Let’s get something out of the way from the get-go: the extra “o” was not inadvertently left off. The spelling is not a typo. Macarons are not the same as macaroons.
The latter is a flourless, dense cookie typically made with egg whites, condensed milk and coconut. In France the cookie is called rocher à la noix de coco, which translates in English to “coconut rocks.” You can make your own assessments with that one.
Ahh, but macarons!
Houston has its own cadre of specialty bake shops that can give you a fix to satisfy even the most intense macaron cravings. Here are my top picks.
They, on the other hand, are a quintessentially French confectionery delight unlike anything else. The light, dainty, sandwich cookie is made with almond flour, sugar and egg whites.
It has a thin and delicate outer crust that, upon biting into it, yields gently to a slightly chewy meringue interior just below it, followed by a creamy filing in the center (like ganache, buttercream or fruit-spread).
It also comes in a deliriously delicious array of flavors. Craving pistachio? Salted caramel? Passion fruit? Saffron orange? Blueberry vanilla bean? There’s a mac(aron) for that.
The macaron has been increasing in popularity with Americans in the last couple of years, rapidly gaining legions of new devotees. The treat is notoriously hard to make, but to get the French palate excited you need only mention one of the most famous macaron authorities: Ladurée.
The world-renowned French pastry shop & café has been making macarons since the early 1900s so they have it down to an art. The macaron has become so popular, in fact, that Ladurée recently opened the first ever stateside location in New York.
But don’t fret! New York isn’t the only place to get your hands on these glorious little treats. Houston has its own cadre of specialty bake shops that can give you a fix to satisfy even the most intense macaron cravings. Here are my top picks:
Have just one brief chat with Sukaina Rajani, the charming co-owner of this cool "must-try" restaurant, and it becomes clear that this is a woman with a passion for macarons. There is a huge emphasis on quality with strict attention being paid to textures, tastes, ingredients and techniques. Eating a lavender macaron? Expect ground lavender to be in the shell. Eating a pistachio one? Yep, that’s freshly ground pistachios that you taste.
Macarons are made fresh daily with 20 hours of each day being devoted to baking. There are currently 20 different flavors to choose from, and creativity is clearly a priority with flavors such as “Saffron Orange Blossom,” “Cappuccino Dark Chocolate,” and “Blueberry Vanilla Bean.”
If you want to be totally blown away however, try the Fig & Goat Cheese macaron. Trust me. It. Will. Change. Your. Life.
The minds behind Petite Sweets want to make sure that all of your sweet treat fantasies come true. Although you’ll find miniature cupcakes, cake pops and the like here, one of the shop's specialties, much to the delight of sweet tooths all over the city, is French macarons.
Pastry chef Susan Molzan and her merry band of sugar fairies whip up a regular rotation of chef-inspired macaron flavors such as “PB & J,” and “S’mores,” in addition to seasonal flavors, such as “Pumpkin Pie” and “Candy Cane” featured during the holidays. Quintessential favorites include Salty Carmel, Red Velvet and Lemon.
I first blissfully happened upon Burdisso’s delectable macarons at Kuhl Linscomb. The store sometimes carries small quantities in a variety of ever-changing flavors, and if you visit the Maison site, you’ll see a ton of luscious flavors to choose from. Owner Jackie Burdisso’s culinary pedigree includes a father who was a master French patissier and grandparents who owned a bakery in France, so she knows her way around a macaron.
The most popular places to find her wares are at Houston-area farmers’ markets. During the week check out the Rice University Farmers Market on Tuesdays 3:30 - 6:30 p.m., and if you need a weekend fix go to the Urban Harvest Farmers’ Market on Saturdays (8:00 a.m.-noon).
Although you can’t walk into Flora & Muse’s charming French patisserie on any given day and purchase macarons, you can place an order anytime and they will make them especially for you. The perennial flavor offerings include lemon butter; vanilla; chocolate; strawberry; raspberry; lavender; salted caramel; and pistachio. Pick up some fresh flowers when you pick up your macarons and, for a brief second, you’ll feel like you’re in Paris.
If that still isn't quite enough, for you adventure seekers out there, you can put your do-it-yourself cap on and head to Sur la Table where they offer classes to help you learn how to perfect your baking skills to make your own macarons at home.
One final note, y’all. Although we southerners are known for our delightfully charming drawls, the best way to make sure you get a macaron instead of a macaroon is to pronounce it properly. Once you have that first bite and are transported into a state of sweet culinary bliss, you’ll happily drop that second “o” and roll your “r” to perfection. /Mah-kah-ROHN/, anyone?