozen. They are stylishly sweet as a wedding favor, or you can create a rainbow of them for a dessert bar.
CAKE WORKS French Macarons are the perfect mignardise–little sweets and desserts, typically served at the end of a meal. But you don’t need to wait. . . Be decadent like the rest of us and have them whenever you want, as many times as you want, all throughout the day!Writing, food photographs, and styling by Trish Tolentino. Photos of Ladurée storefront and Chef Abi and friends by Abi Langlas.