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Thursday, February 7, 2013

A French Lesson:

Although I have been on a bit of an Italian kick as of late, I am a Francophile first and foremost.  What better way to rekindle my first love, than to attend the "Oh La La! - French Macarons"  class with Chef Renee Jackson at the Cook's Warehouse this past Sunday. This was  my first time attending a class at Cook's, typically I am on the other side of the counter cooking and helping Chef Nancy with one of her classes.  I must say, it was fun being a student for the afternoon, learning the art of making the colorful French macaron's that are all the rage.  But most importantly, I got to spend the afternoon with some of my new favorite people and support another chef who's passion clearly shines through in her baking.

We were cautioned at the beginning of the class that the macaron is not a hard cookie to prepare, but rather, it was a temperamental cookie.  The basic macaron recipe is fairly simple to prepare. It's nothing more than egg whites, superfine sugar, almond meal and powdered sugar.  Precise measurements and a calibrated oven are essential.  Well, precise and calibrated are not adjectives that best describe my cooking style.  I am more of a "pinch of this" and a "pinch of that" kind of cook.  I suppose this is the "precise" reason that I am not a baker.  No worries, we were all here for fun, so let the baking begin.

We were given this basic macaron recipe from the book Mad About Macaron's, by Jill Colonna.


150g Egg Whites, aged at least two day, at room temperature
100g Superfine Sugar
180g of Almond Meal/Flour
270g Powdered Sugar

Step 1:  Line baking sheets with parchment paper

Step 2:  Place almond flour and powdered sugar in food processor and pulse 4-5 times.  Sift dry ingredients using sieve into mixing bowl.  (when making flavored shells, add the flavoring during this step.

Step 3:Whisk the room temperature egg whites into glossy firm peaks, adding the superfine sugar gradually.  If coloring the shells, add at the very end of this step.  Use powdered or gel food coloring as liquid will change the consistency of the batter.

Step 4:  Fold the beaten egg whites into the dry ingredients using a large spatula.  Mix well.  The result should be a cake batter consistency.  Do not over mix.

folding egg whites into dry mixture
egg whites are folded properly

Use a rubber pastry scraper for the final incorporation

Step 5: Transfer the mixture to a piping bag fitter with a large tip.  (Wilton 1A)

Step 6: Pipe out mixture onto prepared baking sheets.  Using a circle template under your parchment will help ensure equal sizing of shells.

Strawberry shell batter, piped onto "polka dot" template

Step 7:  Let shells set for no less than 30 minutes.  They are ready to be placed in the oven when they are somewhat hard to the touch

Here are some lemon shells that are waiting to dry before going into the oven

Step 8:  While shells are setting up, move racks to the center of the oven and preheat to 325 deg.  It is a good idea to use an oven thermometer.

Step 9: Bake shells, one tray at a time, for 10-12 minutes

Step 10:  Remove shells from oven when done and place tray on cooling rack to cool thoroughly

Step 11:  Once shells are completely cooled, pipe your favorite filling (butter cream, ganache etc...), onto half of the shells.  Place partner on top using a circular motion to squish filling toward the edge of shell.
I may have "squished " too hard.  Mine looks more like a Whoopie Pie

Step 12:  Eat and enjoy! 

As Renee said, they may not always be pretty, but they will always be delicious.  This was the truth.  While none of the groups produced a pastry shop worthy specimen, we all learned a lot and most certainly could not have found a better way to spend a Sunday afternoon.  A glass of wine, three flavors of French macarons and time spent with passionate food lovers.

Jennifer, Brenda, Nancy, Renee, Moi, Mary Rob

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