Mastering the Art of the Elusive French Macaron with Béné
Merci beaucoup, BÃ©nÃ©. You have enabled me. Look at des dÃ©lectable macarons au chocolat! TrÃ¨s bon, Valerie. Magnifique! I never imagined that I would do so well with BÃ©nÃ©’s guidance. I am a focused, capable, and determined student. But I have failed so many times. I did believe success was possible. For sure. Just not this much, this quickly. I feel good (Da-da-da-da-da-da! Oh-ya!) They are not perfect. But, I am not about to start picking apart this accomplishment. I am going to look at what is right about them. Like how light and crisp and chewy they are, and how they are not very sweet which I love, and how they are very chocolatey which I love even more. And how they are pretty. Aren’t they so, so pretty? I can’t stop looking at them. I cannot stop grinning. They are just so pretty.
I am so pleased with my pluck. I missed the Edmonton Foodie Meetup #2 as we were flying to Europe that day, but I did read all of the blogs that those in attendance wrote, and it was Chris’s from Eating is the Hard Part that chronicled all of the offerings beautifully. I felt like I had almost been there, and then I scrolled down to the most perfect box of macarons au chocolat that he had attributed to a couple called BÃ©néand Chris. That stopped me cold. I don’t remember a thing anyone else brought. I was levitating. Who is this couple? I could find no blog at that time, but I did find an e-mail and wrote to BÃ©néasking her if she would teach me how to make them…. and then, on Saturday, there we were. And I am so pleased with my pluck!
She welcomed me into her absolutely gorgeous new home, and I learned so much that I have never read anywhere. This will be the macaron baking article that everyone will want to read. For sure! First, we started with measuring, grinding, and sifting the dry ingredients.Â The dry mixture needs to be as soft as flour with absolutely no grit when you rub it between your fingers.
Then we prepared our pastry bags, cookie sheets, and beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt and 15 g of granulated sugar once the whites began to foam. We chatted and beat until they were glossy and held their own peaks, but were not stiff.
We folded one half of the dry ingredients into the egg white mixture with a silicone spatula, adding the other half when that was incorporated. Watching her do this was fascinating for me. I was second guessing myself every second. BÃ©néwas calm, and confident and built belief within me that I was doing the right thing. Everything would be fine. My almond flour was not quite as fine as hers, so my milled almond powder and sugar mixture was not quite as soft as hers.Â Mine was still very, very fine, however. Her batter appeared lighter and glossier. I think I beat my egg whites a little stiffer than she did. Every step of the way, she would look at my batter, and hers, and then say something very practical and reassuring like, “That looks really good. You are doing really well.” And, if there was a difference in the appearance of mine from hers (and there was), “It could be the almond flour, but I am sure it will turn out well. It looks fine to me.” And, I believed her. She was very comforting, and very kind. After all, she was teaching a perfect stranger in her own kitchen who had seen a photograph of her baking and e-mailed her for a lesson. There are too few people who bake anymore, let alone anyone as generous as BÃ©néwith the expertise she possesses. I did learn, and will remember, everything. The consistency of the macaron batter before piping was key for me, and critical to my future macaron successes. (Did I say “successes”? Yes, I did!)
My red food colouring had a completely different hue than hers. My batter looked like grey mud; hers like warm caramel. But, she kept reassuring me, and she was right. “The colour is fine. It will change through the baking process, and it even changes as it cools and dries.” Mine looks vastly differentÂ below only because I went over to the natural daylight from a window to snap the photo of it. Pastry bags were filled, I loved her clips (from Ikea… and I will probably make a special trip to Ikea now, just for pastry bag clips.)
Look at that focus. Piping mine onto the tray was when I realized there was another step in this process to master. Yikes! I did get aÂ rhythm going on my second sheet. I had quite a menagerie my first sheet. But, when the shellsÂ came out of the oven, they had each grown into stately litte delicacies and were all gorgeous!
The second sheet is mine. You can hardly tell the difference!They needed ot sit 30 to 60 minutes until theyÂ are not sticky to the touch. Then, into the oven they went at 365 F for 12 minutes. I was unabashedly on the floor with my nose practically pressed against the oven glass at this point. There are feet in there. Look at those cute chubby little feet! Oh, my! Oh, my,my!
If the shell lifts off of the pan, the macarons can be removed from the oven. BÃ©néis checking with a spoon.
BÃ©néwas so calm. This was the perfect learning experience. A bright lovely day in a bright and lovely condo.
Above are mine. Below are hers. Mine have chubbier feet? My shells are not as glossy as hers. See how perfect hers are? Oh, stop it. I am really just plain ecstatic andÂ so thrilled to evenÂ have any feet. I even happen to think that chubby is cute!
I packed my car back up. I have so much to offer, too, but only if it is somethingÂ another wants… and at the moment I turned to thank BÃ©néonce again, and say good bye, I felt that suddenly I had nothing of value to offer this young gal, whatsoever. I know that is not true, but I was deeply thankful and so earnestly wanted to be able to return this gift of time, sharing, friendship and knowledge. I will not forget. I will do that one day.
I came home. Did not unload the car. Washed my hands, and made my ganache. Don’t ask me how. I don’t remember. It was delicious and looked like this (above). I partnered my little shells with ones of equal footing, and sealed their fate with a little dollop and squeeze. Oh-la-la.
Then I played with my cookies! ThisÂ was a first for me. And it was really, really fun! I stacked them, and leaned them, and rolled them, and made different patterns with them. I studied them and compared them. I organized them, and categorized them using many different approaches. All very carefully. This was an essential part of my enjoyment. Sometimes I have more pleasure looking and sniffing and sampling and taking a photograph of a tasty tidbit than I do eating it. Eating and tasting are such completely different matters.
I think these images just about sum up how much enjoyment I attained mastering the elusive French macaron on this sunny October morning.
Now, here is what I learned:
1. Weigh125 g of almond powder (Planet Organic has the best, in the fridge) and make sure it is really fine; I ground mine in my Thermomix for about 90 seconds
2. Add 200 g of icing sugar and 15 g of cocoa (I used valrhona when I came home, and didn’t need any food colouring! Good thing, as I forgot to add it!) and again grind or mill these ingredients in a food processor, a Thermomix, a blender, or whatever you have to get the texture of the tant pour tant to feel as soft as Talcum Powder when you feel it between your fingers. That was a big, new, and important tip for me.
3. You can then take this blend of powders, and store the tant pour tant in a zip lock bag in your refrigerator until you want to make the macaron. That was a great tip.
4. If you love them, you need to eat a lot of lemon curd, pot de crÃ¨me au chocolat , or you will just be wasting a ton of egg yolks. Buying the fresh egg whites in a little carton works very well. Weigh 100 g and place them n a bowl on the counter overnight. Other whites need to be seperated and on the counter for about 5 days to become runny and no longer gelatinous.
5. Beat the eggs with a pinch of salt and add 15 g of granulated sugar when the whites start to foam. Do not overbeat the whites. Beat them until they hold their peaks. Do not beat them until they areÂ stiff and dry.
6. When adding the first 1/2 of the dry ingredients to the whites, work the folding gently, even by patting to moisten the whites and retain the air in them; then, work to combine (macaronner) and the batter is actually very shiny and quite a bit thinner than I expected. (Not too thin, but not thick, either.)
7. And the last really important and new bit of information that BÃ©néshared with me was that the piped shells can be left until they do not stick to the touch, or piped shells can be left out even overnight if you are in a pinch for time. This was a huge tip for me.
125 g almond powder
200 g icing sugar
15 g cocoa powder
100 g egg white
pinch of salt
15 g granulated sugar
I didn’t let anyone eat them for about two days. Well, everyone got one or two immediately, but then, no more until I had finished playing with them. They now need to be eaten, and enjoyed. I made another batch and used old whites. The whitesÂ were too old. The results were very good. I am not discouraged.
Actually, I am delighted! I have a batch of pink pepperrcorn tant pour tant zipped away in the fridge. I am well on my way…..
GORGEOUS! Love the photos. I have been feeling under the weather but finally moseyed over to your blog to see if you were still up for making macarons…see you’ve become a master! So glad they turned out well.
Valerie Rodgers Lugonja says
Isn’t it amazing, Kelly, how different Bene’s look from mine? But they were soooo yummy! I have made them three times since (my camera battery is MIA, so not blogging about it, yet… and each time was a bit better… but I still need a LOT of help! Thanks for checking in!
Corry Garam says
I have enjoyed reading your blog site immensely and especially – “Mastering the Art of the Elusive French Macaron with BÃ©nÃ©”. Thanks for linking to my blog site page -http://bakeitoff.blogspot.com – Macarons: Tips, Tricks and How to Macaronnage.
Yes, your macarons are so pretty? I can thoroughly relate to your story and getting feet for the first time and having your nose pressed up against the oven window. I have been through almost exactly the same as you describe. It is such a thrill. Once I could make then successfully, I also had an experience similar to BÃ©nésharing my knowledge with my friends. As I had complied my notes for them to refer to later (and also as there has been so much interest in macarons on the Web), I thought it would be a good idea to share with others and hence my blog.
I am continually amazed at the number of visits to my humble blog from all over the world. I use statcounter (http://www.statcounter.com) and that’s how I found your blog. I am looking forward to seeing more of your adventures with macarons in the near future.
Corry Garam wrote:
Dear Canadian Foodie,
I loved your old site, the photography and the work you’ve been doing on it. Best of luck with your new website.
I did try to leave the message on your old site but it wouldn’t work for me. I have previously left a message on my own blog under your original comment that you sent (“The Daring Cook’s October 2009 Challenge: Violet Macarons…”) hoping that you would see it.
Thank you for your very kind words re: macarons tips and tricks on my site. You can email me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org if you prefer. I have re-read the recipe and realized that I didn’t put colour and flavours in. I have now corrected it.
For the macaron shells, I used only a few drops each of red and blue colouring until a pretty violet colour was obtained, I made it brighter than the required finished colour as it fades during cooking. I used 1 teaspoon violet flavour (Sevarome brand) in the ganache and added a few drops of coluring as above. The garnish on top was whole crystalised violets that I found in a speciality kitchen shop called Essential Ingredient in Melbourne, Australia. I suspect that this is also by Sevarome however it is not stated on the bottle.
I was lucky to get the violet flavour from a baking supplies shop in Melbourne. They said it was hard to get and only had one large bottle that was quite expensive. This I shared with my friends. I had been searching for a while on the internet all to no avail. You may be able to get it directly from the company in France is: – Sevarome- Z.A La Guide 1 43200, Yssingeaux Z.I. La Guide, France
TÃ©l : +33 4 71 59 04 78
Fax : +33 4 71 65 54 24
Hi. Those are really lovely! I love to learn how to make macarons, too….would you know if I can also schedule a class with Bene? Where is she located anyway Thanks.
Bene is a computer scientist and is currently expecting their first baby in about 6 weeks, so definitely out of commission for awhile. She is here, in Edmonton. She is very generous with her time and her knowledge. I have asked her to teach others for me, here, but she hasn’t been able to do this yet and her time will be much more precious to her now. I will send her your e-mail and let her know your question.
waht kind of ur oven and what brand ? i meant this =)
Valerie Lugonja says
I have two Kitchen Aid convection ovens.