Pierre Hermé – Macaron Ispahan
So I begin my macaron tasting adventure with Pierre Herme’s macarons, and it’s a piece which does not need elaborate introduction, one whose name and fame precedes it. Macaron ispahan has been synonymously associated with Pierre Hermé for the longest time, though this unique combination of flavours were actually developed by Christine Ferber, a fellow French patissier whom I hold with the highest esteem for her ingenuinity of creating flavour combinations and art of making confitures. I had a brush of luck when I encountered her confitures in Taiwan but I decidedly gave it a miss. A bludy stoopid blooper now in retrospect. but that’s another story for another time.
Ispahan was incidentally, one of Ferber’s confiture creations which inspired PH so much that he created a “Fetish”, a whole line of delicious pastries out of it, from giantic petit gateau-sized macarons to tarts to croissants.
Rose, raspberries and lychee… who would have guessed.
The macarons tasted beautifully., with all the flavours marrying into one another so well. Rose was the most prominant flavour here, being used in the buttercream filling. Singing high on the aromatic notes, one easily gets swept into the multitudes of imagery conjured when savouring the piece. A stroll in a rose garden on a moonlit night, and its almost dawn but not quite, as the petals are embellished with dew glistening like diamonds under the pale moonlight. From afar, a nightingale serenades her last song for the night before taking flight. That’s the Scheherazade-like imagery keeps getting played and replayed in my head whenever I taste something “ispahanish”. Don’t ask me why, because I can’t explain it myself. But the aroma is ethereal.
Lychees are introduced as miniscule morsels embedded within the buttercream. Their presence is noticeable in a very non-obtrusive manner. So finely brunoised they were, one almost has to press between the tongue and the soft palate to find them.
Freeze-dried raspberries (FDRs) were used as the core, a variation to the framboise gelée used in the recipe from his books. It reminded me of my recent adventure to recreate PH’s Macaron Jardin Enchanté. A little “yipee” in my heart as I knew my instincts were right with the FDRs for this new macaron. And the motivation for the change? I’m speculating that FDRs were used to replace the gelée for several reasons.
(1) FDRs are highly highly intoxicating in both aroma and taste. They are very potent stuff and could go very wrong when not used properly. All the flavours are being compacted into those tiny spongy lumps as the moistuare was being sucked out. This results in little flavour bombs with everything sealed in all at once.
(ii) Semi-reconstitution of the FDRs wih remnant moisture from the buttercream alters the texture dramatically. Don’t eat FDRs on their own. They taste a tad too chewy and somewhat rubbery, if not the flavours too intense and acrid for pleasure. I know of folks who would look all sqiurmish when you pop a fresh raspberry into their mouths. I would absolutely love to see them eat FDRs raw! But a semi-reconstitution of FDR is a totally different animal altogether. Mellowed and tamed in flavours, as well as being softened considerably to homogenise with its complimentary ingredients. It worked so so beautifully.
The shells are not very pretty yes, but very very well-made. The texture was perfect with the right crunch as one first sinks his teeth into it. An ever so slight chewiness to the coques as they yield under pressure causing the buttercream to be pushed laterally towards the cheek ends before reuniting with the bits of almond biscuit under the works of the teeth and the tongue. Yes, close your eyes and enjoy the moment. I most certainly did.
Now I know why Ispahan is so highly raved by folks who’d tried it. Believe me, it is not a cliché.