Profession: confectioner of Napoleon macaroons

Profession: confectioner of Napoleon macaroons

Boulangerie Solbreux, Beaumont

Didier Solbreux is one of the region’s ground-breaking creators. His mission? To make macaroons in the traditional way, to carry on a gastronomic tradition inherited from Napoleon in Beaumont. He agreed to tell us the secrets and tricks of a special trade.

The Beaumont macaroons are delicious biscuits made from almond paste and eggs.

Saying thank you with the recipe for Napoleon macaroons

For Didier Solbreux, a fan of good food, everything started with macaroons. But for him, the passion goes further: he makes several thousand every week. ‘I studied Chemistry in Namur and in the end I returned to the boulangerie and the famous family tradition.’ Let us be clear, we’re talking about traditional macaroons, small round, dry biscuits made from almonds; not the colourful ones filled with ganache from Paris.

Macaroons first appeared in the region in 1842, following Napoleon’s visit to Beaumont. According to the legend, the Emperor’s chef who was overworked sought local workers to cook an important meal. Full and happy, he then shared the secret macaroon recipe by way of thanking the local residents.

The macaroon recipe includes whole almonds, icing sugar and egg whites

Actions of a goldsmith rather than special ingredients

This baker and pastry chef has kept the macaroon tradition in Beaumont going for six generations. The recipe may seem ‘easy’: whole almonds, icing sugar and egg whites. But for Didier Solbreux, the magic primarily happens in working the ingredients: an old mixer for chopping the almonds, a wooden and metal spoon for making small balls and finishing them by hand.

Each macaroon is made by hand, one by one. It takes 2.5 hours to make 250 macaroons, from preparing the first ingredients to tasting the finished product. Meticulous work that Didier Solbreux would not leave to an apprentice, primarily due to the pleasure he takes from making them: ‘I make them myself, I love it.’

The wooden and metal spoon, the magic utensil for making macaroons

The recipe for these artisanal products takes 2.5 hours

A special thing which can only be found in Beaumont

At 3.90 euros for 100 grams, the macaroon is considered to be a unique luxury product in the region.  Impossible to establish points of sale elsewhere: the macaroon is fragile and is stored according to certain specific regulations. Away from humidity and air, ideally they should be stored in an airtight plastic box.  ‘We have already tested different points of sale, but the quality of the macaroons diminished.’

The only alternative to the boulangerie: ordering or sending the macaroons by post from Maison Solbreux. Several companies buy them for their gifts to clients at the end of the year. The macaroons can be delivered in the famous beech wood box that this multi-tasking baker makes himself.

Didier Solbreux represents the seventh generation to make macaroons in the traditional way

Daring to go further than the macaroon

Didier Solbreux is not limited to making macaroons, he pushes pleasure to what he calls ‘Belgian doubling’. He created the macaroon tarte au riz made with a light, mousse-like filling, interspersed with macaroons, in a pastry case.

So, if you are passing through Greater Charleroi, a stop at maison Solbreux is strongly advised. And consider gifts for the family: macaroons are delicious and make a change from the usual pralines.

Macaroons, a Beaumont speciality, are considered to be the pralines of the area


Solbreux – Decamps
Rue de Binche 6
6500 Beaumont
+32 (0)71 58 80 67

©Pictures/Christophe Vandercam