See, I have beef with National Macaroon Day. Every other blog out there is going to champion that hot new cookie-cake on the block, the New Cupcake, the macaron. Hailing from France, the macaron is made up of two meringue-based cookies made from egg whites, almond powder, and sugar, filled with any number of sweet and delicious fillings. The traditional fillings are ganache or buttercream, but you can put in jelly, jam, or even ice cream! They’re sweet, small, versatile in flavor, and gluten-free due to the almond-based flour. Although they’ve been around since the 18th century, macarons have blown up in popularity over the past few years, with shops dedicated solely to selling macarons popping up all over the city and every pastry chef scrambling to find their “signature” flavor combination. You can’t call yourself trendy in New York City without having your own special, secret place to get the best macarons around.
And yet, it rubs me the wrong way when I see such popularity leading to this snack, because it’s not my macaroon. The macaroons *I* grew up with in our Jewish Brooklyn neighborhood were squishy and dense, made of syrupy sugar and shredded coconut, sometimes dotted with tiny chocolate chips. They had no entourage attached to them and no one waited in long lines just to get a scrumptious little bite. They don’t look like little dessert sandwiches and they’re not taking the world by storm. They’re coconut macaroons, popular among the American Jewish set in New York for decades, especially during Passover since they have no leavened bread. I think of them as a super decadent treat, because they’re basically just coconut and sugar, and my god, how can anyone think that sounds bad, ever. So when I heard that macaroons were coming into fashion, I thought, well, finally, a Jewish dessert gets some recognition!
And little did I know they were actually talking about the French macaron. 😛 Americans have taken to using either spelling to represent the French pastry, so it’s tough to find the best “macaroons” in the city the way I’m used to eating them. But I had to celebrate both the macaron and the macaroon on National Macaroon Day to give them both equal treatment (as to me, they’re both delicious!)
You can almost swing a dead cat around New York these days and hit a bakery that “specializes” in French macarons. Nearly everyone is jumping on the bandwagon, and while some of the pastry chefs in the city are versatile enough to master the traditionally difficult dish, a lot of places just throw together a meringue sandwich and hope people will pay money for it. But not at Maison Ladurée. The original French bakery that is now open in New York City almost quite literally wrote the book on making macarons: they’ve been baking them with style and taste for over 150 years! And the secret behind their world-famous macarons is that they don’t trust anyone but their highly trained pastry chefs to make them. Which means that they’re not actually baked in New York at all! The macarons are made in Paris and flown over to their overseas shops; while they may not be fresh, they’re the absolute best macaron you can try in the city, with the perfect balance of richness and fluffy lightness, of flavor combinations and textural yumminess. Try their celebrated pistachio macaron, a classic flavor done right, with real pistachios in the cookie and a pistachio ganache–made of course with the genuine article, and no neon green food coloring to be had.
864 Madison Ave (between 72nd St & 71st St)
“Real pistachios only (we discovered many impostors using almonds and green dye!) and a perfect composition, with the quiet shatter of a ground nut shell and silky and not too sweet pistachio ganache. Smooth filling occasionally speckled with ground pistachios, a comforting reminder that this is, indeed, the real thing.”–Serious Eats
“Since 1997, under new owners, Ladurée has been expanding, first within Paris, then to other cities, and now to the Upper East Side. Elisabeth Holder, above, the sister of David Holder, the chairman, is a partner in the company. The shop, shown here while under construction, is a jewel box, done in pale green with traditional decorative accents, mirrors and dark wood, meant to showcase chocolates, tabletop items and, of course, macarons, all imported from Paris.”–The New York Times
Some reviews from Yelp.com:
“My favorite so far has been the pistachio. It has a subtle hint of flavor and it’s my favorite color. Others that I loved were coffee, caramel w/salted butter, and vanilla. If you’re craving for some fancy schmancy but delicious macaroons, then head on over to Laduree.”–Kendra E.
“So Laduree has gotten much recognition for having some of the best (if not THE best) macarons in the city. After trying them, I can see why. They don’t skimp on the filling, but it doesn’t overwhelm you either. It’s a nice ratio of cookie to filling, and the flavors shine. Pistachio tasted like Pistachio (which is not too common, surprisingly), and the fruit flavors were refreshing and tart, while the sweet flavors were not too sweet… juuust right.”–Dianne K.
But for my money? Take me to those dense, chewy coconut macaroons any day! Get stuck in my teeth, cost me 70 calories a pop…I don’t care. They’re absolute perfection with none of the pretension. It’s tough to find great reviews for Jewish coconut macaroons, as everyone on the Internet is all willy-nilly on how they spell the French variation, and I’m not about to go recommending you head down to the local Kosher deli and pick up a silver tin of Manischewitz macaroons (though those definitely do in a pinch!) I did find, however, someone with the same amount of passion about coconut macaroons as I have…and went to do something about it. Dan Cohen learned (the hard way, when his mom told him she wouldn’t make them anymore) how to make the coconut macaroons we know and love, and they came out so delicious he decided to start making them in bulk and selling them on the Internet. Danny’s Macaroons has now become a darling among the new Jewish cuisine set–something I never thought I’d even hear about. He’s perfected his recipe and included different flavor variations, like salted caramel, to update the timeless treat. You can buy them in selected gourmet food shops and cafes aroud the city, or order them online through Dan’s website–and get them hand-delivered by the menschy baker via the subway.
Get my macaroons delivered from Paris via airplane, or Spanish Harlem via the 6 train…what a decision!
“As a Jew and a coconut lover, I’m starting to feel like I’m the only person spelling “macaroons” with two o’s and expecting them to be made of sweet, chewy coconut I found Danny himself at The Grub Street Food Fest last weekend, seated confidently behind a table of falsely diminutive mountains of coconut; what he knew and what I found out is that these macaroons pack a punch. They would crush their French competitors in a fight. The banana, chocolate and hazelnut macaroon is knee-weakening, the comforting flavor of ripe banana surprisingly strong for a vessel so small. The salted caramel macaroon delivers the knockout, a burnt ring of crispy-chewy caramel encircling the macaroon’s base, a ring of pleasure that would make even Trojan jealous. Take that Frenchies.”–NYC Food Guy
“Dan tested recipe after recipe, anything he could find online, tweaking ingredients and details until he came up with, what he believes to be, the best coconut macaroon you’ll ever have. (And certainly the best I’ve ever had, hands down. His salted caramel is out-of-this-world good.) Dan credits his creation to the texture of his coconut macaroons: they’re crunchy on the outside, yet moist and almost “fudgy” in the middle – a totally different and satisfying experience unlike most macaroons you might be used to eating.”–Huffington Post
Make sure you check out the updated NYC Food Holidays Map to find this most recent holiday!