Macarons: Make Them at Home

Some people took issue with me, but I took a somewhat daring position and wrote that I think the shells themselves don’t have much flavor.  I recounted how, when I first tried a macaron, I ate it the way I ate Oreos,: I deconstructed it and ate the cookies (the shells) separate from the filling.  For me, macarons (and, okay, Oreos, too) are a sweet meant to be eaten in such a way that you get some of each of the elements with each mouthful.  Do that and I think you can understand that what distinguishes a macaron is its texture — the play between the crunchy-chewy shells and the soft filling; that what gives it its taste is its filling — the flavor of the filling and the portion of filling to shell; and that what makes it such a pleasure is the ensemble.

That said, of course everything changes when you make chocolate macarons because then the cocoa powder that’s added to make the shells has a strong flavor.   For the chocolate macaron recipe, I used the one I worked on for Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme, a recipe made with uncooked meringue and one that gives a softer, somewhat chewier macaron that the basic.


This isn’t the first time I’ve pondered the mystery of the same ingredients turning out different macarons.  When I was traveling from Paris to St. Emilion and on to the Pays Basque, I realized I’d eaten three very different macarons, each made from almonds, sugar and egg whites.  These macs, soft and chewy, are from Mme Blanchez in St. Emilion, a landmark in the charming village best known for its wines.

In experimenting with the recipes for the LA Times story, I made a mistake and produced a macaron very much like Mme. Blanchez’s and I was excited.  (Who doesn’t like a mistake that turns out to be something good?)  But then I was never able to replicate my mistake in the same way — aarrgh.

I hope you’ll make the recipes from The Times story and let me know what you do.

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And, if you’re interested in macarons and lucky enough to be in Paris, you might want to do what I did: take the macaron class at Promenades Gourmandes.  The class is given by Joel Morgeat (in English) in my friend Paule Caillat‘s beautiful teaching kitchen.  On the day I was there, we made chocolate, raspberry and grapefruit macarons — lots of them — and had a very good time in the process.  And after the class, one of our classmates, Jenny Ng and her husband Derek,  put together a terrific album.  If you can’t get to the class, their photomontage is the next best thing — take a look and enjoy


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