I skipped ahead of my Swiss travel posts to talk about one of my favorite French desserts, because I was just so excited! So, enjoy this taste comparison of two of the biggest macaron powerhouses in Paris…
If you know me then you know that I have a huge sweet tooth. I mean, I consider myself a veteran dessertarian.
As you probably know by now, I was in Paris this July for a few days. Since it is the macaron-capital of the world, Diva and I decided to have a taste test between two of the biggest macaron makers we know: Ladurée and Pierre Hermé.
Our first stop was at the Ladurée flagship store after grabbing dinner in a little café on Avenue des Champs Elysées. I’ll be honest with you here. I didn’t realize that Ladurée also had tea rooms where you could have a bite to eat, apart from indulging in the myriad of French desserts offered.As I marveled at the dessert selection dreaming of what I’d order on my next trip to Ladurée, wherever in the world and whenever it may be, Diva brought me back to Earth by asking me what macaron flavors we should try. We decided to get a box of 12 macarons at the counter. The flavors we chose were: Rose, Iced Mint, Coffee, Pistachio, Strawberry Candy Guimauve, Raspberry, Lavender, Salted Caramel and Chocolate.A miller and writer, Louis-Ernest Ladurée started the bakery on Rue Royale in Paris in 1862, 155 years ago. In 1871, the bakery was burnt down as Baron Haussmann worked to uplift Paris’ looks. Then a pastry shop was built in the same location and the brand colors were carefully chosen by the famous French lithographer and painter: Jules Chéret. Ladurée’s rise to fame came in 1930 when his grandson, Pierre Desfontaines, had the original idea of sticking two macaron shells together with a creamy ganache filling in the middle. Thus, were born the double-decker macarons we know and love today worldwide.
DID YOU KNOW?
The original Ladurée macaron recipe is still the same.
Desfontaines also opened a tearoom at the pastry shop. In those days, ladies were not permitted to sit in cafes, so this was a huge hit with the ladies.
And here’s another fun fact.
DID YOU KNOW?
Pierre Hermé, the founder of one of Ladurée’s biggest competitors, helped organize Ladurée when he worked there, making it popular before he left to start his own thing.
David Holder and his father Francis Holder, founder of Holder Group, bought this Parisian institution in 1993 and enlarged this “maison” by opening the Ladurée flagship tea room in September 1997 at the Avenue des Champs Elysées, the one Diva and I visited. And of course, since then, there have been various Ladurée stores opened all around the world.
Review of the Ladurée Macarons
Rose: The two rose-colored halves of meringue contrasting against the pure white middle layer was the first macaron I tasted. It had a strong rose scent, a little reminiscent of the rose syrup drizzled on kulfi or faluda. I thought more than two bites of this sweet treat would be a little overwhelming.
Iced Mint: When I tasted this cool mint macaron, I couldn’t help but think of toothpaste. Eek! But I really loved the minty fresh cooling sensation that paired well with its sweet taste.
Coffee: I always wished coffee-flavored desserts would take on a stronger coffee taste and so don’t tend to order them much, except for tiramisu. Those are usually the only exception. I thought this macaron was slightly too sweet and the coffee flavor wasn’t shining through.
Pistachio: One of Mom’s favorite flavors, pistachio, is often that controversial flavor that everyone either loves or hates. Mom tried these and I sneakily got a bite. I adored the nuttiness and it was definitely a win in my books.
Strawberry Candy Guimauve (Fraise): A beautiful macaron with pink meringue cookies with a fluffy pale pink filling. It was overwhelmingly sweet, but the texture play between the sugary textured macarons and the pillowy marshmallow center was incredible.
Raspberry: One of Diva’s favorites. It reminded me of a Jammy Dodger. With a tart, jammy center, this played well against the sweet meringue cookies. I highly recommend this!
Lavender: Having never tried any lavender-flavored treat, this seemed to have got my attention. I loved the calming lavender fragrant scent, however, I thought it was too sweet and so the lavender just wasn’t coming through.
Salted Caramel: This macaron had a strong caramel taste with bitter undertones of burnt sugar and a filling that reminded me of dulce de leche. I thought it was definitely caramel-y but I could barely taste the ‘salt’.
Chocolate: Honestly, it was a little too dense and the filling in the middle was not fluffy and light enough. While I loved the chocolate taste, the macaron didn’t wow me.
Of course, Diva and I had to try and compare the macarons from Pierre Hermé. I was a little scared that I wouldn’t be able to pick up a box of these, but after a scrumptious breakfast at Angelina, Diva and I discovered that there’s a Pierre Hermé store just 90 meters away. So after stuffing our faces with most delicious hot chocolate ever, we strolled over to Pierre Hermé in search of more macarons.
Heaven, in its own right, the Pierre Hermé store, though tinier than the Ladurée café we had visited, was stocked with chocolates on the shelves and macarons in the counter display. Without wasting time, Diva and I picked up a box of seven macarons: we got Jasmine & Jasmine Tea, Coffee, Milk Chocolate & Passion Chocolate, Pistachio, Rose, Lychee & Raspberry, Blackcurrant & Candied Blackcurrant, and Green Olive Oil & Vanilla.Heir to four generations of Alsatian bakery and pastry-making tradition, Pierre Hermé arrived in Paris at the age of 14 to start his first apprenticeship with Gaston Lenôtre. Hermé created the Maison Pierre Hermé Paris in 1998 creating his own distinctive world of tastes, sensations and textures, revolutionizing the classic French pastry art. Every day, enthusiastic foodies are discovering the beauty of Pierre Hermé pastries, macarons and chocolates. And today, Pierre Hermé not only operates several boutiques across the world but also operates an online boutique.
Review of the Pierre Hermé Macarons
Coffee: We preferred this flavor to the one from Ladurée, as it had a stronger coffee taste with less overpowering sweetness.
Milk Chocolate & Passion Fruit: My favorite macaron out of them all! The complex treat had tart, textured speckled passion fruit meringue cookies with a sweet chocolate center. It was a delightful combo of sweet and sour. I wish Kenyan restaurants would create this delightful mash-up as we can source fresh passion fruit locally.
Rose, Litchi & Raspberry: I loved the creamy flavor combo of this macaron. It was sweet, but the fruity kind that is not overwhelming. I think the yogurt helped reduce the harsh sugary taste that can often overpower other flavors.
Pistachio: I loved this particular one as it had a stronger pistachio taste and the nutty texture was a bonus. Of course, we shared this with Mom.
Jasmine Flower & Jasmine Tea: Pretty and shimmery dusty rose meringue cookies with a luscious, creamy and fluffy filling. This was not just stunning to look but I thought the vanilla undertones perfectly complemented the floral jasmine taste.
Blackcurrant & Candied Blackcurrant: I thought this reminded me of tart raisins that my grandma used to sneak for me when Mom wasn’t around. It had a slightly tart filling that complimented the sweeter meringue cookies. It was quite a delightful pick and one I would get again.
Olive Oil & Vanilla: An innovative flavor combo, this was quite creamy due to the addition of the olive oil and it was definitely unique. Quite exceptional and definitely a must-have for me.
THE FINAL VERDICT?
Well, if there’s one thing I noticed is that they were both delicious and a must-have if in Paris. While Ladurée tends to focus on one flavor and perfecting the classic French macaron techniques, Pierre Hermé tends to tease flavor boundaries by creating different combinations with extraordinary results. It would be unfair to pit them against each other, but my personal preference was Pierre Hermé.
So next time you see a Pierre Hermé boutique, make sure to pop in and try some macarons and maybe, send a box my way 😉
Photos by Diva Shah