Imported Versus Local Baked Goods

I recently participated in a 92nd Street Y tasting tour of French macarons in Manhattan.  When I wasn’t concentrating intently on the macarons I was sampling, I pondered these questions:

(1)  Bakeries/chocolatiers known for their macarons typically offer a number of different flavors. How do they ensure that all of the varieties are fresh?  Over the last few years, I’ve eaten macarons that regrettably, weren’t as fresh as they could be, and  once, horror of all horrors,  I tasted a macaron that had definitely turned.   

(2) The tour leader, Alexandra Leaf, asked us: From a taste standpoint, which macarons are better?  Those baked in France, flown here while frozen, or macarons baked locally?

Commonsense would dictate that the local macarons would be fresher.  Interestingly, I thought the macarons baked in France seemed fresher.  One of the purveyors, La Maison du Chocolat, seemed extremely diligent about preserving the freshness of their products.  I inquired about having a box of macaroons shipped and they refused; they would not be able to ensure the freshness of their products.   

My analysis:. With macarons, if probably depends more on the skill of the baker and attention to keeping the product fresh than on the location of the baking. 

I’ve also found this to be the case with chocolates.  I frequent a Swiss chocolatier, with retail locations in New York.  Teuscher’s chocolates are made in Switzerland and the products are flown to New York a few times each week.  When I was in Switzerland years ago, I sampled Teuscher chocolates.  (I told myself it was for quality control purposes only.)  There was no difference in taste from those that I purchase at New York stores.

Regarding overall macaron preference: of the four retailers/bakeries, I preferred two – one who imports macarons, La Maison du Chocolat, and one who bakes macaroons locally, Mille-Feuille Bakery and Café.  However, as most of the macaron purveyors in New York City are bakers from France, even the “local” macarons are French.  

I assumed the sole reason for importing macarons would be to ensure the high-quality of the product.  Yet other important reasons can enter into it.  The New York Times quoted the President of Laduree, David Holder as saying: “We make the macarons in Paris for all the Ladurees around the world.  That way we can be sure no one will steal our recipes.” 

Of course, deciding not to purchase imported foods because of the carbon footprint is a separate issue.

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