Marvelous Macaroons!

>> Sunday, 9 May 2010

I've spent this weekend with some of my lovely friends learning how to make delicious macaroons at the L'atelier des Chefs cookery school in London (a gift courtesy of one said lovely friend).

I first saw macaroons in Harrods, where I was wowed by jewel-like display in Laduree. I remember treating myself to a few of their delights, intrigued by the taste sensation that lay in store. Out they came of their beautiful turquoise box and, wowed by their sweet, creamy taste and crunchy texture, I devoured them all before I left the shop!

I have since managed a little more self-restraint (they're quite sweet and about 250 calories each, so restraint advised!) but my macaroon excitement has not diminished in any way.

I've never made them at home. Deterred by their delicateness, and with a knowledge of my innate clumsiness, I thought this was better left to the professionals. So, the two hour class at L'atelier des Chefs was a great opportunity to try them out. We were a group of about twelve, tasked with making four different types of macaroon and we followed strict steps to get to the finished product!

First we sifted almonds and icing sugar.....

...and then added to whipped egg whites, caster sugar and food colouring (they had some great powdered food colouring, not essential for the recipe but far more intense than liquid. I'm definitely buying some!)... we spooned the mixture into piping bags and created our lovely macaroon shells on paper-lined baking trays (this was a real skill, the aim is to create a smooth dome rather than a peaked top - harder than it looks)...

...having let them rest for 10 minutes (you need a skin to form to prevent cracking in the oven) and given the tray a firm bash on the table (to release any big air bubbles), they went into the oven for 15-20 mins (you know they're done when they almost lift of the paper but there is still some stickiness left)..

....whilst they were cooling, we made our four different fillings from a table laden with ingredients.There were people, spoons and saucepans flying everywhere at this point! When I do this at home, I'm definitely limiting myself to two fillings at a time or they'll be more mess than macaroon...

We piped our yummy fillings onto our macaroon shells and sandwiched them together. Some people dusted with cocoa powder, some people topped theirs with grated orange zest and some people stuck to simplicity so they could eat them more quickly (yes, that would be me..). Regardless, we all left with boxes of our beautiful macaroons and a small amount of pride that we could create something quite so pretty!

Links to all of the recipes are below if you want to try your hand at these!
My two biggest bits of advice would be to limit the number of fillings you do in one go and leave time for everything to cool before you start sticking things together (my first caramel ones ended up a melting mess because the macaroons shells were still warm!).

I'm going to put learning into practice and make some of these next weekend for friends at my vegetarian feast night. Intending to create pink macaroons with chocolate ganache, served with a chocolate and raspberry mousse....Find out next week if it was disaster!!

Hope you enjoy,

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