In the tiny but impossibly efficient basement bakery where Alexandra Robinson churns out macarons by the hundreds, I was handed a cake platter covered in the very same. It was a dream come true — a plate of desserts all to myself that I was not only allowed to eat, but encouraged to!
There were eight in total to taste and enjoy on that plate, which sounded like a reasonable amount of cookies. In fact, so reasonable there would be no issue in eating all of them, especially for a seasoned pastry enthusiast such as myself. I am such a sugar fiend that if I saw a small plate with only two lone macarons on them, served as if that was a full helping dessert, I would get upset. That couldn’t seriously be a full dessert for one person, could it? If it were macarons by the Blue Eyed Baker herself, then the answer would be an emphatic YES. I had no idea how rich and filling a single macaron could be until I reviewed these multicolored marvels.
Essentially, a macaron is two cookies sandwiched together with a filling, typically a buttercream or a ganache. Alexandra’s macarons are set apart because she creates hers using a baking method that is generally not used in the big batch professional baking world since it is so fussy, so difficult, and requires a lot of experience and practice to do correctly. Even though she has made thousands (that is not hyperbole) of macarons, she herself has a batch that occasionally is not quite on point. That is the French method of making macarons. The other, used by almost all other professional bakers, is the Italian method, which is more stable to use when baking, but gives a different texture and mouthfeel than the French.
Alexandra’s French method of macaron-making gives her sweet delights a bigger ‘foot,’ which is the thicker flat part of the macaron that touches the filling, and a fluffier, higher, airier merengue top, with a nice hard crunch on the surface. I challenge you to take one of her macarons and any other macaron you can get your hands on, and see the difference for yourself.
The other thing you may notice with her macarons is that the colors are pretty, but not crazy. They are intense, but not unnatural. She uses natural colors for her macarons, like spirulina, beet powder, and turmeric, to achieve her rainbow hues. She also sources her ingredients with many local farms and vendors, pumping money back into the local economy. Everything about her macarons you can feel good about buying and eating.
On my plate was one of each of the following flavors:
Let’s start with the fruit flavors. The blueberry macaron is made with fresh blueberries from nearby Child’s Blueberry Farms in Hinsdale, and you can tell. It does not have that artificial blueberry flavor you find in yogurts, it has the mild flavor of real, fresh blueberries. It is not overly sweet either, letting the blueberry flavor shine through, with a subtle sweetness that does not overpower the fruit flavor.
Just like the blueberries, this macaron gets its flavor from fresh berries and does not have the acrid sweet taste you find in yogurts and cake fillings. The fresh flavor is not too tart, either, rather it is perfectly balanced in the sweet buttercream filling. Between the shell with its light raspberry flavor, and the center with its smooth subtle fruity flavor, you get the perfect combination of fresh raspberry and sweetness.
While not a big fan of lemon-flavored desserts because they tend to be at the same time both overpoweringly tart, and too sweet to balance out the tartness, this macaron was the best lemon experience I’ve ever had. It has such a subtle lemon flavor, but the flavor is fresh and real. You could taste the fresh zest, but your mouth didn’t pucker. The sweetness was not too sugary, with the buttercream taking down the tart a notch.
This has been — and always will be — my favorite fruit flavor. Alexandra’s strawberry is in line with her other fruits in the way she handles the flavor. Fresh fruit comes out in this macaron with each bite, and the lightly sweet shell and buttercream filling make the overall flavor a strawberries and cream-like experience. There are no other words to describe this besides fresh, bright, and real.
I love all things rose, so I knew I would love this macaron. Rose is such a great flavor because the smell and the taste work together in equal parts when you are experiencing this flavor. I cannot eat anything rose-flavored without smelling it first, because that is part of the experience. The flavor is still subtle, but rose always packs more punch — a little goes a long way, as they say. You can taste the floral and botanical notes in this macaron, and this is the least sweet of the flavors I tried. This one allows the rose to shine, and does not overpower it with too much sugar.
These macarons are made with espresso beans from Kornerstone Coffee, who has a location in East Aurora, and one coming soon to Larkin Square. This has such an intense coffee flavor, that I would try to replace my morning cup with it if I thought it packed the same caffeine punch needed to start my day. The macaron tastes like an espresso, not a cup of coffee, which distinguishes this from other macarons that claim an espresso flavor. It still has some sweetness, but not overly sweet.
This adorable macaron topped with sprinkles is one of the sweeter ones in the bunch. True to its name, it has a cake batter flavor, and packs a sugary punch. I was able to appreciate the shape and texture of the macaron with this one since it had a uniform sugary flavor. As you bite down, you get through the thin crust of the top cookie, bite through the pillowy center, then get to the more chewy foot. Then comes the buttercream center, and the same textures you experience in reverse for the bottom. It is such a wonderful mouthfeel, and you can savor each aspect of the macaron.
I saved the best for last. This macaron has a ganache filling, which was so intensely chocolate it could stand alone as a dessert by itself. The flavor was in between a sweet and a dark, not overly sweet but not too bitter. I am a chocoholic, so I made sure I had enough room to eat the entire macaron.
I took at least a bite of each macaron in order to write this review, and thankfully had some help. Towards the end, I was so full I could barely finish. Seeing those eight macarons on the patter, I thought I could handle them all by myself, but in reality each one packs such a punch, there is no way I could eat all of them. You truly only need a couple of macarons to be full — maybe three or four if you tend to have a sweet tooth. Any more than that is unwise, since you will be in a sugar coma for hours.
I can’t wait to have these again, they were incredibly filling, satisfying, and stunningly beautiful and elegant.
So here’s to you, Mrs. Robinson, and your fantastic macarons! (I just couldn’t resist).
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