Little patisserie gems
Have your macaron – and eat it!
No, I’m not just all about the veggies or a no-carbohydrates mom. I love sweets! Everything including Cinnabon, even though I know I shouldn’t.
Macarons, however, are at the lower end of the ‘guilty pleasure’ scale.
Macarons are tiny delicious cookies, so delicate they instantly melt in your mouth – and don’t add pounds to your waistline. They come in a variety of flavors, are colorful, and easy to take anywhere. At the same time, they give you a burst of pleasure – the kind that lets you know it’s good to be alive!
So they sound like the perfect dessert. But here comes the bad news – they’re one of the most difficult treats to make. You can’ t make them on a very humid day, as the delicate mixture will get too damp. Some people say that they have attempted macarons at home 4 or 5 times – with no success. Oh well, I do like a challenge!
So I came up with the idea of a ‘macaron master class’ as the theme for my birthday party!
Master class by a chef
Latvia has a great tradition of pastry-making. Dozens of cafés and patisseries dot central Riga. And we don’t lack patisserie masters here. Macarons by Julija Baranova are truly the best, and not only in Riga! Julija graduated École De Pattiseries by a World Champion in Dessert Making Mr Olivier Bajard. We had a macaron recipe by Alain Ducasse. Things were off to a good start!
In my post I won’t reveal the recipe itself as I believe it’s subject to copyright. I’ll just share a couple of secrets, without which you can’t make macarons.
Macaron-making tips by Julija Baranova (École Internationale De Patisserie)
We got started by making the batter. It seemed quite easy when our chef was there – naturally, she did the most difficult job!
There are three basic types of recipe: Italian meringue + ingredients (as recommended by Pierre Hermes); French meringue + ingredients (as recommended by Alain Ducasse); or Swiss meringue + ingredients. Julija was using the recipe and method by Alain Ducasse. And so, we started to delve into the high patisserie world.
Here are some things you won’t be able to do without if you want to Making proper macaron batter (meringue):
– a good electric beater. You need to beat the egg whites slowly in the beginning and fast in the end, all the while making circles for a more even consistency.
– aged egg whites. Leave the whites in an uncovered bowl at room temperature for 24-72 hours before preparing the meringues. When the batter is ready, it should flow off the spatula in ribbons, not too runny or too solid.
This is difficult to achieve, as you must incorporate the dry ingredients into the meringue quickly and efficiently, but without excessive mixing. Not too long and not too short – it’s a matter of feeling when it’s ready, something I’m sure takes a long time to perfect!
– a silicon mat and a silicon spatula. To take the shells out of the oven-tray. Actually, baking paper works equally well.
– professional thick aluminum sheets (much thicker than the home sheets).
Piping the batter
– pipe the batter vertically. Start in the center, very close to the tray (around 5mm from the tray’s surface). Tap the tray against the table if the peaks don’t disappear.
– a proper oven Temperature is a big problem. Some professionals even suggest having two ovens. It’s important to have a high temperature in the beginning, then lower it quickly while making sure the shells don’t break.
– The most challenging part is to get shiny and even (not cracked) shells. If you want to do it right, then mix in the almond powder until you get a shiny compact consistency. The last secret is…
– resting/crisping the piped macarons. Leave them aside for 20-60 min to get crispy. After that, the macarons are ready to go into the oven (preheated to 140 C) But, interestingly, it’s not the shells or the meringue which makes the macaron, but the filling (ganache).
Secrets of making the filling/ganache
The ganache is easy to prepare. There’s just one secret: use the best and freshest ingredients. We made a passion fruit filling. A proper passion fruit is very difficult to find unless you live in South America. But we tried. A fresh vanilla pod – long and fat and so aromatic. Mmmm. If you can find these, your filling has no other choice than to be delicious!
Ganache is not ready when it’s hot. It must sit for 12-24 hours in a fridge to get the right consistency.
Filling the Macarons
Filling is an art: instead of putting a blob in the middle of the upper shell, try to make it more artistic.
Apply a small blob to the underside of one shell from the edge and another small blob to the opposite side of another shell. It should look and feel like a Yin-Yang symbol when you press both shells together. Maturing – STOP – the macarons are STILL not ready! Place them in the fridge for 24-48 hours and eat them at room temperature.
If you managed to do all this and survive, your reward the next day will be a plate full of heavenly delights. Macarons should be consumed within 1-2 days – if you leave them any longer they’ll start to dry out and lose their flavor.
I wouldn’t attempt to make macarons without having tried them before. It makes no sense as you will most probably be disappointed with the result, and end up with the impression that macarons are nothing special. Knowing what the final goal is is so important. My husband was quite ambivalent towards them because he’d tried bad macarons before. The macaron master class helped a lot, as these cookies are virtually impossible to make without proper guidance, of which the best is a real-time master class. I wish you the best of luck! God bless macarons, a good shape and a sweet life!