“I definitely preferred Pierre Hermé when I came, and now… I’m a Ladurée girl. And I’m not comfortable with that.”—Jo
“I had heard so much about Pierre Hermé’s flavors, but… they kinda freaked me out!”—Karin
For years the debate has raged on: Who has the most sublime flavor-combinations? Who has the richest ganache? The creamiest buttercream? The perfect balance of crisp to chewy to melty? Whose is the prettiest?
Just exactly who has the best macaron: Pierre Hermé or Ladurée?
This was the question. But trust me, it’s not so easy to answer.
Even after the American Smackdown in Paris.
Nine tasters, ranging from macaron newbies to diehard aficionados.
That would be Karin and Sion…
Sarah and Jo
Sylvia and Lionel
Top-notch pastry chef Rachel Khoo, experienced macaron taster Erica Berman, and myself.
Two flavors went head to head: rose and chocolate. (The others were just there because—pourquoi pas?—you can never have too much macaron carnage.)
And what do you know? It was a draw.
Rachel helped set things up and point out what we were looking for...
...What was the sheen like on the shell? Is the “foot” ragged or smooth? Does the shell crack like a baby bird’s egg? (Okay, that last one is my professional contribution, but it’s important, no??)
Although the numerical results would indicate Pierre Hermé won the Smackdown, it’s just not that easy. At the end of the night, four attendees confessed to preferring Ladurée overall—two of these were converts. Yesss!
So why is it a draw? Because I’m such a wuss, the ninth mouth, and I still can’t decide.
But here’s what we do know:
What we like about Pierre Hermé
The appearance: both the macarons themselves and the image of the brand
That they’re hand-assembled
The flavor combinations
What we don’t like about Pierre Hermé
A little too dense & heavy
What we like about Ladurée
The crisp shells
What we don’t like about Ladurée
That they’re assembled by machine
The stodgy image
Specifically, we pitted rose for rose.
It was a very close call. Out of a possible score of 15 (5 for appearance, 5 for texture and 5 for flavor), it was 11.875 to 11.222, Hermé’s favor. Ladurée tasted “just like a rose!” while Hermé had “a titch of savory creaminess”—which, with the comments on sugar and sweetness is probably what tilted the scales.
The results for the chocolate macaron were greater but, again, misleading.
Numerically, Hermé was the top scorer (12.5). But verbally, most people preferred the Ladurée option (which scored 11.33), citing that Hermé had “too much filling” and was “too cocoa-y”. Tasters likened it to eating a brownie. Pierre Hermé was “fudgier” versus Ladurée’s “creamier”.
So au final, who is the best?
Karin said it best and half agreed: Give me the appearance (and image! Piped Jo and Rachel) of Pierre Hermé but the flavor of Ladurée (which got big love from Erica).
In other words, the debate (happily) goes on.