I’m a lot behind in the world of macarons apparently, because when I found out that McDonald’s sells macarons in countries that are not the US, I was like…
A quick trip to the McDonald’s France website takes you to their listing of flavors…
My sister and her hubs came back from Paris a couple of weeks ago and brought me a box (they’re roughly $1 each when you convert from euros — they’re practically giving them away!) after I pestered them for macarons that actually came from France. They decided to play a little game with me, taking 3 of the macarons out and replacing them with ones made at local patisseries and told me to guess which ones were the McDonald’s and which ones were from the patisseries. My amateur macaron palate did not fail me. I was able to guess which ones were made in the patisseries and which ones were McMacarons (they don’t actually call them that) correctly.
Before actually eating them, my prejudices against McDonald’s led me to expect sub-par quality and taste, but in spite of myself, I actually liked them. And the reason why they weren’t half bad is…
— Jean-Pierre Petit, CEO of McDonald’s France
Oh the irony. [If you are not a macaron-head, Ladurée, along with Hermé, macarons are considered the best of the best. I have had neither so can’t really say.]
Curiosity had me checking out what exactly goes into the McMacarons, because I suspected that if they’re mass produced like this, they must have other things beyond egg whites, sugar, icing sugar and almond flour in them. And there it was, right on McDonald’s Australia’s (Macca’s) web site, the ingredients in the chocolate macaron:
Icing Sugar [Sugar, Maize Starch], Egg Albumen (Stabilisers (415, 412, 1505)), Almond, Milk Chocolate [Sugar, Whole Milk Powder, Cocoa Butter, Cocoa Liquor, Soy Lecithin, Flavour],Thickened Cream [Cream, Milk, Mineral Salt (450, 500), Stabiliser (400)], Butter, Cocoa (Mineral Salt (501)), Egg Albumen Powder, Soy Lecithin, Thickener (1442).
Contains eggs, milk, soy, tree nuts & sulphites.
May contain traces of gluten & peanuts.
(Copied and pasted straight from McDonald’s Australia nutrition page for the chocolate macaron.)
“Ladurée sells over 20,000 macarons around the world every day (that’s a stat I found from 2014, it may be more now), but those macarons are not made on-site, even in the original Paris boutique. They’re made in large, centralized factories in France and Switzerland, where the Holder Group boast about how they have “optimized” the industrial manufacturing process to maintain the quality and taste. They’ve done a fabulous job, kudos to French engineering savoir-faire for being able to replace pastry chefs with machines. Except that you can’t put fresh pastries in trucks and airplanes for very long. That’s why they’re frozen. Like the macarons sold at McDonald’s and Starbucks in France (which also happen to be made by the Holder Group).
Again, I’m not saying they don’t taste good, but it’s hard to swallow their “artisan luxury macaron” story when they’re produced in a factory by a large corporation, then frozen and shipped over long distances around the world, and sold for €1.90 each in Paris (or $2.70 plus tax in NYC). Even Ladurée’s own employees think the price-quality ratio has gone downhill.”
— Why Laduree’s Macarons are Hard to Swallow, Heather Stimmler-Hall
I was looking for a blind taste test sort of article, but this was something more “scandalous” to me since I had always thought that Ladurée’s macarons were made fresh on site. As I read the article, I was holding out my one last hope that maybe it’s just the international locations of Ladurée who were importing their macarons from factories in Switzerland, and that the original location in Paris had pastry chefs making them on the premises, but even that last little shred of delusion was ripped away from me. Seriously rethinking my macaron “places to try” list now, with Ladurée now somewhere in the middle and no longer at the top. I kind of feel like a kid being told that Santa isn’t real now. :T Is this why macarons are so expensive? The shipping and the technology that goes behind automating the work that ordinarily pastry chefs would do? It’s certainly a plausible explanation in the case of Ladurée.
Anyway, I give McDonald’s macarons a respectable 3.5 stars out of 5. It would have been 4 but they harden when they sit in your fridge for too long. I wonder if this is the cause of mass production and the additives they put into the stuff, because I have never found this to be the case with non-McDonald’s macarons that I’ve had (including my own). If anything, they get softer and a bit too chewy. I still ate the stale McMacarons because by that point there were only 2 left and I will not waste macarons.
This all just has me wondering now which pastry shops really do make their macarons on the premises, and which have them sourced frozen from somewhere else.