This past weekend I found myself under the tutelage of the Maître Patissier Grégory Krisanaz at Les Délices de Borriglione in Nice learning how to make macarons. I'll admit straight away that I'm not much of a baker, preferring low-sugar fruit desserts over sophistcated concotions and though I can enjoy a macaron as a pleasant treat, I don't go into raves when I see them in shop windows. Perhaps it's my cynic's tendancy against anything super-trendy. I wondered aloud to a friend over lunch yesterday why they had replaced the cupcake as *the* pastry and she answed without a beat: "Marie Antionette"! Voilà! Who can resist Kirsten Dunst in her getup with all those macraons?
Despite my attitude, when a friend offered me an empty spot in the 6-person course and I thought to myself - Why not? It's a day out in a real kitchen, which was the highlight for me. There's nothing equal to having space and all the tools on hand to do the job under the guidance of a pro. I learned how to effectively mix by hand (turn, scrape, repeat) and some nice little tips along the way. In the end, I was converted. Evidence: I ate 3 macarons for breakfast yesterday.
The contemporary macaron is a Parisian innovation of an ancient pastry, originating in Italy and spreading through France in the Middle Ages. Originaly a single biscuit that is basically a meringue, it had taken on many variations over time but it was in the 19th century that Parisian patisseries created the brightly colored, filled macarons that are so popular today. It is through the fillings that macarons take on their intense flavor. My favorite was the caramel which is basically made of carmelized sugar and a lot of butter.
During our half-day session we made 3 flavors, lemon (below), caramel au beurre salé and chocolate. Macarons are great for these kinds of cooking classes because the ingredients are fairly simple - ground almonds, powdered sugar, egg whites for the meringe exterior and, depending on the flavor, mostly cream, butter, eggs, sugar and/or chocolate. Nothing exotic or outlandishly expensive for the home cook. The downside is that they are labor-intensive to make and you really do need decent tools - a stand mixer and pastry tips/bags.
Here's how we did it:
Making the meringue
All macarons get their enticing color from food dyes (except chocolate which is cocoa + red dye!)
Here's me trying to master the pastry bag, and NOT doing it correctly. Notice my spill at the bottom of the photo. The Maitre is telling me to get my tip vertical and control the flow with my right hand!
Here's our tray ready for the oven
The baked results.
Making the filling - it's the same as lemon tart, something I make once or twice a year. A good tip I learned, use a stick blender to get a really smooth mix.
Me filling the macarons - tip is vertical!
Voilà! The final result.
Have you made them before? What's your experience?