Ladurée Macarons


I am safely back from Spain – so no more pictures of beer, ham and cheese. However, my journey back was slightly more eventful than it should have been, thanks to Storm St Jude (the patron saint of lost causes!) that decided to lash the UK and parts of Europe on the same day that I was supposed to be flying from Madrid to Amsterdam.

Of course, Spain started off the day sunny and mild and even while it had become overcast by the time I arrived at the airport, there were no disruptions. Or rather, no disruptions bar those flights that were heading to Amsterdam which were cancelled and late left, right and centre.

With just an hour in Amsterdam to connect to my flight to Malaysia things were looking tight and eventually even the very optimistic KLM staff had to acknowledge that I needed to be re-routed.

Happily, this re-routing meant I was scheduled to arrive home just an hour later than expected and had the added bonus that I was now heading via Paris, with a three hour wait in Charles de Gaulle airport.

Aside from my obligatory beer and crisps in the airport I had a quick wander around. I had to skip the Givenchy, Hermès and Chanel shops and I thought I had already used up my duty free booze allowance (it turned out I hadn’t but I had another stop anyway, so I doubt I could have bought anything). What to get? What to get? It would be a shame to let an unexpected stop in Paris go completely unmarked by consumerism!

Fortunately, Charles de Gaulle terminal 4E is home to a smart Ladurée shop. Founded in 1862, Ladurée is the grand-daddy of macaron shops. When I was last in Paris proper the shop on the Champs Elysées was on my to do list but I was smartly put off by a queue and what I thought were quite high prices.

Of course, now the rest of the western world is in the grip of some kind of small pâtisserie frenzy, macarons are everywhere and prices have spiked. Seriously. I recall paying about $4.50 for a Nic & Rocco macaron here in Adelaide.

And yet here I was in Paris, a city not known for bargain basement prices, and I could buy a box of 8 macarons for €16,40 (about $23.50, or just under $3 a pop).

Ladurée has an excellent array of flavours, including the new pink peppercorn and gingerbread. I went for a slightly more conventional range of choices: chocolate, coffee, hazelnut, salted caramel, raspberry (x2), rose, vanilla. They were packed away in a beautiful box, presented to me in a beautiful bag and made it to Australia perfectly preserved. I did have visions of me having to scoff all 8 at the airport when AQIS decided they weren’t allowed in, but sadly that didn’t happen.

Of course, I’ve been back a couple of days now and the macarons are history. While they were tasty (the toddler particularly seemed to enjoy them and also seemed to think my mother was some kind of idiot for asking, rhetorically, “what do we have here?” while looking in the box. “Macawons!” he shouted, rolling his eyes) they were not mind blowing in the way that I’d expected them to be.

And such are the perils of having quite possibly the biggest name in the macaron world …

Adriano Zumbo’s Salted Caramel Macarons


At the beginning of August I went to a fortieth birthday party. When the ‘cake’ appeared it was a big ziggurat of macarons. Everyone tucked in and amongst my group of friends, it was decided that the pale brown ones tasted just like a Golden Gaytime. If you’re not Australian you’re probably thinking “wtf?” right about now.

A Golden Gaytime is an icecream: it’s an awesome icecream. It’s vanilla icecream with some caramel and some little crunch biscuit bits and chocolate. They rock. The Golden Gaytime is my number one icecream (followed by other Australian icons such as Paddle Pops, Splices and Eskimo Pies). If you live in Australia and you haven’t tried one, the next warm day nip to your local deli and buy one!

Me, being me, I ate about 4 of these macarons at the party and a couple of days later emailed the birthday boy, asking for his friend’s recipe.

The response surprised me: they were Adriano Zumbo’s packet mix salted caramel macarons.

Now I’ve never made macarons before so I thought that providing the packet mix did not contain too many scary sounding ingredients (which it doesn’t, but there are some artificial colours and flavours), I’d give them a go. My resolution firmed when I spotted the packets at $2 off in a local supermarket! Always the bargain hunter, me!

I made them for our family Father’s Day lunch. I made the macarons themselves on Saturday and filled them on Sunday, although the little macaron bible I own suggests filling them a day in advance for flavours to mature.

On opening the box there is a packet of meringue mix, a packet of almond mix, a packet of caramel for the filling, a template and 2 disposable piping bags. All you need to have to hand is some butter and water.

The instructions on the back of the box are very clear and indicate where the tricky stages in the process are. There are videos on the Zumbo website to help you out too. Timing is ambitious (prep time 10 minutes, baking time 36 minutes – trust me, you won’t be finished in 46 minutes) but other than that, the instructions (which I did actually follow!) do the job.

You start by beating the macaron mix with water until aerated and stiff. Then you fold in the almond mix and give it a bit of a beat and then you pipe this onto baking paper (you can use the template provided, or download one from the website, or you can pipe freehand), and bake trays separately for 14-18 minutes. In our oven I found 14 minutes just about right.

The piping is pretty critical – if you pipe at an angle you’ll end up with lopsided macarons. So you need to pipe from above. It was really obvious (to me) which macarons I’d piped first!

You rest the macarons before baking to create a skin and, when you remove them from the oven, you slide them straight onto a cool surface and leave to cool on the baking paper.

To make the buttercream filling you just beat the caramel with some butter and add some salt flakes if you wish. You then pipe the buttercream into the macarons and sandwich together.

It is actually that easy. I would have to say though that the outcome of the exercise is not that I feel that I must rush out and buy more of these. While I’ll definitely be cooking macarons again, I’ll be cooking them from scratch.

The other thing I learnt? Well, disposable piping bags are absolutely the way forward. In the past I have wrestled with a reusable cloth piping bag which is hard to manipulate and even harder to wash. Never, ever again.

Finally – my tip for easy piping bag filling. Stand the piping bag in a tall container, folding down the edges (see the picture). This leaves you with two hands free for the filling and ensures the bag stays upright, open and doesn’t collapse and spill all over your counter.