Macaron Madness!

Homemade Salted Caramel & Chocolate Macarons - A bit wonky-looking, but good just the same!!

My love of baking, combined with my newfound love of macarons, could mean only one thing: I had to learn how to make these bad boys while I was still living in Oz! 😀

After researching local classes, I came across The Essential Ingredient’s cooking school calendar & on it, a Macaron Madness! course taught by Trissa Lopez.  What I liked about Trissa from the start is that she *isn’t* a professional pastry chef.  Her passion for baking (& as she says, her many failed attempts at macaron-making!) is what qualifies her to teach the class.  I figured this would enable her to better relate to someone like me who was (& perhaps still is!) a bit terrified about the prospect of making macarons.  I’ve often heard that they’re a tricky treat to master & since macarons are scarce in the States (I’m sure they’re more well-known in places like San Francisco & New York, but from what I understand there’s only one bakery in Buffalo that sells them), I figured my family & friends would largely have to rely on *me* for their macaron fix when I return home! 😉

Macarons can sense fear,” Trissa teased, to which the class erupted in laughter.  But I found out just how true that statement is when my group allowed me to begin the macaron-making process by beating some egg whites & then adding in some sugar, which was *supposed* to result in stiff peaks . . . but after mixing . . . & mixing . . . & mixing some more . . . still no peaks – not even a little fluff! . . . Macarons: 1, Niki: 0. 😦

What the heck?!  We figured it could have been a couple of things: Trissa mentioned that if there was any egg yolk or shell in with the egg whites, it just wouldn’t work.  Also, we realized we may have waited too long to add the final 50g of sugar (we used 100g total, which was to be added 50g at a time).

Anyway, with that little mishap out of the way (we just started again with a fresh batch), the rest of the class went pretty smoothly.

Freshly piped chocolate macaron shells waiting to go into the oven

We learned so many tricks & tips along the way, it would be tough for me to share them all here (& probably a bit boring, since most of my readers have never even tasted macarons – but don’t worry, that won’t be for long! ;)).  Fortunately we were given a copy of the recipes for both the Chocolate (with chocolate ganache filling) & Salted Caramel (with salted caramel filling) macarons that we made in class & of course I also took copious notes lest I forget all these little gems of information!  Also, for those who may be interested, Trissa recommends the book Secrets of Macarons by Jose Marechal, which I had purchased previously thanks to the suggestion on her blog. 🙂

A great read if you're looking to understand how macarons are made, what can go wrong & of course some great recipes!

I suppose I should explain that macaron shells are made from four ingredients:

– Almond meal

– Icing (confectioners) sugar

– Caster sugar (this is a superfine sugar – not sure if we use it in the States, but I found out that granulated sugar can be substituted)

– Egg whites

It is the shells that provide the irresistible texture of the macaron – a thin, crispy layer on the outside, with a chewy layer just underneath the surface.

Macaron shells just out of the oven - No, these are not the chocolate ones pictured above; these are for our Salted Caramel macarons

After baking, the shells must cool before you fill them.  The filling is where you can get really creative, since this is where you will find most (if not all) of the flavor (for instance, although chocolate macaron shells are made with cocoa powder, strawberry macaron shells are usually just dyed pink & the actual strawberry flavor is in the filling).  Fillings can be ganache, pastry cream, caramel, ice cream, fruit, etc. (or sometimes a combination of these!)  The sky’s the limit with this one! (Just ask Adriano Zumbo – wasabi macarons, anyone?! ;))

Upside-down macaron shells - ready to be filled

Once the baked macaron shells have cooled, it’s time to pair them up; since you may have a few different sizes in your batch, just look for shells that seem to fit well together & these become your pairs.  Trissa likened this process to finding a life partner – probably none will be perfect, but you can usually find a good match! 😉

Ooey-gooey delicious salted caramel filling

Almost done!

The only thing left to do now is to put the two halves together & take a bite!! 😉  So – how did they turn out?  The Chocolate Macaron tastes like a fudgy chocolate brownie & the Salted Caramel Macaron tastes just like it sounds – the salt really complements the sweetness of the caramel sauce – a bit like the sweet & salty mix you find in kettle corn or chocolate covered pretzels.  Mmmm . . . 🙂

All in all, the process of making macarons seemed easier than I was expecting it to be . . . but of course I haven’t yet tried to replicate it!  All I know for sure is that I left the class feeling super excited to go home & try doing it on my own & at the end of the day, what more could you want?  So for Halloween next year, I say forget the candy – let’s all feast on macarons!! 😀

Oh & one more thing – I had to try the macarons again on day 2 (purely for research purposes of course, so I could inform my readers how well they keep overnight ;)) & I am happy to report that macarons keep pretty well if you store them in an airtight container in the fridge (Trissa informed us they should last about 3-5 days).  So no worries if you can’t finish your macarons all in one sitting – they are a patient cookie! 😉

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8 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Heather
    Nov 01, 2011 @ 00:48:00

    I have a few recipes I’ve been collecting to try with you when I come to visit — can’t wait!! Maybe I’ll try to make them BEFORE our visit so we can both have some experience 🙂 Thank you again for macaron-themed presents you sent!

    Reply

  2. Aunt Penny
    Nov 01, 2011 @ 01:53:24

    It will be interesting to compare the flavors and texture of the macarons here in California with those in Oz when you come visit. Can’t wait to see you in a few months. Love you…

    Reply

  3. Camille
    Nov 01, 2011 @ 09:11:58

    Never tasted one, so you know I will be first in line when you make your first batch back in the States, and probably the second, third, fourth, etc. etc. Some of the fillings sound so bizarre that I can’t imagine what they would taste like. I love all the different colored macaron shells. That makes them even more tempting to taste. Can’t wait to taste your version since I won’t be trying Zumbo’s… or Trissa’s for that matter. Glad you took the course and bought what looks like a great book…bring home the secret! Hugs and Kisses – MOM

    Reply

  4. Trackback: Macaron Day 2011 Postponed | There's No Place Like Oz
  5. Rose
    Nov 08, 2011 @ 08:47:04

    Where’s the actual recipe Nicole? I’ll try my hand at em!

    Reply

  6. Sarah Grabowski Lodick
    Dec 07, 2011 @ 06:38:53

    How exciting that you were able to find and take a class! I can’t wait to hear all about it and hopefully pick up some new tricks/tips too.
    By the way, you can find Caster sugar in most grocery stores, but it’s usually called Baker’s Sugar and comes in a milk carton looking container.

    Reply

    • nicoleinoz
      Dec 08, 2011 @ 21:30:19

      I’m so glad I was able to do the macaron class! Unfortunately neither the French pastry class nor the croquembouche class worked out (both were cancelled due to low enrollment), so I guess I’ll just have to get you to teach me all of that!! 😉
      Good to know about the caster/baker’s sugar!

      Reply

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