Macaron magic

Tout Sweet Patisserie in San Francisco just added Exotic Banana Macarons to its menu in December.

Similar to the flavor explosion spawned by America’s cupcake craze a decade ago, French macarons are the new platform for widespread experimentation of unique flavor combinations in the dessert world. Tropical fruits, teas, espressos, liqueurs and other bold flavors are making their way into macaron fillings, and customers appear hungry for more. Macarons are one of the hottest trends going at bakeries and patisseries.

This meringue-based confectionery is made from a mixture of egg whites, almond powder, icing sugar and sugar. They are filled with creams or ganache. Traditional French macarons date back nearly 400 years to the 1660 wedding of King Louis XIV of France and Marie Therese.

San Francisco’s Tout Sweet Pâtisserie— a partnership between Top Chef Just Desserts winner Yigit Pura and Taste Catering and Event Planning’s co-owners, MeMe Pederson and Janet Griggs — features macarons in flavors such as Aztec spiced chocolate and Raspberry and Wu Long Rouge Tea.

In Seattle, pastry chef/owner Neil Robertson of Crumble & Flake Patisserie is pushing the envelope of macaron magic with unusual flavors derived from everything from aged balsamic to black currants or lavender.

Chicago’s Bennison’s Bakery unveiled new holiday flavors for the Christmas season, including gingerbread and egg nog.

So it is anything but plain to see that plain flavors of macarons may no longer cut it with today’s consumers, who more often are seeking out adventure in their desserts and flocking to bakeries and patisseries that satisfy their cravings for unique flavor combinations.
JOHN UNREIN

Fun flavors of macarons across the nation

Bennison’s Bakery ― Chicago
Gingerbread
Egg nog
Salted caramel
Rose
Passion fruit

Crumble & Flake ― Seattle
Grapefruit
Milk chocolate and lavender
Pistachio and cherry
Strawberry cheesecake
Black currant and violet

Cupcakes Cubed ― Dallas
Snickerdoodle
Cotton Candy
Orange Dreamcicle
Espresso
German Chocolate

La Maison du Macaron ― New York City
Lemon champagne
Fig and aged sweet cherry balsamic
Apple calvados
Banana bread
Poached pear red wine

Macaron Queen ―Atlanta
Mango white chocolate
Peanut butter
Grand Marnier
Orange Blossom
Pomegranate

Tout Sweet Patisserie ― San Francisco
Tahitian vanilla bean
Pearl jasmine
Apricot and St. Germain liqueur
Aztec spiced chocolate
Raspberry and Wu Long Rouge Tea

How to do it right

According to Serious Eats, the following are key attributes to consider when aspiring for perfection in making classic French macarons.

A shell texture that is crisp but not dry, smooth and not at all gritty, and ringed by that perfect crumble near the center (called the "foot").

Filling texture should be consistent and not too hard.

Flavor includes how sugary or artificial the cookie tastes, as well as how distinct each flavor is.

Aesthetics takes into account color, texture, how well-assembled they are, whether the cookies are cracked, and whether the filling is evenly distributed.

Value weighs the quality of the macarons against their price tag.