Pierre Hermé is the fourth generation of a family of bakers from Alsace in France. He has been working and learning his trade since he was just 14 years old, when he started as a lowly apprentice. He was in Paris with the celebrated pâtissier, Gaston Lenôtre, who was to become Pierre’s greatest professional influence.
In the late 90s, he started his eponymous Paris pâtisserie and then his Tokyo branch, followed in 2000 by tea rooms in Ikspiari, the Tokyo Disney shopping area. There are now seven stores in Tokyo, six in Paris, one in London, and an online shop.
Pierre Hermé was the youngest chef ever to be named France’s Pastry Chef of the Year. He is also the only one to have been invested as a Chevalier of Arts and Letters. He was awarded the legendary Chevalier de la Légion d’honneur in 2007.
Yes, Pierre is the emperor of Macarons. They are very chic and rather pricey. They make very smart gifts as their regular shape allows for easy and stylish packaging. These delicate dainties are striking served straight from a beautiful box.
Stick to the method
The shape is always the same and the macarons are always sandwiched with a complementary cream. But the colours can vary from a hint of pastel shade to a vibrant and in-your-face hue. These are great cookies to theme for an event or person: your friend’s favourite colour, or green with red sprinkles for Christmas.
I would be lying to you if I said that these are the simplest things to bake. There is a technique and it’s important to stick to the method and to adhere slavishly to the weights when making the shells. But once you have achieved the characteristic dome and “foot” then the world is your culinary oyster. Step-by-step picture instructions are here so you have all you need to achieve perfection.
This is the first time that Pierre Hermé recipes have been published in an English-language book. He offers all the classics that have made him so celebrated. Most of them are sweet but there are a few savouries and these can be offered as nibbles with a chilled glass of fizz.
My favourite macarons are the Fresh Mint Macarones from the Signature chapter. These have strong colour and fresh flavour. Pierre favours crème fraîche and white chocolate for many of his fillings, which gives good texture and acts as a carrier for other flavouring ingredients.
Practice with Pierre’s original recipes but then try adapting them to include your favourite flavours, or change the pairings of shells and fillings to invent something totally different. Don’t be intimidated because Macarons are très français – it’s only baking after all, so be bold and adventurous and have fun.
Cookbook review: Macarons
Author: Pierre Hermé
Published by: Grub Street
Cookbook review by Chrissie Walker © 2018