The last time (and only time I was ever) in Paris, I did not eat a macaron. Sadly enough, I didn't even consider to most of the time. There were two occasions where I potentially could have: the first time, my friends and I were wandering around Le Marais looking for a supermarket (don't ask) and we stumbled across a sweet little patisserie. I did a double-take at the sight of all the pretty cakes and pastries and piles and piles of colourful macarons, but my friends took one look at the prices and said, "Are you crazy? Let's get out of here!" and I unfortunately was too tired from walking around so much that I didn't have the strength to argue.
La deuxième fois, we were on the Champs-Élysées with my French teacher and she was willing to take us to any café for afternoon tea, her treat. I, as any self-respecting foodie would do, ran straight to Ladurée and begged we eat there, and since none of my friends knew any other places themselves and it was raining and we all just wanted to get inside, they followed me in. But, like I mentioned, it was raining, and we weren't the only people who wanted to get in out of the rain, so the place was packed and we would have had to wait a day just to even look at the display (an exaggeration, perhaps, but we were really hungry). So I woefully agreed we should go somewhere else, and we ended up at a nice café where we had tea and profiteroles and chocolate fondant, and as it was still raining when we left they gave us all free umbrellas (yeah, we didn't believe it either) and chocolate eggs as it was near Easter. Despite a good time, I still didn't get to eat a macaron.
That was March 2008, by the way. Which brings us to the present day and these lemon macarons. Now I've tried making macarons before, and the first time I tried, they adhered to the paper and I made a mess trying to (gently... at first) pry them off; and the second time they were just kind of flat and unappealing. This time... well, they're still a bit flat and bumpy, but they turned out okay, I guess. Except for the fact that the batter spread a wee bit too much and most of the macarons fused with one of their buddies, but of course for the photograph I salvaged the few that managed to stand on their own. Then I sandwiched them together with a buttercream mixed with lemon curd and they weren't half bad. You can bet that the next time I'm in Paris (which will be pretty soon!) the first thing I will do is sprint straight to Ladurée or Pierre Hermé and finally eat one of their macarons, but for now, I suppose these will suffice.
The recipe for the macarons comes straight from Tartelette's Macarons 101 in Desserts Magazine, and all I did was add some lemon zest and yellow food colouring. I will, however, give you the lemon curd recipe that is literally to die for. It is so good, it doesn't need to be put on a tart or layered in a cake or sandwiched between delicate French cookies. I just eat it piled on a digestive biscuit. Or with a spoon (or my fingers, then I don't have to wash the spoon).
From The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook by Ina Garten
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 pound unsalted butter, room temperature
4 extra-large eggs
1/2 cup lemon juice (3 to 4 lemons)
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt
Using a carrot peeler, remove the zest of 3 lemons, being careful to avoid the white pith. Put the zest in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add the sugar and pulse until the zest is very finely minced into the sugar.
Cream the butter and beat in the sugar and lemon mixture. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and then add the lemon juice and salt. Mix until combined.
Pour the mixture into a 2 quart saucepan and cook over low heat until thickened (about 10 minutes), stirring constantly. The lemon curd will thicken at about 170ºF, or just below simmer. Remove from the heat and cool or refrigerate.