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Top Pick Of The Week

May 6, 2008

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Macaroons

Time for dessert...or afternoon tea...or a luxurious little snack. Photography by Claire Freierman.

WHAT IT IS: Gourmet French macaroons in Apricot, Chocolate, Cinnamon, Coffee, Gianduja (chocolate and hazelnut), Lemon, Matcha (green tea), Peanut Butter, Pistachio, Raspberry, Vanilla and White Chocolate.
WHY IT’S DIFFERENT: The flavors ring loud and clear, and the bright colors are enchanting.
WHY WE LOVE IT: It makes brightening up the end of a dinner or creating a special afternoon tea very, very easy.
WHERE TO BUY IT: MadMacNYC.com.
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Mad Mac:
Beyond Macaroon Drone

CAPSULE REPORT: While most Americans don’t have to go too far to buy a tarte aux pommes (French apple tart) or a mille-feuille (Napoleon), one of the toughest baked delicacies to track down is a macaron, a French macaroon. Those fortunate enough to dine out often on haute cuisine may get a decent macaroon on a petit-fours plate. Sometimes you can find them at retail; but like Aesop’s fox and his grapes, the macaroons are often dull when they should be exciting.

A hasty note: We are not speaking of the type of macaroon that is a hearty, chewy, mounded cookie made with coconut (see Erica’s Macaroons, another Top Pick Of The Week). Those coconut macaroons are only one variation on the theme, having evolved from the original Italian almond paste cookie, which was similar to today’s amaretti (read the history of the macaroon). French macaroons evolved in a different direction, some into ethereal, filled, meringue-like cookie sandwiches—pretty, variously flavored and colored, a delicacy for a sophisticated table. Yet, not everyone has the knack for making them this way. We’ve nibbled on quite a few macs that have made us long for better flavor and texture.

One of New York City’s prominent patissiers, Florian Belanger, recognized the need for an alternative to droning, monotonous macaroons. He began Mad Mac to supply restaurants, hotels and retail pastry stores nationwide. Thanks to online ordering, you, too, can enjoy tasty bites of Mad Mac, in colors that make a special dinner or a party even more festive. Made from egg whites, sugar and almond flour, macaroons are often a better end to a fine dinner than heavier sweets. And they’re easier: All you have to do is open the box and put them on a plate.

Read the full review below, see more photos of these mad, fun macaroons and get a tray or two for your own festivities.

     
THE NIBBLE does not sell the foods we review
or receive fees from manufacturers for recommending them.

Our recommendations are based purely on our opinion, after tasting thousands of products each year, that they represent the best in their respective categories.

 

Bake Your Own Cookie Masterpieces

All American Cookie Book Big Fat Cookies Great Cookies
The All-American Cookie Book, by Nancy Baggett. Every American cookie you can think of is here—more than 150 of them—from luscious Black Bottom Mini Brownie Cups and chewy Chocolate Thumbprint Crackles to Classic Chocolate Chip Cookies and crisp, spicy Old-Fashioned Gingerbread Cookies. A must for the cookbook collection. Click here to purchase.
Big Fat Cookies, by Elinor Klivans. More fun than baking cookies is making big fat cookies. Anyone can whip up a quick batch of 50 different gigantic crispy, chewy or fancy-pants sandwich cookies. All recipes are wonderfully clear and appropriate for bakers of all skill levels. But you’ll want to make every single one of them. Click here to purchase.
Great Cookies: Secrets to Sensational Sweets, by Carole Walter. With more than 200 delectable recipes, more than 150 tantalizing photographs and tips covering every baking method, including foolproof techniques to ensure that your cookies look as good as the eat-me-off-the-page examples in the book. Click here to purchase.

Mad Mac: Beyond Macaroon Drone

INDEX OF REVIEW

MORE TO DISCOVER

Introduction

In America, the most popular cookie bought at retail is the Oreo! But in France, where palates are more refined, it is the macaron, which can range from a simple affair to the double-decker cookie sandwich filled with ganache (today, jam or creme as well), that was the inspired invention of Pierre Desfontaines, the grandson of Louis Ernest Laduree. The parisian tea salon and patisserie Laduree, on the rue Royale in Paris (and other locations), now sells macarons in every flavor and color of the rainbow—and are a standard against which all other macaroons are judged.

Aside from the colors and flavors, macaroons are simple affairs of almond flour, sugar and egg whites. Yet the pastry chef has the not-so-simple challenge of making them firm enough so that they don’t crumble en route from pastry kitchen to table (or home), yet delicate and moist enough so that with one bite, the teeth sink right through and they melt in the mouth. (No one wants a macaroon that’s dry and hard like biscotti.).

Florian Bellanger, a prominent French patissier* and former top pastry toque at some of New York’s most prestigious establishments (Le Bernardin, Fauchon), decided (correctly) that what America needed was a reliable supply of good French macarons. He founded Mad Mac to make macaroons, enlisting his colleague from Fauchon, pastry chef Ludovic Augendre. They work in the style of Laduree—vivid colors and flavors. While Laduree’s texture is more delicate, the Parisian patissier’s macaroons are not meant to be shipped cross-continent. Mad Mac’s are a bit more durable. (And besides, it’s a moot point: There are no Laduree macaroons in the U.S., save those you have carried back yourself.)

*The French word for pastry chef.

Speaking of shipping, clever trays have been specially designed to separate each macaroon and minimize breakage during transportation. While the company notes that, due to the extremely fragile nature of macaroons, some breakage may occur in transit, in our two separate shipments totaling almost 100 macaroons, we had perhaps two with minor cracks that were certainly presentable. In fact, our only caveat is not to order them far in advance of when you need them. Although they’ll still look as perfect, they dry out. (NIBBLE staff members who came upon the macaroons after the box had been opened a week found them perfectly delicious and devoured the remainder. To those who had enjoyed them fresh, and expected softness in a macaroon, they were hard and dry.)

Macaroon Flavors

There are twelve flavors of macaroons. We’re still waiting to taste Cinnamon, Gianduja, Matcha and Peanut Butter, but we’ve had a great time with the others.

  • Apricot, perhaps the most subtle flavor, is a lovely orange sherbet color, filled with apricot jam.
  • Chocolate has a sophisticated bittersweet chocolate flavor in both the cookie and the center, and is decorated with tiny bits of chocolate.
  • Coffee has lovely French roast flavor and a coffee creme filling.
  • Lemon is a nicely lemony cookie with a soft lemon creme filling.
  • Pistachio is pale green, with a creamy, nutty pistachio filling.
  • Raspberry, perhaps our favorite flavor, has a pale pink exterior that gives way to a hot pink inside, with a flavorful raspberry jam filling.
  • Vanilla is a good basic: a vanilla cookie with vanilla creme.
  • White Chocolate is a pale beige cookie like Vanilla, but flavored with white chocolate and with a white chocolate creme center, decorated with toasted sesame seeds.
French Macaroons
Pretty as polka dots. It’s easy to present an exciting dessert or snack, just by putting Mad Mac macaroons on a plate.

Serving Suggestions

These bite-size cookies—just 1-3/8 inches in diameter—can be served as petit-fours or mignardises.* Just put them on a plate, as in the photo above, or on the rim of a coffee or an espresso cup. They have a universal appeal to adults and kids. After all, what’s better than a melt-in-your-mouth cookie sandwich? A whole tray of them!

*Petit-fours is French for “small baked pastries,” although confections, which can be included on a petit-fours plate, are not baked. Examples include glazed or chocolate-dipped fruit, marzipan, chocolates and nut clusters. There are two styles of petit-fours: glacée (iced) and sec (dry). Petit-fours glacées or frais (fresh) include filled and/or iced petit-fours, miniature babas, miniature éclairs, tiny iced cakes and tartlets. Petit-fours secs include small cookies, macaroons, meringues, palmiers and tuiles. The words mignardises (min-yar-DEEZ), from the French for “preciousness,” and friandises (free-yon-DEEZ), from the French for “delicate,” are often used instead of petit-fours.

But you can do a lot more with macaroons than enjoy them with after-dinner coffee.

  • Pair them with the same flavor (or color) ice cream or sorbet. You’ve got an instant fancy dessert. The raspberry macaroon with raspberry sorbet, the lemon with lemon sorbet, pistachio with pistachio ice cream: You create something glamorous with no effort.
  • Make gourmet dessert skewers, with gourmet marshmallows and other treats (see our article on artisan marshmallows, and Dough Ray Me’s lemon poppy cookies).
Macaroons And Coffee
This is an espresso cup—so you can see how dainty these macaroons are. Shown above: Coffee and Chocolate flavors.
  • For snacks, serve with hot chocolate. For adult snacks, enjoy with liqueurs.

What can we say but, scores of macaroons later, we’re mad for Mad Mac. And for anyone who wants to send us another tray! If you’re invited to a dinner party and show up with a tray of these instead of a nice bottle of wine, you’ll be the talk of the table.

— Karen Hochman

FORWARD THIS NIBBLE to people who love to entertain, are looking for special gift ideas or are dying for a decent macaroon.

MAD MAC MACAROONS
FLAVORS: Apricot, Chocolate, Cinnamon, Coffee, Gianduja, Lemon, Matcha, Peanut Butter, Pistachio, Raspberry, Vanilla, White Chocolate

  • 48 Macaroons
    Six Flavors
    Apricot, Chocolate, Cinnamon, Peanut
    Butter, Pistachio & Raspberry
    - or -
    Chocolate, Coffee, Lemon, Raspberry,
    Vanilla & White Chocolate.
    $68.75
  • 48 Macaroons
    Customizable Assortment
    $72.50
  • 48 Macaroons
    Single Flavor
    $65.00

Purchase online† at MadMacNYC.com

†Prices and product availability are verified at publication but are subject to change. THE NIBBLE does not sell products; these items are offered by a third party with whom we have no relationship. This link to purchase is provided as a reader convenience.

Mad Mac Macaroons
Specially-designed packaging protects the macaroons in transit—and can be repurposed for craft projects and storage.


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