Inspired by the fun of Great British Bake Off, Doreen from Great British Chefs looks at conquering her own baking challenges, particularly at the notoriously tricky yet beautiful confection: macarons.
Blog post by Doreen Joy Barber of Tasty Fever
Although I like to think of myself reasonably handy in the kitchen when it comes to baking, I have never made macarons. I’ve made macaroons—the coconut treat—but not the sweet French sandwiches that have taken the internet by storm.
When I worked at a small café back in Orlando, Florida, as the ad hoc baker, I was asked by a friend if I could make macarons. She had stumbled upon images of the confections shared by Tumblr bloggers plastering the treats throughout the interwebs, and she was entranced. The colours, the petit size, the staggering varieties, the utter tweeness of these French delicacies somehow pluck chords of ‘j’adore!’ from fans all over the world, to the point where they are now available in bakeries from Auckland to New York to Zurich.
Much has been written about the macaron and how it’s poised to take the title of ‘the next cupcake’, vying with mini-pies, gourmet marshmallows and cake pops. Of the articles I’ve read, none have been so evocative as Ligaya Mishan’s article for the New York Times:
The macaron is the anti-cupcake.
A cupcake comforts. A macaron teases. Dainty, nearly weightless, it leaves you hungrier than you were before. It is but a prelude to other pleasures. Your slacker boyfriend gives you a cupcake; your lover gives you macarons.
(Um… am I the only one wondering who will bring me chocolate?)
As food writers wax lyrical praise for the meringue confections and tantalising images of macarons are pinned to virtual boards, they seem to be a delicacy that is far too unattainable in a humble home kitchen. In fact, much of the images on sites like Pinterest and Tumblr feature the rainbow array of macarons in shops or in gift boxes, rather than on baking sheets or in the pedestrian environs of someone’s cluttered kitchen.
But is making the macaron at home really an impossible task? When I originally looked at various recipes over a year ago, so many seemed rather fiddledy, instructing you to stick a wooden spoon in the oven door (unhelpful, as at the time I had a vintage oven with a door that swung open sideways—I miss that oven!) or to use hot sugar syrup to whisk in the egg whites.
However, recently I’ve come across a number of encouraging articles and recipes that make me feel that, perhaps now, I am ready to take on baking the mythical macaron at home. Well, maybe not my home, because all I have is a grill oven that seems to take obscene pleasure in incinerating whatever goes in it, but perhaps someone else’s home, assuming I can use a friend’s oven.
When I asked on Twitter about macarons, @caroline_burman kindly referred me to BraveTart’s blog, which has two brilliant articles on macaron-making: The Ten Commandments of Macarons and Macaron Mythbusters, which have helped nudge away the trepidation of making macarons, along with Felicity Cloake’s chocolate macaron article on The Guardian. Also, this recipe from Galton Blackiston for cinnamon macarons looks friendly enough to make, and I do quite like cinnamon.
I believe the time for me to finally give macaron-making a go is approaching. Until then, I’ll be shopping around for a pastry bag to pipe out the macaron tops and sizing up my friends’ ovens for use. I’ll also be refreshing my too-frequently-dormant baking skills to make another sandwiched confection I used to bake that I also love, though it hasn’t gotten quite the Pinterest love of its French cousin: the whoopie pie. Frankly, if there’s a run for the title of the next cupcake, I’m plonking my pences and pounds on the whoopie pie.
Yep. Just saying….
Have you tried making macarons at home? Do you think macarons are ‘the next cupcake’? Have a look at our macaron collection and let us know what you think.