I love these little marvels, their crispy shells, their chewy middles, their bright colours and their many, many amazing flavour combos!
If you can resist the happy, brightly coloured Macaron you are a stronger person than I am.
I arrived to Patisse about 30 minutes early for my 6pm class. Note: I am ridiculously early EVERYWHERE (I’ll put money on me beating Adam to the church in Feb).
The cafe has wound down for the afternoon, as the kitchen closes at 3pm – but I’m greeted by a friendly face and offered a glass of water, or perhaps a wine (ooh!) while I’m waiting for the evening’s classmates to arrive. I toy with the idea of sipping a glass of red before the class to quiet my nerves and squash my naturally shy self, but settle on the water – afterall, I’m attempting MACARONS for crying out loud – precision and focus will be paramount if I’m not to walk out with an empty box at the end of the evening.
Our teacher for the evening is Vincent Gadan – who is Executive Chef at Patisse (of Guillaume at Bennelong fame). With his French background and years of experience in the art (and I mean it when I say art) of pastries I know we’re in good hands.
Vincent joins us all in the cafe for a bit of a briefing before we head into the kitchen, he asks if anyone is nervous.. I raise my hand immediately. We run through a brief history of the macaron, it’s origins, it’s challenges, the stages in making them. He’s funny and makes the group feel at ease before we head on in.
I totally look like I’m posing for a cookbook photo here. “Oh hai – yeah, I’m just in my kitchen – knocking out some ‘rons”.
The macaron recipe we’re going off tonight uses an italian meringue, which is a lengthy process (the class ran from 6-10pm) – we are shown how to get our sugar, egg whites and almond meal to a paste before adding our meringue and folding it through, a delicate task and one which you really don’t want to overdo – or else feel the wrath of the flat pancake-esque macaron!
As we pipe our macarons onto our designated trays we’re told to keep an eye on the first one we pipe, if it hasn’t lost its little tail by the time you’re at the fifth one, then you haven’t folded your mixture quite enough – this lead me to scrape my piping attempts back into the bag a couple of times in order to get the mix exactly right.
Eventually when piped, my macarons settle to little glossy discs full of promise!
The great thing about this recipe using Italian meringue is that you don’t have to let them sit and form a crust for hours, after 10-15 minutes mine are no longer sticking to my finger tip when I check them. Ready for the oven.
There is an existing batch in the big deck oven, and we all gather round to peek in and see how they are doing. A lot of ‘oohs’ and ‘ahhs’ as we see that they’re all rising, they all have FEET, they all look amazing!
As my (potential) macarons are placed into the oven I send a prayer to the pastry gods, cross my fingers (and toes) and make a wish – at the very least, don’t let me be the only failure!
While we wait for the second lot to cook, Vincent shows us how to make a true buttercream – and wow! Just wow – so incredible! It’s a multi-step process involving cooking sugar, adding to the egg whites, making an anglaise, adding the butter (I’ll try this at home and post results soon) – it’s a lengthy process but 110% worth the extra time. The buttercream is light, not oily in the slightest, and so… silky! It’s rather special. :)
Hot tip! You can freeze your buttercream for up to 1 month. To use just remove from freezer until room temp.
When my little macarons come out of the oven I do a little jig – I’m so very pleased, I see feet, I see shiny curved surfaces, I see no cracks – they’re alliiiiiiiiiiiive!!
I see a tray of flaky pastry pies being popped in the oven “if they’re not for us then that’s just mean” I say – I’m getting a bit hungry being in the kitchen (and being very good not licking my fingers/beaters).
While cooling, we take a break and go and sit as a group at a big table in the empty cafe. I’m relieved to see the pies start making their way to our table – gosh they were delish!
Soo… this will totally not bode well with my trainer – but we worked hard in that kitchen, I deserve it!! (And hey, I’m covered in sugar – a delicious flaky pastry, delicious chicken and vege filled pie is the least of my concerns). And look! Salad! Totes healthy.
We return to the kitchen with full bellies and excited to start piping our chosen fillings into our macarons. We had a choice at the begining of the class of what flavour we wanted to make (Passionfruit, Berry, Violet, Chocolate and Chili, Salted Caramel..).
Those of us who chose the salted caramel gather round and watch as Vincent shows us how to make it – it’s hard and very hot work as it’s a dry caramel and needs constant attention – oh my it looked amazing though. We are then showed how to make a ganache.
The caramel does need refridgeration to completely cool before you can add it to the buttercream though, so we use some salted caramel mix that Vincent had already made and added it to our buttercream – now we’re ready for the final part – piping.
Just look at those puppies, aren’t they fab?!
Once I’ve piped some salted caramel buttercream onto half the shells I join them together and pop them in the fridge to cool a little more. We’re then given a container each to pop our successes in to take home. I’m pleased to report that not a single person in our group went home empty handed.
Each of us made our own batch of macarons – which I wasn’t expecting (as other classes I’ve attended at other places you usually partner up), but which we’re explained is because macarons are so temperamental you really must do the class individually in order to know what you’re doing and where you can (or do) go wrong. We do group up for the buttercream and caramels though as these are much simpler recipes.
This was a fantastic class, Vincent was extremely patient with us and gave advice when needed but encouraged us to use our own judgement to say when things were ready – which I suppose is super important if you want to get these right!
Look at me hey – totally chuffed. …and hot. Hard work + hot kitchen.
I’ll definitely be back in 2011 for some of the other Patisse classes, I’ve got my eye on the croquembouche, the french classics and the chooclate class. I apologise to my credit card (and my waist line) in advance.
When one of the classmates asked Vincent what his fave dessert is, he replied “As long as it has sugar in it, I am happy”.
I can relate to that!
Shop G01, PYD Building – 197 Young Street
WATERLOO NSW 2017
P: 9690 0665
Click here to check out the cooking classes calendar for 2011.