Begin your discovery of fine French pastries with a bite into one of the absolute not-to-be-missed French macarons. Until you've tried one you'll have no idea what all the fuss is about. Suffice it to say that they are nothing – and I repeat, nothing – at all like our macaroons (notice, please, too, the different spelling). French macarons are bursting-with-flavor little cookie cakes with a cream ganache center that comes in flavors like passion-orange, rose, salted caramel, licorice, lavender and chocolate. They are little light-as-air things but my do they ever pack the flavor punch. So be sure to mark March 20th on your calendar, it’s Macaron Day in France ! Other French classics are the Baba au Rhum, the Opéra, the Marie Antoinette... each one of them will have sugarplum fairies and fanciful sweet things dancing through your head once you’ve savored a bite.
One of the recent trends in the city are the sugar-free or reduced sugar and flour-alternative pastry shops. There has been a slight wave of gluten-free, in keeping with the rampant trend across “the pond,” but that seems to be giving way to pastry shops who are going in a different direction, developing desserts and fine pastries that are greatly reduced in sugar, even to the extent of being diabetic-approved, though you'd never guess it from biting into one of their baked goods. Alternatives to flour include almond powder, already a staple ingredient in macarons, and also things like rice flour and sweet potato paste.
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