Review: Merely Sweets’ Macarons

I don’t typically review restaurants, bakeries, purchases, or pretty much anything. I’ve always believed that each person will have their own opinions, especially when it comes to food. Today, however, I write this entry as a changed man.

I still remember my mixed emotions when I found out that I was going to be visiting a bakery that sold macarons. On one hand, I was filled with anticipation of purchasing my first macaron. On the other, I was afraid of ruining my self-esteem, especially when it comes to making macarons. And while these emotions followed me through the doors of Merely Sweets, a small bakery located in Brea, California, I wondered why I was hyped up over a dessert that I’ve made countless times.

A part of me, however small it may be, was questioned why I, or anyone for this matter, would be willing to shell out $1.65 for one cookie, or 18.50 for a dozen. Of course it only took me seconds to remember that this was considered  to be lower in price range. My background with macarons, the introduction, my first taste, the reoccurring samplings, was always away from home, at some form of a gathering or through other friends. It wasn’t until that moment that the prestige the cookies carried had really hit me.

The bakery itself was pretty. With a modern and simplistic entrance, the interior was decorated with a simple but modern perspective – but I wasn’t too focused on that at all. I had my eyes set on the macarons, the entire assortment of 11 flavors lined up on display. The macaron colors were soft like pastel, so soft that the lighter pink and yellow macarons were difficult to differentiate under the yellower light in my dining room.

Merely Sweets offered 10 standard flavors with a special seasonal “PB & J”. Today I’ll be reviewing each of those 11 flavors, presenting my notes and critique on each macaron.

The Big Picture

Rocking a simplistic modern design, the macarons came off as elegant and exquisite. The macarons each had their unique textures and flavors, mostly due to their fillings. To me, it seemed like most shells were plain flavored, as with most varieties. I thought that the texture of the macarons were just “ok” with Pierre Herme’s recipe that I posted as more superior in texture. Of the batch that I purchased, a majority of them had hollow shells.

With the filling, I found the overall flavor of the macarons pleasant and not overly sweet. I personally thought that the bakery took a very floral approach when it came to flavoring the macarons with high and mid notes that resonated throughout each bite.

With my perception of what a macaron should look like, I wasn’t used to the filling being hidden in the middle of the shells. I personally like the look of the filling between the feet of the macaron but only a few of the flavors took on this look.

Not all 12 macarons made it through the ride home where I photographed the pastries. Of these, the green tea and vanilla wasn’t photographed but they were both recorded in my notes. The green tea was a very soft macaron. The filling was thin but not runny. As I bit into it, the filling oozed into my mouth. The flavor of mattcha, or traditional japanese green tea powder, was the first thing that hit me but the macaron wasn’t too bitter.

The vanilla macaron was by far my favorite of the night. The overall texture was slightly chewy and spot on to my mPierre Herme macarons. The filling was thick and almost chewy itself but light and flavorful. The texture reminded me of a welldone vanilla bean swiss merengue butter cream, not buttery at all and not overly sweet. The macaron started with the aroma of vanilla bean and with a almost not sweet taste and finished with lingering notes of vanilla.

Earl Grey

Like the matcha macaron, the Earl Grey also had a very soft filling. The filling oozed when the cookie was bit into but the flavor was not weak at all. Instead of the more intense green tea counterpart, the earl grey was extremely floral. The flavors were light and carried through the cookie.

Peanut Butter and Jelly

The PBJ macaron shell was very light and it was less sweet. The smell of toast and bread permeated the cookie which I thought was very interesting. These cookies were of the few that had some form of a crumb decoration on the shell. I wasn’t too  sure if they were breadcrumbs made from white toast or if it was panko but the taste was similar to biting into a piece of lightly toasted bread.The pastry thoroughly tasted like PB&J, in areas of texture taste and smell which I enjoyed. This was another one of my favorites from them.

Dark Chocolate

The dark chocolate macaron was very rich. Even though the macaron flavor was “dark chocolate”, it had hints of milk chocolate. The overall flavor wasn’t too sweet as if I were biting into a piece of chewy 60% dark chocolate. Like the vanilla, the ganache was not runny, it was thick and very truffle-like. This sparked some inspiration in me to make my fillings more rich and creamy rather than on the liquid side.

Lemon

The lemon macaron wasn’t as fruity as I had originally anticipated. The outer shells also had the most “crunch” amongst the 11 flavors. The actual lemon flavor wasn’t very fruity but rather fragrant. The filling they used had either lemon zest or essence but it wasn’t buttery nor was it thick. I’m thinking that its some form of a icing or frosting.

Salted Caramel

The salted caramel macaron tasted a lot more like slated butterscotch.  There was no burnt, caramel flavor present and I found it too salty. The filling was clearly made with corn syrup, as the filling dragged into sugary strings with each bite. Initially I had some trouble telling what flavor of a macaron this actually was. Overall I liked this one the least.

Pistachio

Like the others, the pistachio flavor carried through with the scent. The filling was extremely similar to a pistachio paste with very intense flavors sweetened with sugar.

Raspberry

The raspberry macaron had a raspberry jam with a white chocolate filling in the center. It had very subtle hints of white chocolate but I found it unnecessary as the raspberry jam wasn’t very tart. The actual flavor of raspberry was relatively subtle compared to other jams that I’ve had and the scent is more floral than fruity.

Gingerbread

This macaron also took me a while to figure it out what flavor it was, until I bet into crystalized ginger. The flavor of ginger became overpowering. I ate a chunk of salt and I found that this macaron didn’t capture the  aspects of a gingerbread cookie like the PB&J macaron did.

Hazelnut Chocolate

The flavor of hazelnut definitely came through. I thought the filling had a stronger hazelnut flavor than nutella. It reminded me of eating a Ferrero Rocher with the hazelnut in the middle (instead of nutella itself), except this cookie didn’t have actual hazelnuts in it.

Overall

The flavor offerings of Merely Sweets were less sweet than expected, which I found to be a good thing. I found the texture of the filling to be very diverse which offered a different experience. That said, each of the fillings were based on fragrant high and mid notes rather than taste. I found that it this worked for flavors such as vanilla but not so much for things like the lemon.

I found these macarons to be a fair introduction for those who have never had a macaron before. Merely Sweets offered variety, not only in taste but in texture. Although the flavor offerings are not as exotic as Pierre Herme’s bakery, I think that it would be fair to say that they did an decent job with the cookies.

I would recommend this bakery to my friends who are local and dying to try the pastries with a side note of these being decent but not amazing macarons.

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