If you are a fan of cooking and baking competition shows, you know when a budding chef says they are making risotto, a collective gasp goes up from watchers because risotto is a fail more often than a success. Now, if it’s a baking competition and someone says they are making macarons, a similar gasp goes up because those sandwich cookies are notoriously temperamental. But they are certainly popular. There’s a bakery with several locations in France that sells 4 million (yes, million) macarons a day! You can see what the fuss is all about in person with a GetAway Travel vacation to France. We’ll even help you find a class so you can experience macaron making up close and personal!
Macaron and macaroon — not the same
A mah-kah-ROHN is a lovely, crispy sandwich cookie with buttercream, ganache or some other flavored filling. A mah-kah-ROON is a drop cookie, also lovely, but made with flaked coconut, egg whites and flavorings.
Those delightful delicate and oh-so-pretty bites actually trace their origins to Italy and they were originally beige, like the color of ground-up blanched almonds which formed their base. Traditionally they were held to have been introduced to France by Queen Catherine de Medici who brought them from Italy during the Renaissance.
There are two methods to making macarons, a French and Italian. The French method involves egg whites beaten to stiff peaks with granulated sugar and almond flour added. The Italian method involves mixing egg whites with hot sugar syrup and then adding almond flour and powdered sugar. The Italian method gives you a sweeter more stable meringue.
There are no leaveners, like baking powder, in macarons. It is the beaten egg whites combined with the mixing of other ingredients, a process called macaronage, which gives them the perfect shiny outside, softer nougat-like inside and the tiny crispy edges called feet.
The Laudrée Bakery in Paris (with other locations, too) has been making macarons for more then 150 years. It was a relative of Louis Ernest Laudrée who is credited with slapping two macarons together and putting ganache or buttercream in between.
Creativity gives us macarons in a variety of fabulous colors making them look like little jeweled bites with an amazing array of fillings from sweet to savory.
What’s the big deal? Bake and eat
What’s the problem with making macarons? You put dough on a cookie sheet, bake it and you’ve got cookies. Au contraire mon ami! To get smooth, shiny tops and ragged edges or feet requires finesse or as some chefs say, precision, patience and practice.
These are not cookies where you can just wing it and think, well, that looks like a cup of flour. They are finicky, they like moisture, but not too much. There must be no hint of yolk in your separated egg whites and absolutely not even the tiniest bit of grease residue on any of the bowls or utensils you are using. Don’t even try to reduce the amount of sugar in the recipe, sugar helps with the air pockets which gives you the requisite spongy texture and more air pockets. But too much air will make them hollow and hollow is bad.
You need to age your egg whites. Seriously? Yes. Letting the separated egg whites chill out in the refrigerator for 24 hours will relax the proteins and they will whip better. Store in something other than a plastic container.
You pipe macarons onto a special silicon pad with circles etched on it so you get uniform shapes, or you take a glass and trace onto parchment paper and then flip the paper over. Pipe in a smooth motion with a “flick” at the end so you don’t have dough glob. Practice the flick in the sink or you’ll be flicking dough all over the toaster on the counter, your backsplash and the underside of your kitchen cabinets. They don’t go into the oven immediately, they must sit and set to get a sort of skin on the outside. Tap the baking sheet on the counter after you pipe to get the air bubbles out and remember, your oven temperature must be exact. Buy a thermometer to make sure.
There are lots of recipes and tutorials on the internet, research is key!
Or, do your research with the pros!
Take a class in France on making macarons. Class prices vary and you need to make sure the class is taught in English if that is your primary language. Smaller classes with one-on-one help is great, sometimes you can book a class for a “group” as small as four people. Some classes won’t allow youngsters under a certain age and the classes fill up during peak tourist times. Your travel advisor at GetAway Travel can arrange your trip AND help with class info. Then you can return home and impress your friends! Book your trip and class today. We can be reached at: (262) 538-2140, e-mail: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org