A Macaron By Any Other Name - Luxemburgerli
What's in a name? That which we call a rose
By any other word would smell as sweet
Like so many sweet-toothed others, if I had to pick one weakness, one gourmandise, it would have to be macarons. Which visitor to Paris hasn't made the pilgrimmage to Laduree's opulent tea salon on the Champs Elysees to gawk at their elegant pyramids of macarons, beckoning like jewels? A few very special patisseries making very special macarons hold a very special place in my modest les bonnes adresses. Gerard Mulot makes some lovely ones in traditional flavours, my favourite being the divine pistachio. For chocolate macarons, there's La Maison du Chocolat's coffee macaron with bittersweet chocolate and coffee ganache and Jean-Paul Hevin's Macaron Chocolat a l'ancienne - both houses, incidentally, were awarded "The Best Macaron in Paris" by Le Meilleur Macaron de Paris. Make no mistake about it; Parisians are so serious about their favourite le gouter indulgence they've now created the perfect excuse - an official award - to eat their way through the city's most moreish macarons and argue about their respective merits. For out-of-this-world flavours, there's Pierre Herme (in particular, the breathtaking Ispahan, with rose water flavoured macarons sandwiching a dreamy rose petal-infused cream, lychee puree and whole raspberries, and the delicious caramel au fleur de sel).
Now, scrap that. Like so many sweet-toothed others, if I had to pick one weakness, it would be the macaroon family of cookies, for macarons (or, more specifically, macarons de paris), are but one in the pantheon of ground almond cookies held together by nothing more than whipped egg whites and sugar. The perfect macaron is defined by a smooth domed top, with a delicately thin, barely resistant exterior crust that gives way under your teeth to a soft chewy interior, encircled by a craggy edge known as "the foot". This definition of perfection differs, obviously, across the spectrum of almond cookies. In Italy, Amaretti di Saronno spiked with crushed apricot kernels and wrapped in pairs, powdery Sicilian Fior di Mandorla, and Sienese Ricciarelli that's almost marzipan-like in texture, are prized for their moist, succulent chewiness. English bitter almond-flavoured ratafias are similarly beloved for their slight resilience.
As of late, thanks to W's frequent trips to Zurich, I've become acquainted with yet another confection that's different yet the same, that exhibits characteristics distinct from its Parisian counterpart yet indubitably belongs to the same family. Luxemburgerli from Confiserie Sprungli are the most ethereal little mouthfuls imaginable. In appearance, it is like a miniature Parisian macaron, not much larger than a quail's egg in size. And the top crust is just about as fragile as a quail's egg shell. Thenceforth, it departs from the Parisian paradigm by being all about friability. So how does the cookie crumble? On the tongue, the brittle shell airily dissipates as the teeth sink into a cloud-soft buttercream that manages to be feather light yet luscious.