Macarons vs. macaroons: Have you been caught up in this latest pastry craze? While macaroons are the dry piles of coconut often dipped in chocolate, macarons are a French confection made of almond flour and meringue, baked and then formed into little sandwiches with buttercream filling.
I first had these at Le Goûter Bernardaud in Hong Kong. While I think most versions are a bit too sweet for my tastes, they are tremendously delicate. The exterior is just a little chewy, giving way to a cake-like interior. The flavors are as intense as the colors. One bakery in San Francisco, Miette, dispenses with the food coloring, which I personally prefer.
From what I’ve heard, the macarons are supposed to be one of the most difficult things for a pastry chef to bake. Of course, that just set my competitive side on fire. I was very happy when one of Tawn’s friends, who trained at Le Cordon Bleu cooking school and interned at La Nôtre here in Bangkok, offered to conduct a macaron cooking class for us.
In no time at all, the offer had been turned into a party for ten of their fellow university classmates complete with food and wine. They say too many cooks spoil the soup. In this case, I’m not sure about the soup, but the kitchen was definitely crowded!
Pat, our teacher, flashes the victory sign in our crowded galley kitchen. At one point, we had seven people working in there!
I’m planning on trying another batch of these tasty treats this weekend and will go into more detail on the ingredients and techniques after that. Instead, I’ll just share some of the fun shots form the party.
Bobby, the only other native English speaker, decided to join me in the kitchen after the Thai gossip got incomprehensibly out of hand. He did a fantastic job separating eggs. This was the first time I’ve baked by measuring the egg whites by weight!
While I was pushing for no food coloring – no adulteration, please! – the other gay boys won out and pastels ruled the day.
Macarons are indeed difficult to make. So many steps and so many factors that can inhibit success. One of the biggest challenges is that you have to pipe the darn things onto parchment, trying to get them the same size. Penciling circles on the back of the sheet helped.
But it took a little practice because the batter, which immediately after piping looks like it will stay nice and pert, slowly begins to spread, until this happens:
D’oh! After which, you have to scrape the batter back into the bag and start over.
The other challenge is that you need to let the batter air dry until it forms a skin. We waited close to an hour but with our humidity, two or three hours would have been better. Next time I’m getting the air con going full blast well in advance.
After the first batches came out, Pat (with her husband standing over shoulder, eagerly awaiting a sample) started piping raspberry jam between the cookies and sandwiching them together.
Above, Tawn and Pat with the first batch of macarons. Below, detail of our first plate.
Yeah, they look cute, but they really turned out crap. Here’s what they should look like:
Ignore the color for a moment. What we’re really shooting for are two things: the shiny top and then the “foot” at the base of the cookie. We didn’t get those and I think there are a few factors. Based on what I’ve read in several online recipes and my conversation with Pat, I think I didn’t incorporate the meringue into the almond flour mixture sufficiently, and I think I didn’t let it air dry long enough.
My suspicion is based on what is happening on the underside of the macarons: the centers are sticking to the parchment paper, which I think means the interior is significantly moister than the exterior. In other words, not dry enough.
Left to right: Bim, Ko, Pat, Prince, Tuk, Fluck and Tawn.
If all goes according to plan, I’ll do another batch this weekend. Let’s hope they turn out better. The good news is, even when they don’t look perfect and their texture is a bit off, they still taste good!
Update: Last Sunday I made another attempt at macarons and they turned out a lot better. Pictures and more detail here.
Yes, the longer it sits to dry, the better the foot. Also, from your pictures it doesn’t look like you used aged egg whites. It’s easier to whip them up if they’re at room for temperature for at least 24 hours.
I’ve seen macarons wrongly labeled as macaroons several times. I knew that macaroons were supposed to be the coconut things but couldn’t figure out why these little colorful things were also called macaroons. I’m all clear now though 🙂
Good luck with your next batch!
Don’t be on hard on yourself.I do that with what I cook too
haaa that was fun to read~they do look petitely cute~ haa i love the photo of the pink blobs that just ran its own course on the parchment sheet ^_______________^
@TheCheshireGrins – my understanding from what I’ve read is that they’re really just two different spellings of the same word; but the French define what a “macaron/macaroon” is, differently. The root of both types of cookie is from an Italian meringue-based cookie. Interesting, huh?
@minhaners – I knew you’d be the one to have the answer for me! I’m going to put my egg whites out today for tomorrow’s batch. Thanks for the recommendation.
@Wangium – Yeah, not too hard. But it is a technique I’d like improve upon. I guess that means I’ll have to make dozens and dozens of batches until I get it right!
@mOoShimAnGo – I was tempted to bake the blobs as is, just to see how they look when finished.
@yang1815 – Thank you. BTW, I got hold of the courthouse in Council Bluffs and got the information I need about the license, ceremony times, etc.
@christao408 – GREAT!!! Please keep me updated so I can make sure to clean up my house! 🙂 So excited!!!!!!!!! (I believe the excessive number of exclamation marks used here is justified!!!)
@yang1815 – Considering you usually use three, nine surely indicates true excitement.
@christao408 – Very good!!! I like three and multiples of threes. I hate prime numbers except 3 and 23. Odd, I know.
hmm, that looks familiar. it feels like a dry sponge when eaten, right? i imagine to spread marmalade on it. hmmm…
Wow…Chris is going for the creme de la creme of pastries! When you and Tawn visit LA, we can try the macarons in Jin Patisserie. But I sure would like to try your little creations too!
Every time I bake something for the first time, I end just floundering around my kitchen with no real idea what I’m doing… I almost think it’s more fun when you’re just learning and experimenting. As long as you’ve got some idea of the basics of baking, it’ll aalmost always end up tasting good.
@christao408 – Definitely interesting. The two treats are so different from each other!
wow…i gotta plan my trip to bangkok sooner!! just for the food lol
I don’t get too excited about cookies that lack chocolate. You do like a challenge -and you don’t give up. Traits that will make you successful no matter what. I think the pink ones look like plastic, hope they taste better than that. lol Looks like you had fun anyway.
hm…you are right the Macaroons at LGB HongKong are way too sweet for my taste, Hope one day I can try out your version…..
@agmhkg – Come for a visit!@murisopsis – We did make some chocolate ones, too, just for you chocoholics.
@marc11864 – Tea goes with them even more nicely!