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Last month, Pierre Marcolini unveiled his Citrus Garden Summer Collection for 2021, a range of chocolates and patisserie items curated with zesty, vibrant flavours of Mediterranean fruits.
His team kindly sent me over a sleeve of Gingembrettes and Pamplemoussettes, part of the Gourmandises range, together with a delightful box of 12 summer macarons.
So, while my plans to travel the Med remain on hold amidst the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic, can Pierre deliver a much-needed dose of the Dolce Vita here in Blighty courtesy of his gourmet delicacies?
While the Gourmandises collection is available individually, today I'm sampling the twin gift pack, which features two boxes of chocolate dipped fruits - dark chocolate ginger pieces and milk chocolate grapefruit pieces.
The two boxes are presented inside a vibrant yellow and white sleeve, with the Pierre Marcolini logo in the centre, flanked by illustrations of lemons.
The boxes shine in a rose gold colour, and sit inside a clear plastic box. The Pierre Marcolini logo sits on top in matching rose gold print, with the branding and collection name, Gourmandises (which translates as 'delicacies'), printed in black on the side. On the base sits the ingredients list in French, Dutch and English.
Pierre Marcolini's Gourmandises Chocolate Dipped Fruits ingredients:
Cocoa beans, sugar, almonds, candied orange, candied lemon, candied grapefruit, candied ginger, hazelnuts, cream milk powder, butter, water, invert sugar, glucose, lactose, non-GMO soy lecithin, fish gelatin, Madagascan vanilla, corn starch, salt.
The outer plastic packaging also has a dozen tick boxes to denote which product is inside, so this ingredients list spans a wide range products in Marcolini's Sweet Treats range, from Almond Rocher and Hazelnut Dragées through to nougatine, marshmallow, and chocolate-dipped fruits. Weights vary from 90g to 115g, depending on the product. For the candied fruits today, each box contains 110g of confectionery.
Products in the Sweet Treats range may contain traces of dairy, gluten, eggs, nuts and sesame. Head to the website for the exact list of ingredients.
The milk chocolate-coated candied grapefruit strips comes in at around 401kcal per 100g, with 37% sugars. The dark chocolate-coated candied ginger batons comes in at around 288kcal per 100g, with 18% sugars.
Controversially, Pierre reckons these taste best straight out of the fridge on a hot summer's day.
Pierre Marcolini's Gourmandises Chocolate Dipped Ginger and Grapefruit Review
While I'm partial to chocolate dipped fruits (the best type of fruit in my opinion), I hadn't had the pleasure of sampling chocolate-covered grapefruit before, so was curious to experience this flavour combination. After all, grapefruit has a reputation for intense bitterness, and doesn't instinctively lend itself to a sweet application.
Here, pieces of candied grapefruit are dipped in a Sao Tomé milk chocolate to add sweetness and creaminess to contrast the bitter fruit.
The aroma from the box is of sweet milk chocolate, with bitter orange citrus undertones. Citrus flavours come through right from the start, and intensify as you chew. The flavour reminds me of blood orange, rich in powerful fragrant notes. Then, the bitter quality of the grapefruit comes through. It's intense, and risks becoming overpowering but it is at that point the creaminess and sweetness of the Sao Tomé milk chocolate comes into play. It injects a dose of sweetness and creaminess to help counteract the intense bitterness. It does a good job but the thin layer of chocolate isn't enough to avert a mildly bitter aftertaste, which lingers for a long time afterwards. It's strangely satisfying though, and I kept going back in for more.
If you're a fan of candied lemon and orange peel, these candied grapefruit strips should be on your radar.
Now it's time for the Gingembrettes. Lengths of candied ginger are dipped in a blend of Cuba and Sao Tomé dark chocolates, to add depth to the spicy root.
Here, the aroma from the box is smokier, with fragrant hints of ginger and lemongrass in play. I expected the candied ginger to be firm, but instead it has a soft and pliable - almost-jelly-like - texture. The chocolate shell is thin yet perfectly in proportion to the ginger batons.
The ginger flavour comes through immediately, and the dark chocolate adds richness to the overall flavour. It starts off fairly timidly, but the fire and intensity of the ginger builds up over time and into the aftertaste. The chocolate adds an earthy, smokey richness to the mix, which works beautifully against the powerful stick of candied ginger.
Again, it's an addictive sensation that I can't stop myself from trying again and again. Out of the two, the ginger sticks are my favourite. If you love crystallised ginger, these innocent looking batons really ought to be on your shopping list. They pack a deeply satisfying punch.
Oh, and I tried popping them both in the fridge. The cooler temperature firms up the flesh and has minimal effect on the chocolate, so I'd agree this is perhaps the best way to serve them (so long as they don't hang around too long outside of the fridge and condensate). Better still, pop them in the freezer for a couple of hours and the flesh firms up even more, which I prefer. Set a reminder so you don't forget they are in there though!
Pierre Marcolini's Gingembrettes & Pamplemoussettes Gift Pack Review
RRP: £19.80 | Pierre Marcolini | Shop now
Highly addictive treats, that cleverly fuse rich chocolates with flavourful candied grapefruit and ginger. Flavours are meticulously balanced, resulting in a perfect harmony between shell and filling. The grapefruit packs a bitter flavour punch, while the ginger batons deliver a satisfyingly good spicy warmth.
Pierre Marcolini Alexandre Bibaut Michel Verlinden Belgian Chocolate: (Hardback)
These enthusiasts (plus Pierre Marcolini himself) explore their calling, describe how they work, and share three favourite recipes. Technically advanced instructions for professionals are included. Title: Belgian Chocolate.
Belgian Chocolate:: Bean-to-Bar Generation by Pierre Marcolini (English) Hardcov
These enthusiasts (plus Pierre Marcolini himself) explore their calling, describe how they work, and share three favourite recipes. Technically advanced instructions for professionals are included. He travels the world to select the best cocoa beans and has written extensively about chocolate.
Belgian Chocolate: Bean-to-Bar Generation by Pierre Marcolini 9782390250722
Belgian Chocolate: Bean-to-Bar Generation by Pierre Marcolini 9782390250722 (Hardback, 2019) Delivery UK delivery is usually within 13 to 15 working days. International delivery varies by country, please see the Wordery store help page for details.
Bonus: Box of 12 Summer Macarons
In 2020, World Pastry Stars crowned Pierre Marcolini as the Best Pastry Chef in the World during a virtual ceremony. So, you'll understand why I was keen to tuck into his pretty collection of dainty macarons. Despite a turbulent time as the box travelled though the postal system, all 12 macarons arrived in pristine condition - a testament to the beautiful - and functional - packaging.
Inside the orange-decorated sleeve sits a simple-yet-sturdy white board box, with the Marcolini logo in black on the top and a sunken band of rose gold foiled card around the middle. The lid lifts off to reveal a dozen macarons, meticulously held in place by a plastic tray with a removable fitted lid. This stops the macarons bouncing around during transit so they look as perfect as they did when packaged in the kitchen.
There's no ingredients list printed on or in the box, but it is available on the website:
Pierre Marcolini Summer Macarons ingredients:
Almonds, sugar, egg white, cream, water, butter, cocoa butter, cream milk powder, cocoa beans, invert sugar, fennel pulp, raspberry pulp, hazelnuts, passion fruit pulp, blackcurrant pulp, pistachios, sorbitol, egg yolks, eggs, glucose, milk, pieces of nougat (contains: almonds and eggs), lime zest, coffee, orange juice, orange zest, lemon zest, lime juice, soy lecithin without GMO, lactose, salt, natural vanilla, flour (contains: gluten and wheat), speculoos spices, egg white powder, brown sugar, natural fennel aroma, natural verbena aroma, natural lemon aroma, natural lime aroma, pectin, natural rose aroma, backing powder (contains: gluten and wheat), cloves, green cardamom, Earl Grey tea, roast barley malt extract, freeze-dried spinach, E171, E100, E120, E141, E160a, E160c, E163, natural red beet extract.
The list above is for the full collection of lemon verbena, orange fennel, raspberry, passion fruit, rose, vanilla, chocolate and lemon tea macarons. The flavours you'll receive will depend on what's available at the time of your order, but will most likely revolve around the flagship flavour combinations of Orange and Fennel as well as Verbena and Lemon. These are the two flavours I've got here to sample.
On average, the macarons come in at 404kcal per 100g, consisting of around 27% sugars. They feel very dainty and as light as a feather.
Lifting the lid on the box, the aroma is a heavenly perfume of sweet citrus and almond, with biscuit notes in there too.
The macarons are very light and delicate. Lemon and Fennel dominate the aromas of each respective macaron. A fragile crisp shell frames the outside which is pillowy soft and spongy inside. The flavour is locked into the filling which binds the macarons together.
Starting with the Lemon and Verbena macaron, the flavours are clearly defined. A green vegetal flavour from the verbena sits at the front, with a subtle lemon flavour beneath. The lemon isn't as forceful as I anticipated, but helps to balance out the vegetal quality of the verbena. The sweet creaminess of this filling makes this otherwise light bite feel indulgent.
My favourite of the two is the Orange and Fennel macaron. The orange sits in the background and allows the liquorice aniseed flavour of the fennel to come through clearly. It isn't overpowering though, so it doesn't thrust its way across your palate. Instead, it perfectly pairs with the delicate texture of the macaron. It's clear enough to be noticed yet subtle enough to allow the orange flavours through underneath. Again, the filling adds a satisfying hint of sweetness and creaminess, and I also detect faint notes of coconut in there as the orange and fennel flavours riff off one another.
The flavours are clean and well-balanced while the macarons are full of flavour and highly satisfying. The macarons themselves might be delicate in nature but the flavours are clear and sit front and centre.
Where to Buy Online
You can buy Citronnettes (candied lemon strips coated with a house dark chocolate) and Gingembrettes (candied ginger strips with the house dark chocolate) online direct from Pierre Marcolini's website here (£9.90; 110g). The Pamplemoussettes (candied grapefruit strips with a house milk chocolate) are only available to purchase in-store (£9.90; 110g), as is the sleeved gift pack.
The delightful box of a dozen macarons is also available online here or in-store. Pierre Marcolini now has over 40 stores across Belgium, France, the UK, Monaco, Japan and China, with its latest store opening in Knokke, Belgium.
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Chocolate-dipped lemon, ginger or grapefruit - which would you choose first? And would you store them in the fridge? Let me know in a comment below.