Let them eat cheap cakes

Macarons were the preserve of wealthy. To the chagrin of French food snobs they're now even in Starbucks

They were once a bourgeois treat to be nibbled while wearing your Sunday best. Now French pastel-coloured macarons have turned mainstream.

No longer just sold in patisseries, the dainty desserts can now be found on the shelves of supermarkets and McDonald's in France. And this week, Starbucks have also announced that they plan to add the delicacy to their range of cakes available there.

But top patisseries are concerned the newfound ubiquity - not to be confused with the coconut-flavoured macaroon - could give the macaron a bad name, while some food-lovers in Paris are positively disgusted.

Chef Pâtissier Philippe Andrieu, who has worked for La Durée for 12 years, inventing bergamot and green apple macarons for the small, 148-year-old chain of Parisian tea salons and patisseries, said that "production line" desserts are completely different from those that he makes.

"A macaron should crumble in your mouth. We use a meringue-like base that's light and collapses as you eat it," he said. "Macarons made on a production line have a more biscuit-like base, and so don't crumble."

He said inferior macarons are often extremely sweet and lacking in flavour. "It's not for me to judge whether it is good that macarons are being sold everywhere. People certainly have a taste for macarons; at La Durée we have increased our levels of production to cope with demand. But they are completely different and cannot be compared."

He said it could be a good idea to give the high-street macarons a new name, to distinguish them from the hand-made patisserie versions, though he said there wasn't a suitable word in French. Yet.

Isabelle De Cottignies, who works at high-end patisserie Chocolat Foucher in the seventh arrondissement of Paris, was similarly wary. "We sell classical flavours, because people in our area are quite traditional," she explained. "Macarons are now more widely available, but the less expensive macarons are lower quality, which is not necessarily good news. Usually, macarons are made with quite expensive ingredients. Of course, you can taste the difference immediately, and if people who have never tried a macaron before first taste a lower quality product they won't think macarons are good."

Pierre Hermé, head pâtissier at Fauchon, who introduced ketchup, gherkin and black truffle flavoured macarons to Paris, has never tried the high-street version: "There's macaron, and then there's macaron," he said.

Laetitia Brock, a Parisienne blogger living in the US, said: "Macarons are not meant to be mainstream," while another blogger Allison Lightwine said: "I saw them at the McCafé on the Champs-Elysées-just down the street from La Durée! What is the world coming to?!?" She said their presence in McDo, as the French refer to the burger chain, was so incongruous it was like "showing up in a tuxedo to a baseball game".

But the concerns of connoisseurs seems unlikely to halt the spread of the egg white, ground almond and sugar-based desserts, which are also the subject of a new recipe book by Japanese pastry chef Hisako Ogita.

Starbucks France is "developing a recipe with a Starbucks-inspired taste profile and plans to introduce them in the future", a spokeswoman told The Independent. French-style macarons were introduced to Starbucks in the US last year, and the company says they are "very popular".

McDonald's introduced macarons to its French stores in 2007 and sells them in its 70 McCafés across the country. A new advertisement shows people eating the mini burger-shaped desserts with both hands, just as they would eat their more traditional fast-food. In a twist that may infuriate food snobs, the burger company ships their macarons frozen from Château Blanc, a subsidiary of Groupe Holder, which is La Durée's parent company. The two versions use different recipes.

François Simon, food critic for the daily newspaper Le Figaro, said the macaron was previously a bourgeois dessert, which was mainly only eaten on Sundays. "The word comes from the Italian maccherone and the Venetian macarone (meaning fine paste), from which macaroni is also derived," according to Larousse Gastronomique, the French cookery encyclopedia. According to culinary folklore, the desserts may have first come from an Italian Renaissance recipe, or from a group of French monks who modelled them on their belly-buttons.

Mr Simon has noticed the rise in popularity of the so-called "Picasso of patisseries" and believes it comes from the changing lifestyle of Parisians. "It's nomadic food – people can eat one while walking," he said. "Its rise in popularity corresponds with a decrease in time for eating, which means that soups, paninis and salads are also becoming more popular. A macaron is like a concentrated dessert."

While many may scorn the ubiquity of macarons, he said he thinks it is a good thing that there are different propositions on the market. "Luxury macarons, such as La Durée or Fauchon, are very expensive, excellent and intense in flavour. The different quality corresponds with the different macarons on offer, but it is good that there is a range. It's like smoked salmon: you can buy a whole range, from very expensive to loss-leader price."

There will be a chance to bid for a rare example of the SAS Diary, collated by a former member of the regiment in the aftermath of World War II but only published – in a limited run of just 5,000 – in 2011
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm today
Elton John and David Furnish exchange marriage vows
peopleSinger posts pictures of nuptials throughout the day
File: James Woods attends the 52nd New York Film Festival at Walter Reade Theater on September 27, 2014
peopleActor was tweeting in wake of NYPD police shooting
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Martin Skrtel heads in the dramatic equaliser
SPORTLiverpool vs Arsenal match report: Bandaged Martin Skrtel heads home in the 97th-minute
Arts and Entertainment
The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit director Peter Jackson with his star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame
Billie Whitelaw was best known for her close collaboration with playwright Samuel Beckett, here performing in a Beckett Trilogy at The Riverside Studios, Hammersmith
people'Omen' star was best known for stage work with Samuel Beckett
Arts and Entertainment
Mark Wright has won The Apprentice 2014
tvThe Apprentice 2014 final
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Food & Drink

    Investigo: Finance Analyst

    £240 - £275 per day: Investigo: Support the global business through in-depth a...

    Ashdown Group: Data Manager - £Market Rate

    Negotiable: Ashdown Group: Data Manager - MySQL, Shell Scripts, Java, VB Scrip...

    Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - Bedfordshire/Cambs border - £32k

    £27000 - £32000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Application Support Analyst - near S...

    Recruitment Genius: Class 1 HGV Driver

    £23000 - £27000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This successful group of compan...

    Day In a Page

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history - clocks, rifles, frogmen’s uniforms and colonial helmets

    Clocks, rifles, swords, frogmen’s uniforms

    Surrounded by high-rise flats is a little house filled with Lebanon’s history
    Return to Gaza: Four months on, the wounds left by Israel's bombardment have not yet healed

    Four months after the bombardment, Gaza’s wounds are yet to heal

    Kim Sengupta is reunited with a man whose plight mirrors the suffering of the Palestinian people
    Gastric surgery: Is it really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Is gastric surgery really the answer to the UK's obesity epidemic?

    Critics argue that it’s crazy to operate on healthy people just to stop them eating
    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction Part 2 - now LIVE

    Homeless Veterans appeal: Christmas charity auction

    Bid on original art, or trips of a lifetime to Africa or the 'Corrie' set, and help Homeless Veterans
    Pantomime rings the changes to welcome autistic theatre-goers

    Autism-friendly theatre

    Pantomime leads the pack in quest to welcome all
    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

    Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

    Panto dames: before and after

    From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

    Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

    Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

    Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
    The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

    The man who hunts giants

    A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
    The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

    The 12 ways of Christmas

    We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
    Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

    The male exhibits strange behaviour

    A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
    Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

    Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

    Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

    The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

    A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

    The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'