Monday, November 12, 2012


Yesterday at the cooking school we hosted the second of four workshops on Macarons. The workshops have been sold out for weeks, which is great. And we are really excited to offer them again in the new year, along with two other classes. One in Pate a Choux (sorry, I can't make little accenty things, not sure how to do that) and French Fruit Tarts.

If you are not sure what a macaron is, it is different from macaroon. Which most of my people will know about. A coconutty little delight usually enjoyed around the Jewish holidays. Macarons, pronounced slightly differently due to the lack of that extra O, are a meringue and almond shell with a flavored filling. The  shells can be flavored too but not with too much liquid or with anything with high oil content. They are primarily the "bun" to the little "burger" of sweet flavory goodness. And the fillings are where the flavor lies.

The Patissier, Jackie Lee Donabed, runs what I'd call a nano-bakery (like nano-brewery, only for baking) called The Blue Macaron. Classically trained in all of the french confectionery arts, Jackie designed this workshop as a four hour long in-depth training in these little pillows of sugary delight.

The entire first hour plus was demonstration. The six students watched as Jackie made a batch of macarons from scratch, talked about all the things that could possibly go wrong, all the ways to make it go right. She whipped the egg whites, made the almond "flour", heated the sugar, brought it all together and showed the technique of folding the dough all together and piping it onto the trays. She then made a salted caramel filling, put it all together and it was delightfully wicked and delicious.

The students in the class then got their turn. Having watched step by step, she had them execute. For the most part they did everything exactly right... with a few mixing hiccups. Discussions about what went wrong "so you know next time" mostly concerned the folding of the flour and the meringue together. Doing it too hard crushes the proteins in the egg whites. And a few of the students had shells that were not perfect but now they know.

The students were encouraged to use food coloring for their shells, and they made their choice of minty chocolate or spicy chocolate ganache for the fillings.

The results were colorful and delightful.

All told, the amount of work that goes into one of these suckers is STAGGERING to me... queen of the toll house cookie and the quickbread. I will never ever question why they are so expensive again. To make a dozen, it literally takes more than an hour. Go ahead and measure that against a banana bread, even if you make a cream cheese frosting.

They are delicious, little heavenly pillows that you bite into, and the shell dissolves in your mouth and the filling dances around the melting meringue... it's sublime.

Our students yesterday were hard on themselves for not having perfect results. The shells were all different sizes, the fillings were uneven... too much in some not enough in another. Learning that delicate balance from the act of folding and mixing to the piping and twirling, the filling and resting... all of these come second nature to Jackie as a professional. The students need not be ashamed. They did a fantastic job.

All told, not a bad way to spend four hours on a Sunday afternoon.  Pictures? Of course.

The first batch ...

Jackie Lee Donabed, our Patissier

Pipe, press, twirl. Wash, rinse, repeat.

Erin approves!

The students become the masters.

good sizes, a little too close together.

Orange is an interesting choice of colors...

the ready to bake macarons wait...

Piping, piping, piping!

Look at those perfect little "feet" on the macarons!
That's the goal.

fililng, filling, filling...

a finished collection. Beautiful.

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