Last month, I had a Fight with French Macarons. Literally. They stuck to my parchment and the tops cracked a bit. I had no idea why, so I decided to take a class from Richard at Baking Arts here in San Francisco. Richard is pastry genius and a fantastic teacher. His classes range from the most simple biscuit and scones to intricate sugar flowers and souffles. He's a stickler for his favorite brand of chocolate and makes the most seemingly-difficult macaron easy. So, thanks Richard, a whole new world of baking is in my future.
The problems I had before were sticky, cracked cookies. This comes from too wet a batter and not enough folding. You want your batter to flow like lava and mine was no lava. You should also just go ahead and buy an instant digital thermometer that can read a temperature while touching the bottom of the pan, and a digital scale is a must. Converting recipes from grams to cups and teaspoons is not very accurate and you may end up with a whole sheet of failed cookies. It's not fun, it's sad and depressing and makes you feel like a failure (not good).
During our class, we watched Richard demonstrate the whole process, then under his supervision made our own batch. It was nice to have someone there to tell you when your batter looked like lava, and give your tips the best piping technique. It's also good to make a template on the back of some parchment paper. A 1 1/2 inch round makes a good size cookie and the template insures you'll be able to match your cookies for proper sandwiching. Another good trick to test for doneness is to press down on the center of the cookie and wiggle. If it wiggles a lot, cook it a little longer, if it wiggles very slightly it should be done. Also, you should peel them off the silpat by bending the mat, not attempting to lift the cookie. Fill cookies when cooled completely.
We made vanilla cookies with a little espresso powder sprinkled on top and filled with chocolate ganache and salted caramel. Yum! They were so good. I can't wait to try them again. I'll be buying pre-made almond flour from here on out. If you've tried macarons before without luck, don't give up, keep trying, it's all about the proper technique.
I also mentioned in my last post about macarons that I was headed to NYC and wanted to try some macarons from Bisous Ciao Macarons in the East Village. We happend to stay very near here, so a trip wasn't too far. They have mixed reviews on yelp, but Michael and I really enjoyed our flavors (blood orange with chocolate ganache and strawberry with basil chocolate ganache). The flavors were intense and the cookie itself was just what you expect from a quality macaron. My next traveling macaron stop will jave to be Pierre Herme in Paris. He's the godfather of Macarons (and french desserts) and why not travel to Paris for another tasting? Do you have a favorite french macaron shop in your city?
the following photos from Michael Townsend at Bisous Ciao, NYC