My grandmother was an excellent baker, in a very traditional German style, which has made me, I think, a bit particular about my baked goods. In addition, growing up, there were always great bakeries in my neighborhood, where if Grandma didn’t feel like baking, we could get some excellent stuff. Now, with our annual European trips and all of the travel I do, I have even more fun finding great bakeries. One thing I’ve totally fallen in love with is the croissant– you can read more about it in The Boyfriend’s post about French croissants. I’ve also fallen in love with macarons, which I hear are the next cupcake (but hope beyond hope they won’t be– even a mediocre cupcake is okay, a mediocre macaron? Ugh!). I remembered that Frieda’s Bakery sells macarons– so I picked up a box (and some other goodies) yesterday.
So what is a macaron? It’s an egg white cookie, made usually with almond flour (or coconut, but then that’s a macaroon). French macarons (as opposed to amaretti, the Italian version, or coconut macaroons) are filled with a couple of things, traditionally jam or ganache. They’re a little crispy, a little chewy, and just the right amount of sweetness, if you buy the smaller ones.
I preordered– worried that, perhaps, there would be a run on macarons by the time I got there at 5:30. There wasn’t, but I was happy to have my little box of eight macarons: two each of chocolate, vanilla, raspberry and peanut butter and jelly. The time it took for the clerk to grab my box from the back allowed me time to look at all of the other treats they had to offer: many traditional European tarts, more macarons, Madeleines, palmiers, cookies (oatmeal, chocolate chip), schnecken and croissants. I’d heard on UrbanSpoon that their croissants were amazing, so I got a couple of those: two plain, and one almond croissant.
First, the macarons: they had been refrigerated, which is really not an ideal way to eat a macaron– too cold, and they’re too chewy; there’s no crispness to the first bite followed up by chewiness. As they came to room temperature, that crispness came back. The vanilla and chocolate were very good– you could see flecks of vanilla seed in both the cookie and the ganache, and the chocolate was rich and not too sweet. The raspberry filling was good– very smooth and seedless, but I tasted just a bit of artificiality in the cookie– I might not order those again. The peanut butter and jelly was my favorite: a swirl of peanut butter topped with a swirl of grape jelly, sandwiched between vanilla cookies. Bouchon’s are still my favorite, but Frieda’s, just for the macarons, will become a frequent stop to tide me over.
What’s better than the macarons? I love it when I go someplace because I hear one thing is good, but the other things I buy are even better. The croissants are easily the best I’ve had in town: better, even, than Greenup in its heyday. They are flaky, buttery, and tender on the inside. The almond croissant was even better– but almond croissants are my favorite, so I’m a bit biased: it was filled with almond paste, glazed, topped with almonds and powdered sugar. Not too sugary or sticky, and the almond paste and the flakiness of the pastry was at the forefront. Amazing. I will definitely drive there on a Saturday morning to grab pastries for the weekend: they’re just so good.
There’s a reason: the owner, Armin Hack, who grew up in Dusseldorf, Germany, grew up in a pastry-making family, and was certified as a Master Pastry Chef in Germany before he moved here (you can see the certificate near the cash register at the shop). Their website says that every dessert is “a masterpiece”. They are spot on.