Macarons are a rather iconic dessert in terms of lolita fashion. Beyond the obvious tastiness of these delicate cookies, the Japanese seem entranced with them in the same sort of way that they idolize many French things. In lolita fashion, the macaron has been featured in several prints by Angelic Pretty. Beyond lolita, however, macarons are the subjects for miniature, felt crafts, cell phone straps, and other household goods.
Recently, the Trader Joe’s grocery stores have begun selling macarons. Not everyone is fortunate enough to live near a pâtisserie that makes macarons, and even fewer people live near one that makes them well.
However, store-bought macarons have perils beyond that of fresh macarons. Macarons go stale very quickly–macaron-Mecca Ladurée warns patrons that the cookies are only good for two days. However, two days is shorter than many foods spend in transit to their final destination; thus most packaged macarons are stale by the time they reach the consumer. The Trader Joe’s macarons, however, are kept in the frozen dessert section–this keeps them from going stale in such a short time.
Although the cookies are not stale, they do not arrive in perfect condition. Macarons are very delicate–the cookie portion is basically a meringue with a touch of flour–and the slightest pressure can crack and crush them. Whenever I bake macarons, sometimes they shatter just from being removed from the cookie sheet. Although the Trader Joe’s macarons are packaged in a plastic tray with each cookie separated, it is not enough to keep them in shape. The tops of the cookies usually look fine, but the bottoms of every cookie in my box was totally smashed.
As these macarons are frozen, they need to be allowed to thaw–sitting out at room temperature for 30 minutes. This step is extremely, extremely important. The macarons I ate that had sat out for the full 30 minutes had soft filling and a crisp cookie. The flavors were light and un-tainted. The macarons that did not get a full 30 minutes had hard filling and (most importantly) tasted of “freezer” more than of the cookie itself–very unpleasant.
In terms of actual quality, I’d say that the Trader Joe’s macarons are not perfect, but they are better than most packaged (and some bakeries’) macarons. The cookies have a nice foot, smooth skin, and appropriate crispness, but I found that they were more meringue-like than I prefer. (This was more pronounced for the chocolate macarons than the vanilla.) They didn’t have enough of the density and texture that the almond flour should add.
The Trader Joe’s macarons are approximately $5 for one dozen macarons–6 chocolate and 6 vanilla. This is, really, an unbeatable value. Most pâtisseries charge much, much more than that this–usually $2-$3 per macaron.
Overall, I don’t think this is something I would buy again, but I would certainly recommend it to others. If you haven’t had macarons before, the Trader Joe’s macarons are a better place to start than other pre-packaged macarons. If you like macarons a lot and don’t want to spend a fortune, they’re a great deal. If you love meringues, you’d also probably really like them! Personally, I will bake my own macarons or patronize my favourite bakery–there are other store-bought cookies I enjoy that I could buy for a similar price; I don’t mind paying a little bit extra for macarons I like the taste of more.