The Parisian macaron is a notoriously difficult thing to perfect. Even experienced bakers struggle to make cookies with the trademark pied (foot) and the right crispy-chewy texture. The challenges don’t end with getting the cookie perfect, either. The filling has to be the right consistency; it can’t be too wet and runny that it would sog up your cookie and make a mess. You also have to figure out the optimal cookie-to-filling ratio, to give each component of the macaron its chance to shine.
This why I just buy my macarons instead of make them. Fortunately, more and more bakers far more skilled than I am have been offering their versions of the Parisian classic. Among these is Mrs. Graham’s Macaron Café. From stalls in fairs and bazaars and a to-order business, they’ve since set-up shop in Quezon City. And because I am always on the lookout for an excellent macaron to tide me over until my next Paris trip, I paid them a visit.
I was particularly intrigued by the Crème Brûlée cheesecake and a Pandesal Pudding.
The café was tiny, fitting no more than fifteen patrons at a time. It was quaint, feminine, homey, if a little twee, with white-washed tables and chairs, exposed brick, and tchotchke on every available surface. In short it was what you would expect from a place named after a barrel-curled baker lady.
Apart from macarons, they offer other pastries that are twists on classics as well. I was particularly intrigued by the Crème Brûlée cheesecake and a Pandesal Pudding, that I made a mental note to try them on my next visit. For this one, it was all about the macarons.
Mrs. Graham’s basic macaron flavors (PHP45) are, as the name suggests, the simplest of the offerings, with a small dollop of a single-flavor filling in between two almond meal cookies. In most of the cases, though, such as in the Salted Caramel and Bailey’s, the dollop was more of a dash. There was too little of the filling in the macarons, with the flavors lost in the too-sweet cookies. And it was a shame, because there was a good amount of salt in the Salted Caramel filling, and a little more of the sticky filling would have made it more successful. The same can’t be said about the Cookie Dough macaron, whose filling only vaguely tasted of buttery, toffee-toned unbaked cookie, and I’m not sure more of it would have helped. The bright spot of the lackluster basic range was the Tequila Rose. The sweetness was dialed back, particularly in the filling, putting the flowery and liquor-y notes front and center. The cookie-to-filling ratio was also spot on.
There was too little of the filling in the macarons, with the flavors lost in the too-sweet cookies.
I had similar issues with the premium flavors as well. The filling for the Bittersweet chocolate (PHP 60) macaron was nowhere near as dark, rich and chocolate-y as I wanted it to be, and the heavy, overly-chewy cookie didn’t help matters. The coffee flavors also fall short of expectations in the Tiramisu macaron (PHP 60). Apart from the initial jolt from the dusting of espresso powder, there’s very little of the coffee kick you expect from tiramisu. The main flavor was actually chocolate. The cream cheese mousse, however, was quite excellent and reminiscent of the traditional mascarpone in the Italian dessert. The Inside Out S’mores macaron (PHP 50) was the most accurate facsimile of the original, with its toasted marshmallow and a graham cracker paste that brings you right back to a campfire.
The Inside Out S’mores macaron (PHP 50) was the most accurate facsimile of the original, with its toasted marshmallow and a graham cracker paste that brings you right back to a campfire.
The other premium flavors had varying degrees of success. The peanut butter in the PB&J (PHP 50) macaron pleasantly reminded me of Chocnut, but I wish there was a little more jelly in the filling to brighten up things up. The Bibingka and Salted Egg (PHP 60) macaron’s cookie was too sweet, almost overpowering the saltiness of the salted egg, the component that I was initially wary of, but surprisingly liked. It’s actually quite a feat how they managed to subdue the pungent saltiness of the egg, but still keep it distinctly and obviously itlog na pula. Mrs. Graham’s actually does a good job of incorporating components that you would think would be too much on a tiny macaron, such as tiny piece of cinnamon French Toast (PHP 50) or Pancake (PHP 50). They don’t end up as random pieces of breakfast carbs between almond cookies, instead they manage to meld with the peanut or maple buttercream they are paired with. The complimentary Ensaymada macaron, flecked with grated cheese, was reminiscent of the margarine-slathered ones you get from your neighborhood bakery, not the ones you get from the big chains. Unfortunately there wasn’t enough of the filling for that flavor to hold it’s own against the almond cookies.
They definitely won’t replace anyone’s Pierre Hermé or Ladurée favorites, but with flavors like Bibingka, Mrs. Graham’s doesn’t mean to anyway. With their inventive flavors, the little café wants to set itself apart from the sea of pistachio and vanilla macarons. They have certainly done that already, but with a little tweaking of their cookie-to-filling ratios, and maybe a lighter hand with the sugar, then Mrs. Graham’s Macaron Café will be known, not just for having unique macarons, but for having great macarons.