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Macaron Baking 101
We are at the point with our kids that we'd rather get them activities as gifts (e.g., show tickets) than more things. They have enough things. So when my Mom asked what she could get my eldest daughter, Becky, for her birthday, I suggested a baking class.
Becky loves to bake (check out Bites by Becky on Facebook for some examples) and she's self-taught so the idea of a class intrigued her. I'd been looking into classes for her at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City too (another thing we like to do is spend time in the City). In addition to their professional program, they also offer recreational classes that last from a couple of hours to several days. And not just in baking either, they also offer standard cooking classes.
At first I thought she'd sign up for a cupcake class but she felt beyond the basic class and unfortunately the advanced class required the basic class as a prerequisite. Then she spied the Classic French Macaron class, a huge fan since I'd brought some home from Paris, she signed up. I signed up too as my Mother's Day gift for a few reasons: 1) to keep her company, 2) to document the class via photos and 3) because I've always wanted to make these delicious little cookies (cheaper than a trip to Paris, I'm thinking).
Let me tell you right from the start, it was great keeping her company but purpose number two, quickly went out the window. The class is four hours (ours on a Wednesday from 1pm to 5pm), the first spent listening to the instructor, Kathryn Gordon (co-author of Les Petits Macarons: Colorful French Confections to Make at Home) lecture on the process of making Macarons along with some fascinating tidbits into the science, pitfalls, and current thinking of leading pastry chefs. Then we were broken up into pairs (so it's good to go in twos if you do not want to work with a stranger), and we were off to the races!
Our pace frenetic as we measured (weighing) our ingredients, whipped egg whites, cooked a simple syrup, combined the two, mixed in the almond flour and food coloring, piped our cookies onto double baking sheets (one of the assistants handled the actual baking), made our own blueberry jam filling (we had several filling choices, including salted peanut caramel, passion ganache, pistachio butter cream - that would have been my choice), froze our cookies once out of the oven for easier removal from the Silpat® lined baking sheets, paired up like-size cookies, piped the filling, made our sandwiches, and then finally, walked around the room, sampling and collecting each duos' product (everyone goes home with a sample of all the cookies made so that if one group has a bust, they don't leave empty handed), the remaining three hours flew by! Pictures? Who had time to take pictures?
Okay - I did but only one before the piping and then a few of the finished product.
Macarons fresh from the oven
So how did they come out?
Macaron with lemon-blueberry jam filling
Not to brag, but I think ours (and the orange ones with the passion ganache) came out the best. There were problems with the ovens that day so some cookies came out overly browned (including the instructor's). Some cookies, just didn't rise appropriately, and many were lost due to sticking or breaking as they came off the cookie sheets.
Our take-home stash
We were both glad we took the class to learn the process, though a bit troubled by the oven issues (we paid a decent amount of money for the class $110, so you would hope they wouldn't have these issues). We appreciated that the instructor and her aids constantly circled the room, offering advice and guidance and we were quite satisfied with our take-home of cookies.
As far as purpose number three (making these cookies ourselves), we will find out soon as we attempt to make them again at home but given how temperamental macarons can be, I'm not so sure a trip to Paris wouldn't be cheaper.
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