Wednesday, March 10, 2010

The French Macaron!

So, as promised, I will now wax poetic about the French Macaron! Not the coconut haystack dipped in chocolate we are more familiar with here in the good ol' U.S. of A.; but rather the uber sweet, domed little sandwich cookie the French have perfected. (Please do not use the photo as the idea of perfection here. That's my macaron, kind of the plain Jane of all the cookies we made. Still as sweet and tasty, but with a cracked shell, she's just left to dance alone on the wall until all the other gals were taken. It's a shame, because WOW, ya wow, she can bust a move!)

The perfect macaron has just enough poof in her dome to make her attractive, a crisp shell, pretty "feet", and a chewy interior that lends itself to a flavoured filling. Made of at least 50% almond flour, French meringue, and some sugars, these little cookies are delicate to touch as well as to the taste. Helene Dujardin, of Tartlette was our (excellent and esteemed) teacher. (seriously...go to her blog SOON!) She has made every possible combination of flavours in her macarons, both in shells and in fillings...even a PB&J!

The class was attended by (little did I know) other famous and illustrious Foodie Bloggers. (I'm such a dork!) This is only about half of the gals there, and unfortunately I couldn't name them all here if I tried. For this I am truly sorry! Such a bummer to meet folks and then immediately forget names and blog names...I'm telling you, never get hit by a truck! (it's a long post, you may need to scroll, just know that taking a hit means you can't remember much.) My sis is there and next to her is La Fuji Mama aka, Rachel; who helped organize the class and get Helene to come all the way out to CA! (Thanks everyone!)
You can see that everyone pretty much just laughed through the class! Helene was hilarious and fun! Oh ya, those pretty bags? They were filled will all kinds of baking goodies for us to take home, and some Fuji (coincidence?) water and pistachios in case we got hungry! So thoughtful ladies!

The first thing we learned that, no matter which recipe you choose, make sure you measure precisely! Each ingredient was measured carefully and set aside prior to mixing so that when it was "go time" we didn't need to waste time!
Freshly ground almond flour, confectioner's sugar, egg whites and a bit of white sugar...that's about it!

The egg whites were beat until they were perfectly stiff and then then we began to mix everything together!

Now, each of us was given a small container of powdered food colouring. Mine was blue, Robyn got "cherry red", and others in the class got those colours or green. Helene told us that about 1/2 tsp. of powder would suffice, except the blue, which was very potent! So heeding her advice I sprinkled my powder on top like it was salt. Hmmm.
Robyn's batter came out a lovely pale ink, adorable and pretty! The gal next to me made hers a gorgeous berry, the gal next to Robyn: a perfect mint green for spring. All over the class there were amazing shades, perfect for holidays and celebrations and even a glorious "Avitar" blue (-which took everyone's breath away!) Mine? Well, I should have "salted" a bit more. In the batter my "blue" looked like pale pale green, after it was baked it took on a lovely and "appetizing" moldy gray tone. ick.

All in all everyone's cookies came out "o.k.". But one of the most important things Helene taught us was that even with the experts, a perfect batch, all of your cookies coming out splendid, is rare. Almost every batch has a few goofy ones. (Good to know!) Also, she said "Confidence!" Confidence is what you need more than anything! If the cookies don't turn out this time, shrug it off, eat the "failures" (not too tough to accomplish!) and try try again! Each oven and each kitchen will alter a recipe, so keep trying until you find the perfect match! Stick to what recipe works for you and keep playing with different flavours to tempt your family! The ovens in our kitchen were partial to the top shelf, so only two bakers had "perfect" cookies, the rest of us had what I would say fantastic first efforts! Amazing taste, texture and the confidence to go home and make a batch all by our self! Now isn't that the goal of every good teacher? Thanks Helene! If you want to learn more about French Macarons, or good food in general, Helene is the go to gal, she is a food stylist, photographer and all around friend to whoever reads her blog. So go!

That's all for now, I need to set out my egg whites!

Oh yes, that beautiful pastry box filled with delicate pink delights would be Robyn's! My only (quasi) good cookie is that lonely and dented one on the rack! Who cares? The rest of mine may have been misshaped, but Dang! they were yummy!

add to sk*rt


Fuji Mama said...

Such a fun post! And darn it, I knew the camera caught me in mid-word in that first shot!

S'mee said...

lol you are too silly! You look fabulous in pretty much every photo I have seen of you! Thanks again for the friendship and the class!

The Hobbit said...

Oh S'mee I'm jealous,Tartlette is one of my favorites.I thought of searching her out when I went to Charleston,S.C.And those macaroons
mmmm to die for I'm sure.This must have been way more fun than your CSI visit to Lost in Vegas...

S'mee said...

LOL oh my heck Hobbit! YES! lol

Helene/Tartlette is seriously a great teacher and also makes you feel like she's been your best bud for years, very easy and casual. It was a blast! From what I understand the gals just asked her and she came! There was times and scheduling to make sure she could fit in other engagements, but heck! See if you can get her to come out to your place or near by...can't hurt to ask!