There are macarons and then there are Ladurée macarons. A 150-year-old legacy from France, Ladurée produces those beautiful and colorful sweet puffs you picture the chicest of Parisians nibbling on with their coffee. It's what you would picture Marie Antoinette, or at least Sophia Coppola's version, snacking on in her palatial, gilded palace.
Maison Ladurée has a history and mystique like no other, and are now available stateside. Elisabeth Holder, whose family acquired the namesake bakery in 1993, brought the brand to New York City. Holder cites a love for the art of living as the inspiration for why her family decided to take on the brand. They knew that Ladurée would always be best known for its macarons, but perhaps they could share their love of other products. Right now their shops feature cookbooks, candles and just launched in France, a beauty line -- all of which are inspired by the namesake macarons.
Not only did the Holder's acquisition breathe new air into the brand, but also some innovation. Currently, Ladurée chefs uses responsibly and sustainably sourced ingredients. "It is a very simple rule in cooking that choosing the best ingredients maximizes the best taste. From the best almonds to tomatoes, we always use the best," Elisabeth says. Furthermore, she says part of sourcing the best ingredients is keeping their quality consistent so that each and every product is of the finest quality.
Ladurée's products don't just taste sweet, they look the part too. Pastels fit for Versailles, the look of the shops and packaging of the products are of utmost importance. "What is inside matters as much as the outside because it tells a story. Our boxes are collectible items, she says. "Small pleasures in life are important." For the newly opened location in SOHO the brand has created a signature box. Holder notes, "It is a special and important moment for us and our customers."
Everything they create is in small batches. "We use fresh fruits of course and no artificial flavors, which makes the difference," Holder says. The producers of the ingredients are trusted partners, respected for their quality. Holder likens their recipes to those closely guarded and intimately made by grandmothers. "I personally remember my grandmother making jams with seasonal fruits, it is part of our culinary history," she says.
What flavors can you expect? Holder says her favorites are the "Rose," as well as the new "Jasmine Red Fruit." "We always have seasonal flavors, so you will always be surprised," she says. "I love to discover what our chefs work on every season. It's similar to a fashion house and its different collections."
When it comes to flavors to be discovered, it's not just in the macarons. The shops also feature other pastries like the Ispahan Rose, Lychee and Raspberry Cake. What is the customer favorite? "The Caramel Beurre Sale is always a big success, across the board. It is a childish like pleasure."
Munching on your breakfast outside of Tiffany's is a thing of the past. Actually, it's quite passe these days when you can enjoy a bit of Paris on Madison Avenue. Not living on the Upper East Side of New York? Don't worry, Ladurée is on the move. A second location just opened in the downtown district of SOHO in New York City. Still not close enough? A shop is about to celebrate its grand opening in Miami; and soon enough the West Coast is going to have something sweet and chic to bite.
In case none of these locations are within reach, Elisabeth shares a recipe for a classic Parisian confection that can be made in your kitchen, no matter where you live.
La Tarte Tatin de Ladurée / Tarte Tatin of Ladurée
Serves: 4 individual Tarte Tatin
Preparation time: 45 minutes
Cooking time: 2 hours 15 minutes
10 g sea-salt flakes / 250 ml water / 475 g unsalted butter
500 g pastry flour + 20 g flour for rolling
Dissolve the sea salt in the water at room temperature. In a saucepan melt 75 g of the butter over a low heat. Mix the salted water and the pastry flour, then add the melted butter. Mix with the fingers to create a smooth dough, being careful not to overwork it. Roll this dough (called détrempe or water dough) into a ball and then roll out into a 15 x 15 cm square and cover with plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator for 1 hour to firm it up.
Put the remaining 400 g of butter on parchment paper. Hit and roll with a rolling pin to soften it. Using the paper fold the butter in on itself and continue to soften it. When it has the same texture as the pastry roll it into a 15 x 15 cm square. Roll the détrempe into a 30 x 30 cm square, then place the butter square in its center, on the diagonal. Completely cover the butter square by folding the four corners of the pastry square over it.
Then roll the square until it is 60 cm long; fold in three. Turn this folded pastry (called a pâton) 90 degrees then roll in the opposite direction and fold in three again. Each 90-degree movement and series of folds make up a turn. You should make 6 turns, leaving the pastry to rest in the refrigerator for 2 hours between every 2 turns. After these 6 turns, return to the refrigerator to rest for at least 2 hours, ideally overnight. Keep in the refrigerator until ready to use.
Apples and caramel
6 Golden Delicious apples / 50 ml water
150 g caster sugar / 65 g salted butter
Peel, core and cut the apples into slices. In a saucepan, warm the water and sugar until the mixture has a nice caramel color. Remove from the heat, immediately add the chopped butter to stop the cooking, taking care not to burn yourself. Stir carefully to blend the butter and caramel and then pour a 5 mm layer into the base of four 10 cm-diameter ramekins. Leave to cool.
Preheat the oven to 160 °C (320 °F). Generously layer the apple slices in the ramekin (they should be higher than the dish as they will reduce by half in cooking). Cook for 90 minutes. Take out of the oven and leave to cool.
On a floured work surface, roll out the pastry. Cut into 13 cmdiameter discs and leave in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 170 °C (340 °F). Cover the apples with the pastry discs - pressing it onto the fruit - and cook for 35 minutes.
Leave to cool. Place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours so that the caramel and the pectin in the apples set. Warm some water in a frying pan. Place the ramekins one by one in the water for 15 seconds. Run a knife around the sides of each ramekin. Pull gently on the pastry and turn out of the ramekin.
Make sure you tuck the pastry down around the apples to seal and keep them in place when the tarte Tatin is turned out.