Monday, 24 December 2012

A Very Successful International Macaron Hunt.

If you happen to have read my last blog entry, you'll know that I recently made a trip to France and Belgium, two places that I have always wanted to visit. You may also like to know that I do indeed speak fluent French as I was raised in a French family and attended French Immersion for the entirety of my grade school education. It was convenient to be able to speak the language though I am certain that the excitement on my face every time I entered a bakery would have spoken clearly enough.

For two glorious weeks in November, we ate and drank our way through France, starting in the south and making our way north into Belgium. As glorious as that was, I will tell you that the trek through four airports and the long flight home would have been slightly less irritating if I had been able to fasten the button on my pants. But alas, I could not.

 As anticipated, we found macarons all over both countries. Some were creative and very pretty (the raspberry and Chantilly cream double-decker was delicious albeit quite hard to eat. I can't quite remember how I tackled it but I do remember walking down the street eating it and thinking that I must look very glamorous). Some were tres chic (though the picture doesn't show it very well, I am holding a white truffle macaron dusted in gold powder that I bought on a very chichi stretch of Champs Elysees. It was beautiful but sadly, it tasted terrible. So bad, in fact, that I tossed it in the trash despite the 5 euro price tag). Some were served alongside other sweets and a strong coffee for breakfast. Some were enormous (like the ones I found in Carcasonne) and others were done so perfectly that some strange, deep-down generous part of me felt the need to give one away to a man and woman from Chicago who had eaten very few perfect macarons. This perfection was found on one of the most perfect days of our trip. On our agenda that day was to wander aimlessly, which we did very thoroughly in a beautiful area of Paris called Monmartre, which felt quaint, authentic french and delightfully low on the tourist/tourist trap scale. We came a across the little macaron shop where the young lady working, a Paris native, was thrilled to talk to some Canadians and told us that she had lived in Toronto and was planning to move back as soon as possible. Nice touch.

Yes, it was a trip filled with eating some of the best pastries and breads I have ever sunken my greedy teeth into. For the record, we did do other things besides eat. I could easily bore you with all the pictures and details but told myself to stay focused since you, my readers, are interested in my baking, not my vacationing. So I'll wrap it up on a slightly somber note. 
Since returning home, inspired by my recent journey, I have made three batches of macarons. Of those three batches, I have thrown out a total of 9 pans full. I'm not entirely sure what the problem has been. My friend Laura, who's a professional baker, suggested that it might be the very cold, dry winter weather we have been experiencing this year. I think it may be that I have been using eggs that are too fresh and I have not let the whites age long enough. Whatever the problem, it has me thinking I should stick to eating them rather than making them since I was quite successful at that. Remember, my pants on the flight home were undone. Oh, yeah, I also broke a zipper on another pair while I was there. But I need to stay positive. I need to swing my leg (and pray I don't rip the crotch out of another pair of pants) back onto the horse and try again. Sigh.

First macarons! Late night on the street in Marseille.

Gold dusted.

Breakfast in Ghent, Belgium.
Breakfast in the metro in Paris.

A giant Pistachio macaron.

I would like them all.

A couple more crafty uses.

Best in France, I swear.

Time lapse between this picture and the one of me holding the same sleeve full: approximately 26 seconds.