First off, I have to apologize for being such a negligent blogger. Who knew that between finally having friends here, having my parents visit, and jet-setting off to Italy and Aix-en-Provence, I wouldn’t have time to sit at my computer.
My first French rhume (cold) has put an end to that, though, and I’m taking an enforced night at home to sip tea and do a wee update. Tales of my travels outside of Paris will be along in the next few days, but I have to record for posterity the best tour of the city ever.
It was, in fact, a tour through one of the most renowned chocolate and macaroon makers in the city. It was a blissful hour of wandering through the workshop, watching pastry makers and chocolate makers work, and getting to ask questions — and sample everything at every stage!
Macaroons here are very different from the super-sweet chocolate confections we think of at home. I actually tried one when I first arrived, and found it dry and tasteless, and added it to the short list of “icky Paris foods.”
Trying them on this tour completely changed my mind. Macaroons here are a very light egg-white confection, kind of like pavlova, with with a lot more buttery and creamy goodness, and therefore more heft.
They’re all flavoured with almonds, I think, and then have flavours such as chocolate, pistachio, strawberry, and even lavender and rose tossed in. They’re then sealed together with some kind of delicious creamy filling, also flavoured to compliment the shell.
We got to try these almond ones about 34 seconds after this picture was taken. My mission is now to try the wide variety of flavours in the short few days I have left. Challenging, yes, but I’ve never shied away from hard tasks.
Then, there was the chocolate.
He explained all the ins and outs of chocolate fillings, and mixing different grades of cocoa to get a perfect shell chocolate, for example. It’s a really finicky business, including very precise fluctuations in temperature that when not followed to the letter leave those white stains you see on cheap supermarket chocolate.
I won’t bore you with all of the details, but suffice it to say, this store’s chocolates last for only three weeks in storage. Most commercial chocolates apparently make it to three months, but these are made with so much fresh butter and cream that they don’t last anywhere near as long.
As we all said on the tour after tasting this nougat, flavoured with freshly-squeezed lemon and coated in a thin layer of chocolate to preserve the freshness, there’s no way they’re making it to three weeks, anyway.