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My Macarons: A Comparison of Three Parisian Pâtisseries

I surrender. French pastries are my weakness. And although baba au rhum, madeleine, financier, and millefeuille are favourites along with clafouti, brioche, tarte tatin, and éclair, the macaron reigns supreme in my (cook)books!

And when it comes to pâtisseries - those eponymous sweet shops where megacaloric confections are peddled - Paris is the kingdom come. No other place on earth has elevated the art and craft (and marketing) of French baking than in Paris. So, during a recent trip, I made it my mission to taste and compare macarons from different pâtisseries, lamenting the fact that I may have grown an inch or two on the waistline.

Here's the deal. Of course, Ladurée, since opening in 1862, has been a French classic. I had been wickedly gluttonous and indulged in Ladurée's 22-piece macaron gift box that cost me €45. Without regret, I tackled each of Ladurée's macarons, its outer shells touched by a light, airy crispness; the fillings, soft and gooey. These almond flour cookies have a slight bounce to the bite that perfectly sets off its heavily-scented ganache filling.

The flavours I tested: citron (cedrat), pistachio, praline, caramel with salted butter, lemon, lily of the valley, fruit rouges (red fruits), raspberry, coffee, chocolate, bergamot, blueberry, vanilla, rose petal, bitter chocolate, mango with jasmine, liquorice, and blackcurrant violet. My favourite from this collection: bergamot, pistachio and caramel with salted butter.

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Lenôtre is a modern pâtisserie (established 1957) with a strong catering portfolio, serving savoury lunch viands alongside complex haute desserts. Lenôtre, the brain child of pâtissier Gaston Lenôtre who passed away earlier this year, has 35 stores in 12 countries from Japan to Kuwait to the U.S. They seem to specialize more on fancy architectural cakes; however, their chewy, vivid-hued macarons are just oozing morsels of simple goodness. The only downside is its limited variety.

The flavours I tested: chocolate, pistachio, raspberry, coffee, vanilla, and strawberry yuzu. My faves: pistachio and coffee.

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Lenotre by jlastras

The other pâtisserie that made a strong impression is Gerard Mulot. Monsieur and Madame Mulot serves savoury tarts, hearth-baked breads, and fresh-made alimentations for the neighbourhood. Many say that Monsieur Mulot's macarons are fast becoming Paris' most popular, so I had to try some for myself. I conclude that the alchemy in Gerard Mulot's kitchen produces macarons that are inventive and truly magical. Airy yet chewy shells sandwich a flawless ganache infusion that is delicately flavoured with exotic blends.

Flavours I tried: orange ginger, passionfruit basil, orange cinnamon, chocolate, pistachio, nougat, and coffee. My faves: nougat, pistachio, and passionfruit basil. Do you see a trend here? Pistachio emerges on top of my list!

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The verdict? Although we found the bouquet of Ladurée's macaron fillings to be overpowering at times, the texture and quality are perfection - a testament to the maison's centuries-old macaron-making techniques. Lenôtre, on the other hand, creates classic flavours with a clean finish, albeit teetering on the boring. Meanwhile, Gerard Mulot combines passionate fusions that excite the palate, coupled with a properly chewy texture that melts in the mouth.

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What's your pick?

Ladurée
16 Rue Royale, 8th arr.
Tel. 01 42 60 21 79
Metro: Concorde or Madeleine

75 Ave. des Champs-Elysées, 8th arr.
Tel. 01 40 75 08 75
Metro: George V

21 Rue Bonaparte, 6th arr.
Tel. 01 44 07 64 87
Metro: St-Germain-des-Prés

Lenôtre
10 Ave. des Champs-Elysées, 8th arr.
Tel. 01 42 65 85 10
Metro: Franklin D. Roosevelt

36 Ave. de la Motte Piquet, 7th arr.
Tel. 01 45 55 71 25
Metro: Ecole Militaire

and many more locations...

Gerard Mulot
76 Rue de Seine, 6th arr.
Tel. 01 43 26 85 77
Metro: Odeon or Mabillon

93 Rue de la Glacière, 13th arr.
Tel. 01 45 81 39 09
Metro: Glacière

{all images by Jennifer Laceda. Lenotre cafe by Jlastras}

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My Macarons: A Comparison of Three Parisian Pâtisseries + trip