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The capricious macaron

Delectable Macarons

Delectable Macarons  

To make the perfect batch of macarons, great skill and oodles of patience are required in equal measure

The first time I had a macaron was at Vishak Chandrasekaran’s V’s Café in Coimbatore, which he set up after studying at Le Cordon Bleu, London. “Making macarons taught me an important life lesson,” says Chandrasekaran, feelingly. And he is not joking. “After a chef taught us how to make them, I tried making them at home. It took 25-30 batches of ruined macarons to arrive at the right technique. I decided it was not my cup of tea.”

Not any more though, as he tells me he is making a large batch of macarons, as soon as he gets off the phone. However, he warns me that the same recipe may have different cooking times in, say, Chennai, Mumbai or Coimbatore. (He also says one can make macarons by using aquafaba, the water of canned beans instead of eggs.)

Sandra Pascual — food content creator, food stylist and photographer, editor of a blog, and cookbook writer from Strasbourg, France — agrees that making macarons is difficult. “We often say it is capricious,” says Pascual. “They are a difficult pastry to make at home because, even if you master the recipe, it can fail because of heat, humidity, airflow…”

The macaron is from the Middle Ages. But obviously, it was very different back then. There is a story that it was introduced to the French court by the chef of Catherine de Medici. Of course, today it is known as a French treat. In the 8th Century, macarons were made in Venetian monasteries, where they were also known as ‘priests’ belly buttons’.

Delectable macarons

Delectable macarons  

“Italian macarons use sugar syrup. I prefer the French one, which is easier to make and uses powdered and granulated sugar and is less sweet,” says Pascual. The ingredients are the same (almonds, sugar and eggs), but the original macaroon was more a crumbly, single round biscuit. The ‘Parisienne Macaron’, says Pascual, appeared around the end of the 19th Century.

“This is two shells, crispy on the outside and soft inside, glued together with jam or ganache,” she explains. “The older single crumbly version known as ‘Macaron de Boulay’ is still a speciality in Nancy.” I also learn that Catherine de Medici’s granddaughter kept starvation at bay by eating them in this town.

Pascual’s personal favourite is the simplest one: chocolate macarons with a good dark chocolate ganache. But there is so much to it that Pascual has dedicated four books to the sweet: Crazy Macarons, Coffret Macarons, Macarons et Meringues and Macarons de Paris.

Pascual says while most people usually buy the macarons from patisseries, it has gradually become trendy to make them at home.

“More people are trying them out in their kitchens.” Whether it is home-made or bought, macarons are an elegant gift. “Every year, the chefs of Ladurée or Pierre Hermé create a new collection of macaroons with new flavours.”

While one would usually pick up a macaron and pop it into the mouth, Pascual says, there are ‘Big’ macarons (four times the size of a normal one) served as dessert or used to decorate cakes.” And if you are a fan of Australian pastry chef Adriano Zumbo, you would have gasped over his Croquembouche made with macarons.

“Go as crazy as you want with the fillings. You can make them either sweet or savoury. Instead of almonds you can also use other nuts for the shells.” What is Pascual’s favourite kind of filling? “I love chocolate with cinnamon or pepper.”

***

Recipe

Chocolate macarons

Ingredients

For the shells

2 1/6 cups powdered sugar

1 4/5 cups ground almonds

4 egg whites

1/5 cup granulated sugar

2 tsp cocoa powder

For the filling

½ cup chocolate chips

½ cup whipping cream

1 tsp butter

Method

The filling

Bring the cream to a boil and then pour it on the chocolate chips. Let it melt for three minutes before mixing. Once cooled, add the butter. Cover with cling film and place in the refrigerator for at least an hour. You can add your favourite spices in the chocolate filling.

The shells

Preheat your oven to 120°C with an empty baking plate inside. Quickly mix the icing sugar and powdered almond and sift with the cocoa powder.

Whip the egg whites with the sugar until stiff. Gradually and carefully, stir in the almond powder and sugar mix in the meringue with a spatula. The mixture should be shiny, smooth and form a ribbon while falling.

Once the right consistency is obtained, pour into a piping bag fitted with an 8 mm pipe.

Make small domes of about 3/4 cm staggered on a sheet of parchment paper and tap the plate on the table to release any air bubbles.

Let it rest for 20 minutes or so. Bake for 26 minutes.

Allow to cool before gently loosening the parchment paper. Garnish half the shells with the filling using a pastry bag.

Close with another macaron and let it rest in the fridge for 24 to 48 hours for best taste.

Remember

Macarons do not like humidity, so do not try making when it is rainy. Always use fresh eggs and good quality almond powder.

Separate the eggs three days before making the macarons. This will give you a more liquid egg white, which makes for a better meringue. Sift the almond powder for smoother macaron shells.

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Printable version | May 27, 2020 12:55:17 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/life-and-style/food/the-capricious-macaron/article18255371.ece

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