Monday, 26 March 2012
I flipped on the television tonight and Top Chef Canada was on. I caught it mid-way through. Coincidentally, one chef had chosen to do a pink macaron. The main judge, a big-shot chef, seemed nothing short of dazzled. The other judges asked him "are they difficult to make?", to which he responded "the failure rate is very high." The brave contestant mastered it (jerk) and won the whole challenge for the episode because he "exhibited great technique and skill."
I tell you this because it made me feel better about this past Friday's failure at attempt #2. Rather than foolishly diving in head first as i did on attempt #1, this time around i carefully planned and did all the necessary preparations before i even sifted the almond flour. The piping size guide made up (if the little darlings are different sizes, they'll bake differently thereby causing more problems); the ingredients all weighed on the digital scale and sifted, aged egg white delicately separated and beaten for 15 minutes (i understand now why a stand mixer is recommended), and finally, the stage i had not reached before: Macaronnage. It is the ever important, very precise, super finicky and surprisingly physical act of J-folding the dry and wet ingredients together. Do it too long, fail. Don't do it long enough: fail.
Monday, 19 March 2012
I came across an Italian pastry counter and thought I could settle for an Italian Maccherone being that they are similar. As I approached the counter, I started to feel hopeful. I could see a plate with what looked like tiny, brown macarons. To my dismay, they were just biscotti cookies held together by some kind of filling. I wonder though, if the look of the cookie was inspired by the look of an Italian Maccherone being that they are popular confections in Italy as well. In fact, it is widely believed that the origin of the macaron is Italalian. It is said that in 1533, along with her Italian chefs, Catherine de'Medici brought the macaron to France from Italy when she married Henry II. The word macaron itself comes from the Italian word maccherone or macaroni which in turn came from a Greek word meaning kneading or cooking. What's important to remember is that I didn't find what I was looking for at the Italian pastry counter. Instead I ate salad.
Just as the trip was coming to close, I found the second best thing to actually finding a macaron: The Bible. Well, the French Macaron bible anyway. Les Petits Macarons has everything a person could ever want to know what making the little darlings. How-to, trouble shooting, flavor ideas (including savory recipes such as Chevre Rosemary and Duck Confit with Port and Fig), glossy photos and more fill the 270 pages of bliss. I'm on page 23 and among other things, I've learned that a million things can go wrong and no two pastry chefs agree on a single method for making macarons. All this has confirmed that my Adventures in Macaron Land might be even more challenging than I anticipated....