Monday, February 28, 2011

Pâtisserie: the revenge

Two years ago, I confessed to a minor culinary disaster. For New Years 2009, I tried to bake a bûche de noël, and the results were, er, less than satisfactory.

I'm happy to say I've finally redeemed myself, thanks to some help and encouragement from my stepmom. We took a macaron-making class together on her recent visit to Paris, then employed our newly-learned professional pastry techniques to whip up a batch of almond macarons with lemon curd and chocolate-almond macarons with orange ganache filling. In my very own kitchen. I know, I'm still as shocked as you are.

Voilà the results of our efforts below.

(And they did taste as good as they look.)

Yes, I'd already taken a macaron-making class on my own, and no, I hadn't even begun to master the technique. My first attempt last spring produced mustard yellow, soft almond wafers that were entirely unlike macarons but which my husband cheerfully ate a few of to make me feel better ("They aren't macarons, but they're good anyway!" he helpfully offered). My mistake was to follow not the recipe given in class but a different one from one of my cookbooks (d'oh!), thus completely missing the proper technique to use with the egg whites.

As you may know, egg whites are crucial in macaron-making. Our teacher made us beat them by hand, which made it much easier to see their evolution, and also made the class somewhat of a workout, though nothing strenuous enough, alas, to compensate for the calories consumed afterward.

Now that the secret has been revealed, I can indulge my macaron lust without spending a fortune at Ladurée. This may or may not turn out to be a good thing. Luckily, the recipe is as complicated and time-consuming as my free time is scare, so I am still not likely to overindulge.

I left the macarons that we brought back from the class on the dining table overnight, where le Petit found them the next morning. He ran up to me, crumbs ringing his mouth, as I was brushing my teeth. "I like macarons a little," he informed me, "But not too much."

He then gave me the other crushed half of his half-eaten macaron. I didn't take it personally, since after all, this is the kid who still won't eat ice cream -- not even ice cream from Berthillon on Paris' Ile Saint Louis, which is as far as I'm concerned the best ice cream on the planet. A few days later, he had changed he tune, and deftly applied his preschool persuasion skills to wrest the final chocolate macaron from me.

He looked at me, looked at the macaron, said "No, mine!" and like any good mother, I gave in and gave it to him immediately. With a pleased, indulgent smile, of course.


paola said...

Hubby brought home a batch of macarons from Paris just last week and even Zoe, who does not like sweets, gobbled 3 down in one sitting. I unfortunatley didn't get to sample any due to my nut allergy, but every one raved aobut them, and they did look yummy!! Yours, btw, look just as good as the ones hubby got at 'La Maison du Chocolat'!

Parisienne Mais Presque said...

@paola - La maison du chocolat is my favorite chocolate shop ever!

Although I've never tried their macarons, I'm sorry you didn't get to! Next time, tell your husband to also bring back some of their ganache chocolates for you. I'm sure they'd put together a nut-free assortment for him, as long as you're not so allergic as to be concerned about nut cross-contamination. And then don't share them with anyone else.

paola said...


Unfortunately I am that allergic. Cross-contamination has gotten me into trouble on many occasions. Once when they used the same knife they had used to cut a walnut cake on the Sacher Torte I ordered, I ended up having to use my epipen and later in hospital.

I'll take your word for it though!!!

hush said...

Very impressive!! I know I would have eaten the whole plate of them! Alas, it is impossible to even find proper chocolate here in Podunkville. Good chocolate is one thing we always bring home when we travel.

Cloud said...

Those look beautiful! Too bad I can't taste them.... I've never tried macarons, but I have had my share of failed meringues. I think I'll swear off anything so finicky and stick to making other baked goods!

caramama said...

OMG, those look divine! I'm so very impressed! And REALLY wishing I could have some.

I have had so much trouble with meringue that I haven't even attempted in years. Maybe I'll try by hand this summer. But it sounds like what would really help is a class!

Look how far you've come with your French baking! That's awesome!

E-J said...

These look amazing!

I returned from a 3-day trip to Paris last week determined to master the art of the macaron. Equipped with the much-recommended "Mad About Macarons" and my suitably aged egg whites, I made my first attempt today, but it was a minor disaster. Only "minor" because hey, we can always use the scrapings as sprinkles for my daughter's ice cream ...