Friday 1 February 2013

Reasons to be cheerful Part 1: Love, Laughter and Ladurée

Thank goodness we are into February and the unhappiest day of the year is behind us.  Blue Monday has been and gone so the only way is up. My guaranteed happiness formula is a box of macarons from Ladurée and watching old Hollywood musicals - preferably together. Nothing raises my spirits more than watching Fred Astaire, Gene Kelly et al effortlessly tapdancing their way into the hearts of their paramours - it's style, soul and sunshine all the way.

Swing Time 1936

How elegant and classy do Fred and Ginger look?

Photo: Peter Iovino/The Weinstein Company

Jean Dujardin and Bérenice Béjo were toe-tappingly perfect as Georges Valentin and Peppy Miller in "The Artist".  An exhilarating re-incarnation of the heyday of Hollywood - sheer joy.

As tapdancing is to Hollywood, so Ladurée macarons are to Paris. I know there are other makes, but these are the ones for me. The flavours, the colours, the texture, the shops, the packaging, it's all just spot on, and if you get the chance to taste one you won't regret it. They are also the perfect bite size, refined and sophisticated - the Fred and Ginger of the patisserie world.

Very cleverly, there is now a whole Ladurée empire: beauty products, candles, home fragrances, perfumes, confectionery - each item as delectable and desirable as the next. by

I first tasted these 'gourmandises' when I lived in Paris as a student many years ago and now I am lucky enough to have a Ladurée shop in nearby downtown Geneva. English Gent treats me on special occasions as they are fiendishly expensive, so I thought if Lorraine Pascale can do it, then I'd have a go myself.  (Small difference, she's a trained patisserie chef with her own TV show and I'm not). Here's her recipe from "Baking Made Easy". You will need a piping bag fitted with a 1cm/½in nozzle.




 Preparation method

  1. Preheat the oven to 170/C/325F/Gas 5 and line a large baking tray with baking paper.
  2. Put the icing sugar, ground almonds and 40g/1½oz egg whites together in a large bowl and mix to a paste.
  3. Put the water and caster sugar in a small pan and heat gently to melt the sugar, then turn up the heat and boil until the mixture starts to go syrupy and thickens - I don’t use a thermometer but if you prefer to use one, it should read 115C/239F at this stage.
  4. Whisk the remaining 50g/2oz egg whites in a small bowl until medium-stiff peaks form when the whisk is removed from the bowl, then pour in the sugar syrup, whisking until the mixture becomes stiff and shiny. For coloured macaroons, add a few drops of food colouring. Tip this meringue mixture into the almond paste mixture and stir gently until the becomes stiff and shiny again.
  5. Spoon into the piping bag. Pipe a little mixture under each corner of the baking paper to stop it sliding around. With the bag held vertically, pipe 4cm/1½in flat circles onto the lined tray, about 2cm/¾in apart, twisting the bag after each one. The mixture should be quite loose to give a smooth finish. The piping will leave a small ‘tip’ on each circle so, when they’re all piped, give the tray 2–3 slams on a flat surface to flatten them.
  6. Leave to stand for 30 minutes to form a skin then bake in the oven for 12–15 minutes with the door slightly ajar until firm. Remove from the oven, lift the paper off the baking tray and leave the macaroons to cool on the paper.
  7. When cool, sandwich the macaroons together with whipped cream. They can be kept for a couple of days, if they hang around that long!

Three attempts later, and feeling just a tiny bit pleased with myself, I think I've cracked it. Here are the results, using yellow paste food colouring and lemon curd filling.

My top tips would be to use food colouring paste (eg Sugarflair), because you don't want the final mixture to be too runny, (warning - it's a messy process getting it into the piping bag!) and you must mix (with a spatula or spoon, don't be tempted to use the beaters) the meringue into the almond paste and not the other way round as it totally ruins the consistency. I also had to beat my meringues and sugar syrup for a good 5 minutes to stiffen it up.  Next up I'm going to try to make pale pink ones with a rosewater cream filling, and dark pink red with a raspberry jam/cream filling. I'll report back.

Now as I settle down to watch "An American in Paris", I couldn't resist putting my own macarons into an old Ladurée box. Cheeky I know and with full apologies, but I swear it makes them taste even better...

1 comment:

BigSis said...

Laduree eat your heart out! These look amazing. What are your shipping costs?!!