Monday, April 1, 2013

You say, "Macaroon," & I say, "Macaron."

"Boy! Those French have a different
name for everything."
~ Steve Martin

"We signed up for the macaroon workshop," one of our fellow cruisers said to me at lunch yesterday. "I'd rather do that than walk in this horrible cold."

"Did you have the macaroons at dinner Friday?" her husband, Al, interjected. "They were the best. I love coconut in just about anything, but macaroons are my favorite."  Mike started to agree with Al when I interrupted them.

"These are French macaroons, called macarons (mac-a-rohns). They're all different flavors, and they don't have coconut in them. They're made with egg whites and almond flour.  They're very popular right now.  You see them in all sorts of colors." Everyone looked at me as though I were a little looney. (Ok, so maybe I am, but I do know the difference between macaroons and macarons.)

                                                    Rene and Sophie

Fast forward a few hours, and we arrived at the patisserie workshop of Rene (L) and Sophie (R), Rene is an award-winning French chef who has retired from the active pastry business, but he gives workshops in making bread, chous, and macarons (of course). In boxes on a table in the workshop were several flavors of macarons.  Everyone in the group gathered around the table and looked at the confections.

"I think maybe your wife was right," Al whispered to Mike (thinking I couldn't hear him). "I don't see American macaroons at all."  I sighed audibly.

"Are you okay, Babe?" Mike asked me.  I just nodded and rolled my eyes.

      Moi piping out macarons under Rene's tutelage. 

Rene and Sophie showed us how to make a lemon and a salted caramel filling for the macarons before making the meringue base for the cookie portion of the macaron.  The link to a macaron

 recipe follows, but in short, they made Italian meringue and then added almond powder, icing sugar and powdered food coloring to the meringue. By hand, they folded the mixture together for 5-10 minutes to get the air out of the dough.

Rene filled a pastry bag with the dough and showed us how to make the little cookies. The recipe makes about 120 little discs which translates into 60 cookies.  A few of us had the opportunity to try our hand at forming the discs, which was nice.  I was pleased  that I didn't end up with a long line of dough (Bob), trails of dough (Marta) or big blobs of dough (Anne).

"I'm ready to try these now," someone who shall remain nameless said.  "How long are they going to take?"

"Your husband is so funny," one woman (Lady #1) said to me. "Does he joke like this all the time?"

"He's not joking," I retorted.  "Don't get between him and the cookies when they put them out." She blinked at me, apparently not liking my jokes as much.

         The cooled macaron cookies and with filling.

When Rene and Sophie took the finished discs out of the convection oven ("What is a convection oven/  do I need a convection oven to make these?" the blobs of dough lady asked me. "I have a convection oven but never use it.  Do you use yours?  What's the difference?  Why would I use it? I just don't get it. What do you think?"  Always trying to remain polite, I didn't tell her what I thought.  :-)  ), we let them cool about 10 minutes before we turned them over and piped filling on half of them.  Carefully, Rene matched discs of similar size and shape to form the macarons.

Sophie brought out apple cider (a specialty of Normandy) and a plate of different flavored macarons for us to try.

"I think Mike should have the first taste," said Lady #1. "He's been so patiently waiting." The blobs of dough lady pushed to the front, grabbed the first macaron,  and downed it in one gulp. 

Le finished product

We all enjoyed the macarons and cider before heading back to the bus and our ship.  The macarons we brought back and had today were even better than they were just-baked.  The filling has time to almost melt into the cookie and give it more flavor.

I think I'll probably try these at home sometime when I want to make something special.  They're not quite as hard as I thought they were.  I do have to tell you, though, that they are very expensive. Most patisseries here sell them for about 1 euro per cookie as shown above.  Rene and Sophie were selling a box of 8 for 7 euro, and a box of 20 for 18 euro. They are, of course, all made by hand, so they do take a lot longer.  Rene said they can make about 400 cookies per day.

If you're interested in reading more about Rene and Sophie, you can visit their website by clicking here.

If you live in Las Vegas, you can buy macarons at Manon Cafe and Bakery on West Charleston. I will admit, though, that they are not as good as the ones Rene makes. A proper French macaron should have a light, crisp shell and a somewhat chewy interior. The filling adds the flavor and a slightly different texture. Rene advises letting them sit a day or so, and they do taste better with age.  The ones at Manon are rather dry and not too chewy.

If you want to try your hand at making them, you can find a recipe similar to the one Rene shared by clicking here. The biggest difference that I note is that Rene uses an Italian meringue (He cooks the sugar before adding it to the egg white), and this recipe uses regular meringue.  Something tells me the difference is in the texture.

We went to the Normandy beaches today. The experience was quite emotional, as you might expect.  Interestingly, there is a former British bomber pilot on our ship. He went to the Canadian and British beaches, of course, so I'll be anxious to hear his reaction to returning there.

Also, I do have to mention that I'm quite delighted with all the dogs I've met. It's very interesting to walk into a restaurant or butcher shop or bakery and see a dog or two or three standing next to his/her owner.  You know I'm going to LOVE that!

1 comment:

  1. Wow, 8 macarons for €7 is a steal. They are like $2.50 to $3.50 a piece in NYC and unavailable in Maine except my kitchen. :))