Pierre Hermé Macarons

macarons

One of the things about living in a city like Paris is that you spend a lot of time – well, dealing with life. Bills to pay, paperwork to do, typos to avoid, stolen bikes to replace, smokers to dodge on sidewalks waving lit cigarettes (I got nailed the other day – ouch!), or buying a pair of shoes, can easily take up much – or all – of your days. It’s too-easy to get wrapped up in all that minutiae and let all the things you love to do get overwhelmed by the other things that tend to take over, if you let them.

I’ve let them and decided to do a little turn-around by revisiting the places and eating the things that I love in Paris. It’s easy to forget the pockets of wonderfulness that people see when they come here for a week – the parks, the boulevards, the chocolate shops, and just taking a stroll and getting some air (in between all the sidewalk maneuvering) and take in the city.

macarons

Macarons aren’t new. Macarons gerbet, or filled macarons are distinctly Parisian and have been around for about 150 years. True, they are available elsewhere nowadays. But like a New York or Montreal bagel, or Chicago deep-dish pizza, certain foods get designated with an appellation because they are so closely associated with where they were first made. (Bagels and pizza are from neither of those places mentioned, originally. And macarons, which were originally from Italy, then came to France and are usually available as simple, crispy cookies made with egg whites, sugar and almonds.) But that’s getting back into minutiae, a word I had to look up the precise spelling for, twice (more minutiae!) and I’m more interested in tasting pastries. So I took a stroll over to the relatively new Pierre Hermé macaron boutique in the Marais.

Macarons kind of had their day in the soleil. Everyone wanted to either make them, or come to Paris and sample them. For a while, almost every day a question or two would land in my Inbox from people who were making macarons, wondering why their macarons didn’t have the ruffled “feet”, or why their tops cracked – and could I diagnose them? Interviewers were astonished when they’d ask me what flavors of macarons Parisians made at home, and I responded that I couldn’t think of anyone that made macarons in Paris because no one had the space for a baking sheet on their kitchen counter. And honestly, it’s easier for people to get them at their local pastry shop or bakery.

Like cupcakes, the frenzy revved up fast, then settled down. And it’s time for me to appreciate them again without the hype. And while some companies become global brands and opened outlets in the most far-reaching of places (selling everything from macaron-shaped pillows to sweet-smelling candles and key rings), often foods don’t travel well outside where they make sense. (And as much as I like cookies, I don’t think I need a pillow shaped like one.) I like burgers and falafels and Japanese noodles, but it’s nice to eat something distinctly Parisian, here in Paris.

Pierre Hermé is one of the world’s most famous pastry chefs and Dorie Greenspan, who co-wrote several of his cookbooks, said when I was on a panel with her that because of him, people have started paying attention to pastry chefs. When I wasn’t looking up how to spell words, or convincing shoe store owners to let me buy the shoes I wanted, I used to go into his shops a lot (before I had to keep buying new pants and belts…) But when I stepped into their boutique in the Marais, the folks were just as friendly as they’d been at their busy Left Bank address. The store in the Marais sells only chocolates and macarons. And since it was December, the seasonal collection was a nod to the holidays.

macarons

Before I get to the others, I finally tried the macaron with foie gras (and figs) and my initial reluctance was merited. I didn’t like it. (Which goes to show when someone says they don’t want to try something, don’t try to coax them into it.) That special, silky-livery flavor works well as a savory dish with fruit or spices. But sandwiched between sweet almond cookies, it was the one macaron I didn’t finish.

On the other end of the spectrum was PX, a macaron filled with golden raisins macerated in Pedro Ximenez sherry. The first bite was pretty amazing, and sherry and raisins should become one of the new classic macaron flavors, along with café and chocolate.

I was feeling a little chintzy because I had finally shelled out too much money for a new pair of shoes that day, the same model as the ones I’ve worn to the ground after six or so years. So I didn’t pop for the white truffle and hazelnut macaron, which I like a lot, but filled the rest of the box with Praline-noisette (caramelized hazelnut), which was delicious, Infiniment caramel which had a cushion of salted butter caramel in the middle (sweet, but with a nice touch of burnt afternotes) and Lemon-speculoos (spice cookie) which I liked, but I was hankering for another one of those raisins-soaked-in-sherry numbers. Jardin dans les bois (Garden in the woods) was a sweet little sandwich, cushioned with cream imbibed with aged rum and a little hint of woody cedar afterward.

It was an interesting and curious combination, which made me respect Pierre Hermé even more because unlike the pine-flavored dessert I’d had in New York last year (which tasted precisely like Pine-Sol, which folks might point that it isn’t meant to be tasted – but I’m blessed with an active imagination), this was a good example of the famed French predilection for le moderation, which favors a balance of flavors rather than hitting people over the head with things that (they think) taste like floor cleaner. Hermé really is the master of balance and seems to always be able to meld the nuances of various flavors and aromas into his pastries, while providing a curious hint of surprise, and his macarons are perfect examples of that.

Pierre Hermé macarons

It was nice to connect with an old friend, namely le macaron, which I’d taken off the backburner. (And I got some spiffy new Trippen shoes, to boot.) I’m looking forward to going back to favorite places and discovering some new ones, now that I’ve got the shoes – and a bike – to do it.

Macarons & Chocolats Pierre Hermé
18, rue Sainte-Croix-de-la-Bretonnerie (4th)
Tél: 01 43 54 47 77
Métro: Saint-Paul or Hôtel de Ville

(For their other addresses in Paris, consult their website.)



Related Links and Recipes

Pierre Herme’s Ketchup Macarons

French Chocolate Macarons

Macarons by Pierre Hermé cookbook

54 comments

  • Nice to see a Trippen lover here.

    I know I’m probably preaching to the choir, but just in case you’ve never heard of them, you should check out “Cydwoq”, another amazing shoes brand.

    What’s that ? Macarons ? I don’t think they have my size…

  • Once again I will root for my favorite macarons in Paris : Pain de Sucre ! (rue Rambuteau, near the Beaubourg museum)
    They may be less sophisticated than Hermé, but the flavors and textures are amazing !

    When you reach that level, it’s difficult to even acknowledge other macaron makers.

  • I adore Pierre Hermé – they have opened one recently in London too. But, what is your view on Pierre Hermé versus the classic Ladurée?

  • Lovely piece David. And too true re: people not making them at home in Paris although macaron-making classes still seem very popular in Paris – and here in Toronto where I teach them from time to time too. People are always amazed that I lived in Paris for years and didn’t make these at home. Well it’s hard to make them in a “kitchen” that contains one hotplate and a bar fridge, you know? Plus, they are everywhere, of course in varying quality but still. This post has made me yearn for Paris at Christmas. I’d love to taste the holiday collection this year :) (I also love Pain de Sucre macarons but there are so many out there it’s hard to choose one favourite!)

  • what a really nice little article I enjoyed it thoroughly and glad to see you writing more than just a few words at a time some now you sounded like your heart was in this blog so too does to you maybe you just needed a little down time Annu. She is and some awesome macarons to change your whole day if so it sounds like it worked I liked it get back into the groove I think that’s where you find your heart is you’ll get in that old from New Year plays and sometimes it’s hard to get out of and look at things with the fresh new I

  • I went to the opera store on sunday with some friends from italy. and I tasted the foie gras macaron too… but I have to admit the truffle is still better

    and I feel lucky to live in the same city of you, everytime I can go in a place like Pierre Herme shops.

    thanks

  • Mardi, JP and Skye: Yes, it’s hard to judge or compare one shop vs. another because the best macaron shops (and pastry shop in general) have their own house style. No one makes flavor combinations like these macarons at Pierre Hermé – but I do like Pain de Sucre, however when I go there, I tend to get their marshmallows because (like the Hermé macarons) they’re doing really interesting, indistinctive flavors.

    T.Tilash: I’ve tried the Cydwoq shoes, but they have those rounded soles and I can’t walk in them. I know friends that say they just take getting used to, though.

    Guglielmo: Yes, my initial instincts were correct about them. (It was funny because I just went back and read the comments to that post here on the site, and some people were very upset I wouldn’t try them. Some of the comments were really, well…)

  • Hi David, we are just doing out St. Nicholas day treat shopping, and I’m inspired to get macarons instead of our traditional chocolates… The kids have never had them before, so they will be a real treat. Thanks for the inspiration.

  • Gosh I love these macarons! So lucky that he branched out to London. Those new flavours sound very tempting indeed especially the caramelised hazelnut. Yum!

  • I am off to Paris on Friday, can’t wait to visit and taste some of Monsieur hermè´s treats. There a few new flavours on my list after reading your post!

  • @David
    Yes Cydwoq shoes do need some getting used to, I personally think they are worth it. I own a pair of Cydwoq and a pair of Trippen.

    Now to go back to the macarons, “outsider contenders” are macarons de la Maison Georges Larnicol. He is known for his kouignette (or small kouign amann), but his macarons are special in that they feel more “natural” than Hermé’s or Ladurée’s, he lets the almond shine through, and in that sense they are almost reminiscent of the origins of the pastry. Les sweet, less rich, not as “indulgent” as the ones you mention, but definitely worth a try.

  • PH is one of my favorite macaron makers. Though, that foie gras was a purchase I was not so pleased about making as I felt the same way as you about it after trying. First time ever having leftovers unfinished from there. It is so odd how people take personal offense to you already knowing what you won’t like and trying to spare yourself.

    My favorite is the Mogador (passion fruit & milk chocolate). Heavenly.

    I used to have to wait for Paris to have it but in SF the owner of b. Patisserie knows how to make them from the master himself thanks to her time not staging but as a past employee at PH. She’s been generous enough to replicate them for me when my downright shameful begging aligns with my birthday. Any of those plus sablés au chocolat and I’m happy as a clam. How lucky for you to be able to break in those new shoes by way of trying out the new holiday flavors!

  • While I definitely haven’t tried them all, I really can’t think of a macaron that can top Monsieur Hermé’s Infiniment Caramel. The texture of the filling is unique, more like a buttercream than caramel, and the flavor is beautifully balanced between sweetness and almost-bitter. Gaaah, I’m trying not to drool all over my keyboard while typing this. Goodness me, I must get myself to Paris.

  • The Mogador might be my favorite. I love it. He has a boutique in Hong Kong now, but it only make me nostalgic for Paris.

    (Also, there’s an irksome seven piece minimum order at the HK shop. I could certainly eat seven, or share them, but I walk by the boutique pretty regularly, and would love to just be able to get one or two. Even at that packed shop on rue Bonaparte, they’ll sell you a single macaron.)

  • This year we brought back some macarons from Lemoine, in our neighborhood, which were good to eat there but did not travel well at all. Two years ago we brought back Pierre Herme’s and they made it no problem. Probably fresher? and definitely better tasting.

  • This is such a lovely post. It’s good to be reminded to take things in and enjoy all the good stuff around us. I remember loving Pierre Herme’s salted caramel and chocolate-caramel macarons. I knew I wouldn’t like rose flavored but I gave it a try…and what do you know? I don’t like rose. : ) Happy Holidays!

    • I was at a gelato shop and they have violet-flavored gelato, which was a scary purple color. They insisted I try it, and I politely tried to beg off as best I could – but they kept persisting and persisting, so I finally said, “Okay.” It was awful and filled my mouth with the worst taste of fake violet imaginable. I don’t like tonka beans either, which always taste like shoe polish to me – yet people often try to foist chocolates flavored with that as well on me.

  • Hello, I love macarons and make “weirdos” once in a while…
    But I love Pierre Hermé, Ladurée …

    About the foie gras recipe ( I make some as well), it is not the best recipe but as foie gras blends well with sweet, I’d say they are not bad. But I replace almond powder by hazelnuts, use less sugar and pepper well.
    I tried Salmon with chives and I agree salmon does not blend well with sugar unless it is gravlax.
    I love espelette and chocolate , Japanese inspired ones, rose and litchee or raspberry saffron….
    Learned the basics with Ducasse school. The salted caramel are to die for …
    Have not made any for a while… your post is an incentive to start putting aside some whites ! Thanks

  • When I was in Paris last month, I bought a dozen of Pierre Herme macarons and secretly devour them in our apartment. There is nothing that compares ! Thanks for the post.

  • Hi David ~ A few years ago I decided I wanted to learn to make macarons for Thanksgiving. I read EVERTHING online and all your tips for successful macaroning. The very first batch came out with ‘feet’, which made me dance around the kitchen clapping and singing in happiness. I love making macarons with ingredients I bring home from Paris on our yearly visit. Thank you for all your tips and instructions on making macarons! I took some to my daughters for Thanksgiving last week and everyone thought I was brillant for making them!

    I will be visiting Paris next May, if you need anything from California, let me know. I will be happy to bring you things you can not find in Paris. (I do not expect a tour of Paris or anything other than having my books signed by you).

  • These look amazing. I’m always a little scared by the brightly colored macarons, so I appreciate your nice little collection of neutrals :)

  • His macarons really are the best. I’ve tried a few different people’s macarons over the years (because they’re the perfect cookie of course! and wheat free for my tender stomach) but when I finally got a beautiful box of the Pierre Hermé macarons I was in heaven. The flavor combinations are not overpowering but they are divine! I didn’t try anything crazy, just traditional sweet/fruit, but I was so happy.

  • These seasonal flavors look amazing…so unique and sophisticated. Love this post. Happy holidays!

  • I jumped through hoops to get his cookbook a few years ago from amazon dot fr as that was the only option- I had to find some distant relative living in Paris willing to accept the shipment and forward it to me. It is my favorite book to look through, so beautiful. Of course for baking, I prefer your cookbooks!
    Now it is in English, here. I love my french version!!

  • Oh yes…I would walk many miles to enjoy his macaroons……(notice how this iPad incorrectly corrects the spelling of macaroons). My favorite was the cassis flavor and the shop on Rue de Opera sold me one cookie at a time. Just returned from a two month stay in Paris and when people ask me why I went or what I learned….I told them that Paris was one of the few places that compelled me to stop and smell the roses. And it is also one of the few cities where there is a delight around every corner if you walk with that purpose. You are wise to take this time out for refreshing your sole and soul….

    I’m back home in California now and am trying to keep the Paris spirit alive…interestingly, as a pastry chef, I’m working my way through everything I can get my hands on about macaroning and appreciate your tips on this website. I, too, jumped for joy when my cookies had feet and a smooth top. Now to experiment with flavors…to the Sweet Life.

  • ummm–I am just about to order up some vanilla macarons with sea-salt ganache filling right here in Rochester NY USA. but gerbet? for the originals? All the words I find in my Petit Robert are plant-related. (I have room for cookie sheets in my American house but not for the big Robert dictionary.

  • I feel the same about the foie gras ones, even if the fig/eglantine one is more … ‘tolerable’. I remember (as you probably do too, David) the black truffle and the balsamic vinegar macarons they had maybe 5 years ago (!?) that cost significantly more than the others. I enjoyed Jardin dans les bois too, but my favourite at the moment is probably praline, and of course the porcelana chocolate. Hevin makes a very nice chocolate one too!

    A small reply to Keren: I love b. to bits and this is probably a miscommunication / misunderstanding with PR but b. was a stagiare at PH and not an employee. I know this because we worked together. Please send her my love from Paris!

  • Someone asked about Laduree vs Hermes. Last summer we rented a great apartment in a great location – on rue de l’universitie, right at rue jacob, Our taste test was for pain au chocolate and we sampled lots – hey it was a scientific investigation. Hermes won, hands down – two sticks of first rate chocolate, a delicate pastry, umm I can still taste them. Next summer’s taste test will have to be macarons! I look forward to seeing you at Omnivore in San Francisco next week, David.

  • Some things are just tried and true, aren’t they? I know that the macaron craze is over but that doesn’t make a good macaron any less amazing. Especially when they are from Pierre Herme!

  • Pierre Herme is worth the wait if only for the beautiful packaging alone–though the macarons are certainly the ne plus ultra. Next time you are in the US go to Trader Joe’s and get the speculoos in a jar–they are selling what is essentially cookie dough in a jar and it’s so popular here in LA that they limit you to five jars. I’m not a huge fan but it’s certainly worth a try. There are multiple flavors as well.

  • Comparing macarons in Paris
    every time I have gourmet guests, I love taking them on a Macaron tour especially in the 6th as you have Hermé, Ladurée, la Maison du Chocolat, Larnicole and many others…
    Years ago my favorite were Ladurée, this year was undoubtedly Hermé.
    We stroll around streets, enjoy looking at wonderful buildings, churches, discuss History and shop for macarons everywhere we find some. Then we go to Luxembourg garden, choose a welcoming bench or chairs and share, compare our treasures.
    It’s fun, a privilege far from the everyday life troubles…

  • Who cares about macarons I thought your first paragraph was a brilliant comment on life no matter where you are.
    “One of the things about living in a city like Paris is that you spend a lot of time – well, dealing with life. Bills to pay, paperwork to do, typos to avoid, stolen bikes to replace, smokers to dodge on sidewalks waving lit cigarettes (I got nailed the other day – ouch!), or buying a pair of shoes, can easily take up much – or all – of your days. It’s too-easy to get wrapped up in all that minutiae and let all the things you love to do get overwhelmed by the other things that tend to take over, if you let them.”

  • I have to confess that I bought dessert plates & teacups from Fauchon a few years back that have macarons on them. Thanks for this post – my favorite photo is the one with the bites taken out of the macarons!!

  • “cinitzy”?

  • Hello David from Mississippi
    I am so glad you looked up Minutiae…now I won’t have to just in case the need arises , which incidentally hasn’t in 87 years, But it never hurts to be prepared. I do so enjoy your newsletter and blog. Recalls my many trips to Paris but that 87 is in the way of another look. Oh well now that’s minutiae!! At last …on to the next ….jere
    PS. I am a tried and true Texan stuck in Mississipi. One is always a Texan

  • I do love their rose, caramel, and coffee (darker one) macarons but during my last trip I tried a few new ones with yogurt fillings. Flavors explode in your mouth in the most scrumptious way and I was kicking myself for only grabbing the 7-macaron box before my flight (my in-flight snack, of course). I think they were limited-time only flavors but if you see anything yogurt in the future please eat some for me. =)

  • I tried the Infiniment caramel and Arabesque macarons in London… what a lovely experience. One day, I hope to go back and try more flavours. :)

  • Look forward to your reliving of favourites -I think!? Just got back a few weeks ago from 14 nights in Paris – mostly spent eating my way through the city following in your footsteps. Not only do your blogs now have new meanings as I understand where you are talking, they all so come with pangs of longing (wishing I could be back there eating all these tasty morsels again).

    Besides Hermes, and those darn chocolate marshmallows from Pain de Sucre, I’m dreaming of Popelini’s cream puff of the day (which was almost a daily ritual as we stayed around the corner), the white chocolat Aux-merveilleux meringues (which I thought was my own discovery till I saw later you had already blogged about them) and Berthillon ice cream although thankfully your ice cream recipes should help with cravings for this one if they get too much. Ps Don’t get me started on the chicken lady and the butter …

  • After reading today’s blog, my taste buds are craving macarons! In San Francisco we had a favorite patisserie that had a superb variety of macaroons. Unfortunately, I heard it closed down, but we haven’t followed up on that information. We look forward to visiting Omnivore Book Store in SF this coming Sunday, and hope we can at least get a foot in the door, much less have you sign my books! Love your blogs and newsletters! You allow us to travel vicariously until our next European adventure! Thank you, David!

  • I initially read “a little hint of woody cedar afterward” as “a little hint of woody cedar aftershave” – happy I was wrong! That would be worse than foie gras!

  • What a great idea, David! Macaroons are delish. One day I hope to have the real thing, in Paris, provided some macaroons do not have any wheat flour particles and remain sans gluten!

  • Love Pierre Herme, we stayed 2 weeks at Royal Monceau in June and they featured their macaroons omg why make at home!

  • Years ago in Paris, I stumbled upon amazing financiers in a 6th arr. bakery. I spent the rest of that trip sampling many others, but never again finding the ones that had so bewitched me. I even bought the small pans so that I could bake my own. My nephew and I had a fine time making them for his French class. Think he got some extra credit for that effort. Have since brought back macarons to share, but have been quite happy with the more traditional flavors. Loved your pictures.

  • I haven’t seen his Olive Oil macarons in a while and this is one of those surprising flavours that just works. I made them with a beautiful olive oil from Premier Pression and they turned out fantastic. Give them a try. Here are my results: http://www.el-cordovez.com/recipes/olive-oil-macarons/

  • Enjoyed reading about your Hermé macaron tasting, David, love your photos and so glad that you’re reunited with your old friend, Mac!

    True, at first I was buying macarons since they’re everywhere in Paris but what I love most is being inspired by these amazing boutiques. Each one has a particular favourite of mine, whether it’s classic or a bit wacky (and these ones, like you say, either you love them or leave them). But that’s what I find makes making macarons so much fun: to try and recreate, tweak and make up your own personalised versions at home, even with a small kitchen. Have you tried Acide Macaron in the 17th? It’s one of my favourites even if it’s a bit out of the way from the other stores but you can sit and munch on macs in the park next door.

    • To Jill,

      Glad to read that you are still in a “macaron’s mood”. Remember when we met at Smith on rue de Rivoli ?

      I am in Paris now so if you have time to meet in 2014 for a Macarons tasting or cooking, could be fun …
      Will try your address in the 17th … Coming from you, I am sure it is worth the visit
      Thanks for sharing.

  • Just returned from our annual trek to Paris a couple of weeks ago. I made a point this year of sampling macarons wherever we went. I still came to the same conclusion that Pierre’s Caramel Infiniment is the best macaron in Paris. As you mention, the caramel is cooked dark enough to provide a bitter finish. The filling is indeed buttercream, not ganache. My runner up favorite is Cafe Pouchkine, which is soon to open a store in the Marais as well. The Pistache Fraises is wonderful.
    Several years ago I took a professional macaron class at Atelier Pierre Herme at Ecole Ferrandi, and have the recipes. Interestingly, one of the other students in the class was Dominique Saibron, who has a wonderful boulangerie/patisserie at the Alesia metro stop. Needless to say the macarons are excellent.
    I had a nice chat with Pierre Herme at the Salon du Chocolat. Besides his amazing talents as a pastry chef, he is a very warm and giving person.
    Thanks, David for the ongoing information that always enriches our visits.

  • Pierre Hermé sounds like an excellent stop to me! Though I agree with you that the macaron with foie gras do not sound like anything I would want to try, it seems like every other type of macaroon you described sounds delicious. My mouth is definitely watering for some tasty treats right about now!

  • Hate to say it – but Macarons are way overated. Cant figure out what all the fuss is about. Fadarons thats what they are. :)

  • Ahh, Pierre Hermé macarons. I’ve just returned from my very first trip to Paris where I came across their Marais boutique by chance. It was near closing when I was there so I don’t recall seeing the more exotic flavours there. That said, the rose macaron I got was definitely one of the highlights of my trip.

    BTW, thanks so much for the Paris resources on your site. As a first time, non French-speaking visitor, the tips and info were really helpful and I had a great time!

  • My first bite of a Herme “Ispahan” macaron (a large one, bien sur) changed my life. These new flavors sound amazing!

  • They all look and sound so good. I’d love to try the lemon-speculoos!

  • I only want to say that your line about having to convince shoe store owners to let you buy the shoes you want made me howl. That happens to me absolutely every single time. (I live here in Paris.) It’s a miracle they are in business!

  • I love Pierre Herme, he is one of the Pastry chefs who inspires me in what I love doing, making Pastry!