“I can’t watch” I told my Mom, the Blog Monster.
I was teaching her to make macarons as part of my “practice run” before my first class at the Essential Ingredient in Sydney and she was piping a row of macarons.
Her piping, to put it nicely, was unique. I had to stop myself from grabbing the piping bag and do it myself.
This was more than two months ago and for three straight days before my first class my Mom and I were making macarons. Truth be told, when I first asked her if I could teach her to make macarons she refused. Like many people I knew, was terrified of making macarons. I thought to myself – if she could learn to make them, any one else could.
Okay, backtrack a little bit. You must be wondering why I was going to teach a macaron class at the Essential Ingredient. After all, I never went to pastry school, nor worked in a professional kitchen. My only qualification was this: In the last four years I must have held the world record for the most failed macaron attempts. I read all the blogs, bought all the books, went to all the courses and finally – kilos of almond meal and rivers of tears later, I woke up thinking “they aren’t that hard to make after all!”
So here I was trying to teach my Mom the subtle art of macaron making but the problem is she wanted step by step instructions.
“How many times do I fold the batter?” she asked.
“How many minutes before the macaron shells dry?” she asked.
“How many minutes in the oven?” another question.
“It depends.” I told her.
If you’ve made these little treats before, you will know that making macarons is as much science as it is an art. You need to be meticulous about weighing your ingredients and methodical about finding the right oven temperature that works for you (every oven is different). At the same time there a certain artistry in knowing when your macaron batter has reached that “desired consistency”.
“I’ll never be able to make them!” My mom whined. (And to think we hadn’t even started with the more complicated Italian method yet!)
“No… you will! Promise.” I told her and reminded her of all the failed batches I made before.
While it is not impossible to learn to make macarons from cookbooks and recipes scattered across the internet, I think my own defining moment was attending a class here. Prior to attending that class, I was already making macarons but it made a huge difference being able to watch someone fold the batter till it reached that ribbon consistency, being able to ask questions and troubleshoot what went wrong at home.
When a few friends asked me to teach them to make macarons, I thought why not see if more people wanted to learn as well? So I tied up with Essential Ingredient to teach a few macaron classes.
To date, I have taught two hands on classes. Each class runs for three hours and there are around 12 students each. The class covers two methods of making macarons (French and Italian) as well as how to make a basic buttercream and ganache. The most nerve wrecking moment for me is popping the macaron shells into the oven and wondering if they will rise and have the nice frilly feet. Thankfully, so far so good.
What I love most about the class are the students. Everyone is eager to learn and many of them have had experiences making macarons so there is a lot of questions thrown my way when we tackle “troubleshooting”" the macarons. This is as much a learning experience for me as it is for them. When they go to form their own groups I hear them talking and laughing – everyone is having fun and you would never have thought that many of these people have only met each other during the class.
If you are still interested to learn how to make macarons, I will still be running a few more classes at The Essential Ingredient in Sydney. There is another class on the 23rd of October 2010 as part of the Crave Sydney Food Festival.
At the end of the class my goal really is to get people to be confident enough to try them at home. I make it clear that macarons are subject to so many factors, like the ovens we use, the way we fold our batter, the ingredients we use and even day’s temperature. For most people, macarons take practice… but there’s definitely no need to be afraid.
To be honest, I was never really sure if my Mom would ever make macarons once she got back to the Philippines.
I got a call from her one early morning. There was excitement in her voice and she was screaming into my ear. ”I made them! I made the macarons! I Even used the Italian Method!” She said. I’ll never forget how proud I was. I finally taught my Mom to make macarons.
The recipe I’m sharing today is for a Pistachio Macaron using the Italian Method.
Pistachio Macaron Recipe
Almond Meal Paste
- 75 grams almond meal (or 125 grams almond meal if not using ground pistachios)
- 50 grams ground pistachios (raw) – optional
- 125 grams icing sugar
- 50 grams egg whites
- 125 grams caster sugar
- 35 grams water
- 50 grams egg whites
- Pinch of egg white powder
1. In a food processor, blend the almond meal, pistachio meal, icing sugar and egg whites until this resembles a fine paste. Set aside.
2. To make the Italian meringue, place the caster sugar in a saucepan. Add the water and make sure that the sugar is dampened. Heat the mixture and bring this to a boil (do not stir). Place a candy thermometer in the syrup and take the temperature of 118c.
3. While the sugar is cooking, beat the egg whites and egg white powder using a stand mixer fitted with a whisk attachment and beat at medium speed until the eggs become foamy. Continue beating on high until stiff peaks form.
4. Stop the syrup from cooking once it reaches 118c and take this off the heat and let the bubbling subside for a few seconds. Pour the syrup in a thin, steady stream over the beaten egg whites while the continuing to whisk at medium speed.
5. When all the syrup has been added, continue to beat until glossy and meringue has cooled to room temperature (around 10 to 15 minutes).
6. Using a silicone spatula, fold a third of Italian meringue into the almond mixture to loosen it. Then, fold in the rest of the Italian meringue. Continue folding and stirring until the batter is glossy, and fluid.
7. Scrape the batter into a piping bag and pipe into baking trays.
8. As each tray is filled, bang the baking sheet with both hands on a counter to get rid of any trapped air bubbles. Allow to dry for around 30 minutes until the shell is dry and skin forms.
9. Bake at 150c for 13 to 15 minutes.
- 150 grams caster sugar
- 65 grams water
- 2 large egg yolks
- 125 grams butter, cubed, softened at room temperature for 30 minutes
- 2 tablespoons pistachio paste or ground pistachios
1. Place the sugar in a saucepan, add the water and make sure that all the sugar is dampened. Set over medium heat and bring to a boil (do not stir). Place a sugar thermometer in the boiling syrup. Bring the temperature to 118c or a firm ball stage.
2. While the sugar is cooking, place the yolks in a bowl of a stand mixer. With a whisk attachment beat at medium speed and then increase to high until pale and foamy.
3. Stop cooking the syrup once it reaches 118c. Let the bubbling subside for 30 seconds and pour the syrup in a thin and steady stream over the egg yolks while the mixer is running at high speed. When all the syrup has been absorbed, continue to beat until the mixture has cooled to room temperature.
4. At a medium-low speed, add the softened butter, a few cubes at a time, waiting for each addition to be incorporated before adding the next. After all the butter has been added, increase the mixed speed to medium, and continue whipping until the buttercream is thick and smooth, about 5 minutes.
5. Add the pistachio paste/ground pistachios.