Mastering Macarons!

Over the years I’ve marveled at the brilliantly laid out displays of macarons in pastry shop windows in France and thought A) what the heck are those, B) what do they taste like, C) how can I make them?! (see photo below from last trip to France) 

On the trip mentioned above I did have the opportunity to eat a macaron (see the next picture) and while it was potentially one of the best things I’ve ever eaten, it wasn’t what I would think of as a “traditional macaron”. 

Macaron recipes have always intimidated me. The ingredient lists I’ve seen always come with weight measurements and not volume so that turns me away. I’m sure it’s no more challenging but somehow it seems like too much. A couple months ago I decided to sign up for a class at Sur la Table when I saw it on their list of classes for May. It seemed like a great way to take out the intimidation factor, not to mention the overwhelming thought these days that macarons are about to become the new cupcake (I don’t know why I find that so funny, but I guess food trends are amusing – before you know it we’ll be back to the donut again — I’ve heard rumblings to support that).

The class was AMAZING! So much fun. A little challenging to have to work with a team of 4 other people to create them when not everyone applied the same “goals of perfection” that I would have. I mean, when you’re piping these bad boys onto the sheet, let’s try for a little uniformity! =)  It wasn’t bad though and my group and I had a fun time. The teacher was really great too. She gave a great explanation of the history of macarons. I won’t bore you with all the details, but they have connections to many world cultures, specifically the Jewish culture. There are also several schools of thought on what the “perfect macaron” looks like. The macaron is all about chemical reactions so a lot has to do with humidity, time available to make them affecting the time they have to sit out and dry out, the number of times something is sifted, the direction you beat the mixture and make sure to not change direction, etc.  All will hugely impact the final result. They could be flat with a cracked top. They could be more moist sort of like an airy cake (this is like the one I ate that’s pictured above). Or they can be tall and have the frilly rim that is referred to as the “foot”. In my opinion I like those the best, so that’s what my bar of perfection is for a macaron.

So here’s the first batch out of the oven before they get filled. Exciting!!

The menu of recipes we did in the class were: Hazelnut Macarons with Praline Buttercream – Banana Macarons with Banana Custard Cream – Pistachio Macarons with Chocolate Ganache – Chocolate Macarons with Salted Caramel.  The ones pictured above are the banana.

 Here I am with a completed macaron! Yay!

And then just some glamour shots…


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