How To Make A Grown Woman Squeal
Apart from the obvious?
Last night I made macarons. Proper, French macarons. After weeks of consternating, after reading every known recipe and technique, after convincing myself I would fail abysmally...
They turned out just about perfect.
I cannot tell you how excited I was. I squealed when I saw the frilly 'feet' through the oven door. Yes, I squealed. Anyone with a half-interest in cooking and/or food blogs will know how delicate the issue of macarons are. They are the 'it' indulgence around the world. Laduree, Pierre Herme et al are on par with the Eiffel Tour as essential pit stops for visitors to Paris; at least, the queues waiting to go in are as lengthy. D and I ourselves this trip stopped at Laduree, La Maison du Chocolat and a random bistro in the 6eme for a macaron hit (as for Pierre Herme, well, we walked in only to find we had no money between us, oh, the horror!).
They are the loveliest, daintiest of sweet, made only more precious by the kaleidoscope of colours and exciting flavours and combinations available. In the queue at Laduree I had to just go with my instinct of caramel a la fleur de sel, and then a last-minute quip for coconut. I'd planned on taking photos of them, of us munching on them - that never happened. We gobbled them up before we even crossed the street. Such is the macaron.
So, to making them. As David Lebovitz, who's recipe I used, says, it's about the technique, and the precision of, which seems quite intimidating and I think this is what puts so many off, myself included. But it's mum's birthday on Sunday and to me she is a little macaron, cute and delicate, and I thought how nice it would be to bring some to her picnic. So a trial had to be done, and a basic chocolate recipe chosen.
I'm an impatient person, and a person of extremes. I knew that if my first effort didn't turn out I would get very stroppy and never attempt to make macarons again. Luckily D was over with wine. I made the ganache and started on the meringue batter. To be honest, as fixed as I was beforehand on following the recipe to the letter, I didn't. I didn't measure the ingredients all that precisely but I looked out for the technique. I sifted my almond meal (essential, as store-bought almond meal is too coarse) and got the mixture to fairly resemble motlen lava. I couldn't find my plain icing tip so had to use my star one, so some had a little wave on the top. I tapped the tray a few times on my table to get rid of bubbles and flatten them slightly. I didn't fuss with doubling up of baking trays, just piped them onto baking paper and onto the middle shelf. I lowered the temp to about 170C fanforced and after five minutes stuck a wooden spoon in the oven door to keep it ajar. I took them out at 14 minutes, and they came off the paper easily. I spread the ganache with a knife, and voila, chocolate macarons, which were scoffed down easily. The trademark crisp shell and chewy texture. Frilly 'feet'. That's all I could want for a first attempt. And the few leftovers this morning have the same crisp/chewy consistency.
I think making macarons is hit or miss for the amateur cook, dependant on so many factors, but even the miss are delicious. You could break them up and stir through icecream or marscapone cream. Maybe my next time will be a miss, but I'll keep trying.
Ooh la la.