It's been almost two years now since my husband and I spent time exploring the streets of Paris, but that trip will go down in my book as one of the most memorable vacations I've ever taken. I had been warned ahead of time that we'd likely run into at least one large-scale protest during our travels, but I was somewhat unprepared for opération escargot. On June 11th the taxi and metro drivers spent the day protesting the rise of Uber, subsequently shutting down most forms of travel in and out of the city for the day and requiring armed guards to be stationed outside of every Airport, RER, and Metro station—as well as throughout the city center—just in case of trouble. This of course happened on the one day we wanted to actually leave Paris and travel down to Normandy a few days after the 75th anniversary of D-Day.
Traveling to Normandy was an adventure, to say the least, but we made it! Along the way I made fast friends with a number of people and subsequently impressed my husband with my ability to carry on a conversation in three different languages at the same time (and lets be honest, I even impressed myself a little because my Japanese is rusty at best and my French never has been great.) This great feat is something my husband still brings up every time we talk about our trip, while also mentioning his inability to understand how I can possibly make friends with everyone I meet almost instantly (he may have left our lunch table for 5 minutes, only to come back to me swapping kisses and business cards with everyone from our tour group—some of which I still hear from occasionally.)
What can I say, I'm a bit of a social butterfly—even my family has no idea where it comes from—but for me, the best part of travel has always been the people I meet along the way.
After all of the excitement from our sojourn outside of the city I decided to spend a day shopping on the Place de la Madeleine. I had decided that while I was in Paris I was going to make it my personal mission to singlehandedly (melt my credit card) and put an end to the debate about who makes the best macaron in Paris—Fauchon, Pierre Hermé, or Ladurée. At the end of the day I picked up "samples" from all three shops and spent the evening conducting my taste test. I couldn't come up with a clear winner, each shop had its merits, but I will say that Pierre Hermé is definitely the place to go if you're looking for less traditional flavor combinations.
It was shortly after our trip to Paris that I heard that there would be a new Pierre Hermé cookbook released in the US—dedicated to Macarons. I was excited when I finally was able to get my hands on a copy (courtesy of the publisher)—the photography is absolutely stunning and the flavor combinations are just as mouthwatering as I remember from my trip to France. The first section is dedicated to more traditional flavors like chocolat, vanille, café, and framboise (raspberry.) Then there are the "new classics": rose, caramel à la fleur de sel, and pistache (pistachio) to name a few. As well as "fétish" flavor combinations such as Chloé (shown on the front cover) which is a half chocolate, half raspberry delight filled with a chocolate-raspberry ganache. The list of flavors just goes on and on—there's something for everyone in this book—but I have to admit that I find the recipes a bit intimidating.
I'm a fairly seasoned baker, but making macarons is a very time-intense project and the recipes yield roughly 72 per batch or 144 shells total—much more than the average individual could possibly eat while they're still fresh. This isn't a book for the faint of heart or a novice baker, but the recipes and ingredient lists are very detailed. There's even a pull-out step-by-step illustrated guide in the pack of the book that makes following the recipes fairly straightforward.
One thing that's important to note: there are a lot of specialty ingredients in the more modern recipes. Items such as Valrhona Cacao Paste, Sarawak Black Peppercorns, or Espelette Chilli can easily be found online, although since they're imported they will cost a pretty penny.
Overall this book is everything I had hoped it would be, although until I can work up the courage to tackle some of the more advanced recipes I'll be leaving it out on my coffee table—it's a great conversation starter and the photos, as I mentioned before, are absolutely stunning.
Where to Purchase
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This book was sent to me for review by Stewart, Tabori and Chang for review purposes. As always, all opinions are my own.