Friday, October 19, 2007

Paulette's Macarons

As mentioned in my previous entry, 1 of the highlights of our trip to LA, aside from visiting dear Livie, was
Paulette's macarons.

Originally, Liv and I had intended to do a French macaroon tour to see how other shops' macaroons compare to my homemade ones, but due to the timing, we only managed 2 shops (not including Jin's that was counted for during my last trip) 1 of which is not worth mentioning for the poor quality quarter-sized macaroons. Although I did receive the latter for free from the smiley plump baker. You're such a sweetheart dear baker but the maccies just don't cut it. Next time I'll try your tarts instead.

Paulette's macaroons however, is worth an entry. The shoe-box store with its modern interior and white walls is intriguing mostly because unlike other boulangeries, it specializes only in French macaroons. Through the clear windows, 1 is immediately exposed to the focal point of the store: a glass casing lined with macaroons of 13 different colors and flavors.

Upon setting foot into the store the bf started jumping around as if by queue, asking Paulette questions like: What method do you use to make your macaroons? Do you know Danielle makes macaroons in SF? Would you like to try some of her macaroons and see if you like them? Are you sure you don't want to try her macaroons? They're in the car!

While Liv gave her usual disapproving "tsk tsk," I couldn't do anything to hide the shade of scarlet on my face, and so instead decided on a 12-piece box of macaroons.

To give you some background, Paulette's is a collaboration between Paulette herself, a very pretty woman mind you, and Christophe Michalak who was the winner of 2005 Coupe du Monde de la p√Ętisserie. The macaroon packaging is feminine, modern and printed with soy-based ink (such a Californian thing!). And the macaroons themselves are made (because the bf asked) using the traditional French method. Not just the mixing of ground almond flour with stiff egg whites, but sandwiched in between with
ganache as well.

From left: Columbian coffee, violet cassis, lemon, raspberry, sweet wedding almond, peach, vanilla bean, New Orleans praline, tropical, coconut, and chocolate

Some might argue that waaay back in the day, macaroons were just fused together upon coming out of the oven with no filling at all. But ganache, a mixture of chocolate, white or dark, with heavy cream and other flavorings, has been the popular macaroon-filling in Paris for many years following that.

I'm not obnoxious enough to think that my macaroons are better than Paulette's especially since I'm only an amateur in comparison. But being a baker myself, I couldn't help but place 1-1 together and compare the differences.

Paulette's macaroon and Macarune macaroon

So here goes:

Compared to Macarune macaroons, Paulette's are flatter in shape but overall similar in diameter. They are mainly flatter because the filling is scarcer and tends to collapse in between the shells causing them to be less visible.

Macaroons up close

Paulette's macaroons are also more cake-like in texture compared to Macarune macaroons, in that every bite is less chewy and softer on the palate. Those who have tried Macarune macaroons would know that they're crisp and light with just a slight chewy texture. Another distinct difference is that Macarune macaroons are, as most of you know, filled with traditional French or Italian buttercream unless ganache is called for through customer customization or if the order specifically notes ganache on the menu.

Violet macaroon innard with violet ganache and cassis jam

I can only imagine being yelled at by the French for filling my macaroons with buttercream instead of the beloved ganache but I do love the velvety texture of buttercream between the crisp yet chewy shells. And buttercream provides more robust flavors with each bite compared to ganache which sometimes leave a grainy indistinguishable texture in your mouth.

Through much research and development, I think I will stick with buttercream for the purpose of flavor and texture. There is novelty in both methods but as flavor comes first in everything I bake, I don't mind the additional steps taken to make buttercream. With the sweetness 1 experiences with macaroons, it's important that they don't all taste like merely sweet with no flavor after a while. And if it means more furious whisking with my Kitchenaid and being permanently dependent on my candy thermometer, so be it.

As Chef Jordan Kahn who came up with the liquid sable would say, I'm not reinventing anything. Neither did I come up with the idea of sandwiching buttercream in between macaroon shells. But this is just the "evolution of food," and if it works for the palate, it should work for Macarune.

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