Pierre Hermé is one of the world's greatest pastry chefs and famed for his inventive macarons. His new collection of delightful collections has now launched in London. Chris Osburn went along to a preview event to sample what's on offer including a romantic release for Valentine's Day.
Consider if you will the Jardin Pamplemousse: a glorious morsel combining grapefruit, clove, nutmeg and candied grapefruit together to form an especially flavoursome macaron. Want to hear another tasty macaron wonder? How about the Jardin Merveilleux – a mix of mandarin, olive oil and cucumber water? Or maybe the Jardin dans les Nuage – a blend of chocolate and smoked salt? These are but a few of the dozen delights in Pierre Hermé's new 2013 LesJardins collection of macaron.
Pierre Hermé is a French pastry chef famed for his ingenious and often intriguingly inventive macarons. Following in the family footsteps of four generations of baking and pastry making before him, Hermé began his career at the age of 14 as an apprentice to Gaston Lenôtre, a chef who inspired the character Gusteau in the Pixar film Ratatouille. With 'pleasure as his only guide', Hermé might very well be the subject of a feature film himself someday. Preferring discreet décor and using sugar 'like salt', he eschews convention and in some ways works more like a parfumeur than a pâtissier-confectioneur.
I met Hermé about a week or so before Christmas at the preview of his latest Les Jardin collection. Mellow and confident, he was a man of few words preferring to let his creations speak for themselves. This proved a deliciously effective strategy. How something so dainty could deliver such evocative and charming potency to the palate while retaining a delicate balance spoke volumes to Hermé's culinary aptitude.
Totally blow away by just about every bite I tried of his creations (and believe me I took lots of bites!), I left the preview with a box of his macarons, resulting in a festive season even yummier than usual for me. And let me tell you with Valentine's Day on the horizon, Hermé's macarons fit the bill for excellent gifts sure to be appreciated. His 'release' for this Valentine's Day: the Macaron Yasamine, a more biscuit-y version of macaron with jasmine tea cream, mango compote and candied grapefruit.
But it's not just me raving about Hermé's confections. The Guardian considers him the 'king of modern pâtisserie' while the New York Times ups his status to 'kitchen emperor' and Vogue reckons he's the 'Picasso of pastry'. Hyperbolic to be sure, but I bet you'll sing his praises lavishly as well once you sink your teeth into one of his macarons.
Beyond this masterful macarons, the chef makes a mean bonbon and a galet that's as refined as it is moreish. His pâte à tartiner infiniment praliné noisette (a hazelnut praliné spread with bits of caramelized hazelnut) could bring a tear to a grown gourmand's eye.
Luckily for the sophisticated sweet tooth here in Britain, there are two places in London where you sample Pierre Hermé's macarons. He's got a boutique in Belgravia at 13 Lowndes Street (SW1X 9EX) as well as a concession on the ground floor at Selfridges. Find out more at pierreherme.com.
If Chris's post & Herme's confections have inspired you to make your own macarons, we have some delight macaron recipes in our collection at Great British Chefs.