Dainty, pretty, melt-in-the-mouth macarons are a French passion. Remember the film Marie Antoinette, starring Kirsten Dunst as the extravagant queen of France? She adored macarons, the pastel-coloured petit mounds shaped like a young girl’s breast. Those seductive images of her eating macarons popularised them around the world – you just have look at all those social meda posts!
So what a thrill when Stephanie Boutet-Fajol, the founder of Sacrebleu, invited me to a private class at the Ritz Paris where my personal tutor would not only share the secrets of of these ittle luxuries but teach us how to make them.
Stephanie, a true Parisienne, opens doors to a world of experiences that promise you can live your dreams in the French capital. And this class, in the heart of the legendary hotel’s kitchens, is just one of those special doors.
Christopher, our teacher, told us that the macaron was originally Italian. In1533 Italy’s Catherine de Médici married King Henry II of France and she introduced the tiny cake to the French court. In those days it was a single cookie made of powerdered almonds - not the petite meringue shells enclosing a creamy filling that we know today.
At Versailles, as the queen’s favourite delicacy, it won a reputation as a a little luxury. In 1862 the Paris cake shop Ladurée is believed to have created the filling to join two macaons. By the 1990's pastry master Pierre Hermé had created a variety of delicious and imaginative flavours and voila… these are the beautiful candy colours that we know today - two crisp meringue shells surrounding a softly-textured filling.
How we made the perfect macaron
We beat the egg whites with caster sugar. Then sprinkled in finely ground almond and icing sugar, beating the mixture to a stiff meringue. We spooned the mixture into a piping bag, and pushed little rounds onto the baking trays which went into the oven 20 minutes at 140 C. When cooled we chose matching sized meringues and arranged them side by side. We made a raspberry filling and sandwiched the pairs together.
How to eat the perfect macaron
Approach it gently and hold it softly to appreciate its smooth, rounded and refined surface with a slight sheen. Take a small bite and note the crispness of the outer shell and its moist and textured interior. Then savour the contrast between the shell, the interior and the smooth filling that binds the two macaron halves, and relish the flavour of the shell and filling – is it strawberry, or pistachio or maybe chocolate?
The macaron is a delicate and refined treat and gentleness is the key to enjoyment. It is also the secret of making the macaron.
Chef Christopher says:
The ingredients are not difficult to find. All you need for macarons are egg whites, ground almonds, a lot of sugar and some cream for the filling – a great deal of care and love. It is a very sweet dessert but if you take it with tea and coffee, the sweetness can be neutralized.
The perfect macaron is soft inside and crisp outside. If it is too hard or too chewy, it has probably been baked too long and has dried out too much. Macarons can be expensive to buy because of the great skill in their production. The slightest error can spoil a batch.
So now you know all about macarons and you can appreciate this most royal and refined dessert.
Special thanks to Sacrebleu: Your personal travel assistant in Paris
Writer: Xinxian Su; Pictures: Brandie Raasch