Meet the contenders (not the chocolate)…
On the outside of the plate and bearing considerable more chunk than its competitor: the Macaron d’Amiens. Arguably, the closest thing to the original macaron, some suggest that this meringue-based confection was brought to France by Catherine Medici’s Italian pastry chefs – it wouldn’t be the first time that the French adopted and, as Caréme would presumably say, “bettered” something that was not actually invented in France (Parkhurst Ferguson) . Regardless of where it originated, the macaron has been permuted many a time within France such that multiple regional varieties now exist. One such regional variety is the Macaron d’Amiens which occupies a special place in the history of the Picardy region of France, and, in particular, the city of Amiens.
I chose to make this dish because it beautifully encapsulates the regionalism that exists in France, whilst also revealing the “dual gastronomic heritage of France” (Poulain) through its position as the progenitor of one of France’s culinary crown jewels: the very haute Parisian Macaroon – the showdown’s second contender.
Whilst both macarons have almond meal and egg whites as base ingredients, their other ingredients and methods of preparation are quite distinct. The Macaron d’Amiens was by far the easier baked good to make, with the method involving mixing the ingredients together, making a long log of dough, cutting this log into 2.5 cm medallions and then baking these medallions in the oven. The joy of biting into the honey flavoured and slightly gooey centre of the baked medallions was balanced by the frustration of my failed, flat and cracked Parisian Macarons, which have an extremely finicky recipe. Nonetheless, at the end of a food fair held at the University of Melbourne I found myself holding an empty plate – maybe my concentric presentation of the macarons was just too hypnotising to ignore.