Jean-Paul Hévin :: Crème Brûlée Macarons
Most shops keep their macaron lineup pretty standard. You get the usual chocolate, pistachio, raspberry, vanilla, coffee and whatnot. Then there are the shops that do a good job of mixing it up a bit more – like Un Dimanche à Paris with their coquelicot macs, Hugo & Victor with their combawa lime, or Aoki and his matcha macarons. A little further out is a pâtisserie like Pain de Sucre with its elderflower or goat cheese macs. And at the extreme is a certain you-know-who whipping up something inane like an andouillette, pumpkin and curry mélange, which he gives a random meaningless name like “La Tempête”, knowing that every magazine and news outlet will trip over itself to dub the disgusting blend a stroke of Picasso’esque genius. Fortunately, falling somewhere in the middle of these guys, Jean-Paul Hévin is doing some genuinely creative work, without venturing into the shamelessly weird.
I also love Jean-Paul Hévin’s macs for being much closer to perfectly prepared than almost any other shop in Paris. As I was working on the pictures for this post, I actually decided it was time for a long entry of “Parisian Macaron Disasters”, where I eviscerate almost every shop in the city for their incredibly shoddy work in baking and filling macarons. That’s coming this Wednesday as a special 20-photo spectacular! Think of it as more of a feel-good piece for the home baker or non-Parisian chef who thinks they can never get their macs quite right; you won’t feel dejected about your work after you see the true Parisian standard. But, exterior aesthetics aside, does our little Crème Brulee mac here impress? Well . . .
It’s actually pretty disappointing. Not bad – just ok. After bashing other shops in the paragraphs above, I wish I could effuse about how amazing these are, but there are just too many little imperfections. Yes, the shells have the nice lightly crispy exterior and softer/chewier interior you’d expect. But while the filling is a fairly smooth, vanilla’y, sweet blend, I can’t say it was particularly reminiscent of crème brûlée. Even when married with the very cool-looking liquid caramel center, I wasn’t overcome with the illusion of actually enjoying the classic dessert. The caramel was also slightly bitter and overcooked. After the first time I had them, I thought maybe I just caught the macs on a bad day, but subsequent purchases roused, at best, a tepid enjoyment.
You still have to love how awesome the interior of this little guy looks. If only Jacques Genin could come and do some caramel consultation chez Hévin, that oozing center could be rendered consistently delicious. And I don’t say that to belittle Monsieur Hévin. I believe almost all the great Parisian pastry chefs would benefit immeasurably by learning the basics from His Greatness, Jacques Genin.
There were also some small air pockets in the top shell of this little one. That’s actually very uncommon for Monsieur Hévin’s pieces. Just wait until this Wednesday’s entry, when I show what a real air pocket looks like!
So, no, I can’t recommend the Crème Brûléee mac. His mandarin orange, fig, and mango macs are all quite tasty, as are a number of his other more conventional flavors, so I’d still advise you to swing by his Rue Saint-Honoré shop for a box of them, a couple pastries and a nice assortment of chocolates. If you’re already a fan of Monsieur Hévin, maybe check out his memoirs Jean-Paul Hevin: Chocolatier (now in English) or, for my French-spreaking readers, check out his brand-new book on Chocolat Chaud.