I love my boyfriend's job. Well, more-so I love the fact that Quentin coincidentally got the perfect job to benefit me (and him too). He's working for Cook'n with Class, a French cooking school which teaches classes in English (to English speaking tourists mostly). I had the opportunity this past Friday to sit in on one of their French macaron making classes. I was so excited... I've been wanting to know how to make them ever since I landed in France!
I am embarrassed to admit (being the foodie that I am), that my very first bite of a French macaron was only taken less than three months ago, at Angelina. I know, I can't believe it either. It's just that I never had access to true French macarons in the States! We have coconut macaroons, but they are not even close to the chewy, gooey, crispy, creamy, heavenly creation that is the French macaron. MMMmm... that reminds me... I still haven't tried Pierre Hermé's macarons. Perhaps tomorrow... hehe.
We made three different flavors of macarons in the class (well, three different filling flavors); sour cherry, dark chocolate, and fleur de sel caramel. The class was so much fun, and super informative. I learned so much! The teacher, Pino, really knew his stuff. I asked him questions like; "Why do you strain the eggwhites?" "Can you over-beat the macaron batter?" "How do you fix a runny caramel buttercream?" He had an answer to everything, explaining exactly how and why.
Pino also warned us that we shouldn't eat more than 10 macarons in one day, or we would get "poopy butt"... his words exactly. I ate 5 or 6 (... or maybe 7) and ended up with a stomach ache at the end of the night... but it was soooo worth it.
I am not going to post the recipe here... because it's better to go to the class! Also, you can probably find some similar recipes on the web. What I do want to do though, is share with you what I learned from that class.
10 Tips and Tricks I learned for making French macarons:
1. Make sure when you are making macarons that it is not a wet, humid day. Humidity prevents the macarons from rising properly and can cause the tops to crack. If it is a rainy day, and you must make macarons, you can use a de-humidifier or turn your oven on low to dry out the room a bit while making them.
2. When making the macaron batter, be sure to sift the almond flour and sugar two times before mixing them together with the wet ingredients. Also, don't push the flour/sugar through the sieve, just gently tap the sieve until you are left with the lumps. Pour whatever doesn't pass through the sieve into a bowl, and using a scale, weigh the larger chunks and replace them with almond flour (be sure to sift that too!) This will ensure that your macaron tops are smooth.
3. Strain the egg whites to break apart the thick white part, and remove the chalaza, the little white strand that holds the yolk in the center of the egg. This also makes the egg whites easier to pour when measuring.
4. Slowly pour the sugar syrup down the side of the mixing bowl, in the same spot the whole time. Pouring in the same spot makes the area on the bowl very hot and the sugar will glide easily down the side of the bowl.
5. When mixing the flour/sugar mixture with the egg whites and meringue mixture, you must mix it quite forcefully, with a spatula, until the batter becomes thick and shiny. I found it's much easier to mix in a counter-clockwise motion.
6. If your batter is too thin, you can add a tablespoon of almond flour at a time until you reach the desired consistency.
7. When mixing food coloring into the batter to color your macarons, be sure to use a gelatin-based food coloring (such as Wilton), as that will not disturb the consistency of the batter.
8. Once macarons are piped onto parchment paper on a baking sheet, let them rest in a warm, dry place for a few minutes to create a skin over them. They are ready to place in the oven once you are able to touch the tops and the batter does not stick to your finger.
9. While baking the macarons, keep the oven door cracked open with a utensil to let the moisture escape. This ensures the macarons will rise evenly and without cracking.
10. When macarons are finished baking, move them (still attached to the parchment paper) off of the baking sheet and onto a cool counter top to cool the bottom side of the macarons for a few minutes. Remove them with a pastry scraper before they become completely cool, and flip them upside-down to finish cooling before piping the filling.
Hope these tips help, and hooray to anyone making them!! Bonne chance!