The history of Parisian tea rooms is closely linked to the history of the Ladurée family. It all started in 1862, when Louis Ernest Ladurée, a man from the southwest, created a bakery in Paris at 16 rue Royale. At that time, the Madeleine was a rapidly developing business district where the greatest French luxury craftsmen were already installed.
In 1871, when Baron Haussmann gave Paris a new face, a fire allowed the transformation of the bakery into a pastry shop. The decoration of the pastry is entrusted to Jules Chéret, famous poster painter of the turn of the century. It is inspired by the pictorial techniques used for the ceilings of the Sistine Chapel and the Opéra Garnier. By integrating them into his work, he gives depth and relief to the ceilings, which he adorns with chubby angels and in particular "the Pastry Angel" who will later inspire the entire graphic design of the House.
Under the Second Empire, cafes developed and became more and more luxurious. They keep the beautiful Parisian society running. Together with the chic restaurants of the Madeleine, they become the most prestigious meeting places in Paris. The beginning of this century saw Paris seized with a frenzy of outings and entertainment. Parisians rush to the Universal Exhibition. Women are also changing, they want to meet new people, and literary circles and salons are no longer in fashion.
Jeanne Souchard, wife of Louis Ernest Ladurée, had the idea of mixing genres: Parisian coffee and pastry, and thus gave birth to one of the first tea rooms in the capital. The tea room will have a definite advantage over cafes: that of being able to welcome women in complete freedom.
THE HISTORY OF THE MACARON
The history of the Ladurée Macaron begins with Pierre Desfontaines, little cousin of Louis Ernest Ladurée, who in the middle of the 19th century, had the good idea to put the macaroon shells together two by two and garnish them with a tasty ganache. Since that time, the recipe has not changed.
It all begins with whole blanched almonds from California – the world centre for almonds – that are ground and mixed with confectioner’s sugar. Egg whites are whisked until peaks form and natural food colourings are added to give the macarons their subtle colours. (The colour is mixed in at this point so that it is perfectly uniform.) As much as taste, colour is essential.
Then an Italian meringue is made by heating a mixture of water and caster sugar to 120°C (248°F) and pouring it into the beaten egg whites. At Ladurée it’s always an Italian meringue because it gives the finished macarons their glossy appearance. (You can see this when the macaron shells come out of the oven all shiny.) Then the mix of ground almonds and sugar is added to the meringue, and the macaron mix (or appareil as it’s known in French) is ready.
The device is poured into a hopper. This is the only step that is not carried out manually, because only a machine can obtain an exact calibration and form regular and identical shells to each other. The 14 flavours of macaroons and the 5 Incredible are made daily. This is always done lighter or darker throughout the day so that the colours of the first do not rub off on the following.
Passing through the hopper, the appliance is distributed in small circles on the baking sheets covered with parchment paper. Lightly tap the baking sheet so that the macaroons finish spreading. Then place in the oven for 20 to 25 minutes. The exact temperature of the oven is a well-kept secret, we just know that it should not be too hot so as not to colour the hulls. When they come out of the oven, half of them will be peeled off, those that will be filled. The other half will wisely wait for the caping stage.
An entire room is devoted to the filling (which consists of adding the ganache or the jam between the two shells). Everything is done by hand once again. It takes an impressive dexterity to deposit, with the socket, the right quantity.
The jams that are used for filling (for example for raspberry and blackcurrant macaroons) are denser than those that we eat. Their development is delicate because they must not soak the hull. This is the success of Ladurée: the constant attention to detail. Then comes the last step: the caping, also called sandwiching. It is a question of joining the second hull. After a night in a cold room, all you have to do is wrap these little sweets in pretty boxes in powdery colours. They will leave in stride in shops across France.