NAT’S SUPPLIER CHALLENGE – MAISON DES MACARONS
I’m really enjoying my supplier challenges and this one was particularly fun, which was helped by the Champagne and alfresco lunch in the glorious sun. This challenge was postponed twice by both episodes of snow, so all of us are eager to finally get together for a lovely day of Macaron Masterclass-ery.
Victoria and Kimm run these classes for anyone wanting to learn how to make these delicious treats, as well as making them for weddings and corporate events. And joining us today is Rachael Connerton who has also been itching to learn how to make macarons and some how is going to juggle taking part in the class as well as photographing the action.
My challenges always start off with a cup of tea and a good natter. It’s such a great industry we work in, filled with genuinely lovely, talented people and I am so lucky to work with such a fantastic group of suppliers who support each other.
Now, I have never made macarons and I’m not much of a baker, so I am inexperienced and out of my depth today. And I’ve heard many people say that there is an art to making these French delights.
I do feel a little more “prepared” once I put an apron on, but the second Kimm starts introducing the method and Victoria starts pulling out weighing scales, jugs, electric thermometers, timers, pots and pans, I’m back to worrying how terribly wrong this could go.
So, we start by making the meringue for the shell of the macaron. Kimm makes an Italian meringue and I had no idea it was made using ground almonds. We have the Kitchen Aids going, we have pre-weighed the exact amount of ingredients and we have electric thermometers in our pans on the hob with timers all on the go. My head is spinning with everything that is going on. I’ve got to watch the thermometer and when it gets to a certain temperature, I have to up the speed on the Kitchen Aid, then I have to wait until we reach another temperature to whip the pan off the hob and slowly pour the sugar liquid into the mixer.
There’s food colouring to add and a little gentle mixing before we have a perfectly stiff peaked meringues. I braved the traditional test of holding it above my head which could have ended so badly.
We spoon the mix into piping bags and pipe out precise circles onto a baking tray and then whack ‘em to knock out some air. It takes a few go’s but my technique for piping improves after a few attempts. The knack is to hold the bag just a little off the tray, straight up and allow the meringue to ooze out and neatly flick the mixture to the side when you are finished so aren’t left with a peak that could burn.
Whilst we wait for the disks to settle before baking them, Kimm pops open a bottle of pink Lanson! Don’t mind if I do! Victoria and I go and play icing some macarons and she shows me how she decorates Kimms creations for bespoke orders.
It’s now time to bake our shells, so we pop them in the oven and stick the timer on. Having a good oven and knowing how it works is also the trick to making perfect macarons, as the cooking time will vary depending on the type of oven you have. Kimm knows her tools though so half way through, we open the door, waft some heat out of the oven and then place a sheet of baking parchment on the top of our shells to stop them burning or discolouring in the second half of cooking. When they come out of the oven, some of my shells haven’t survived, they’ve crumbled in on themselves and some of them are a funny shape, but all in all, we have a batch of macarons taking shape.
You can’t put chocolate ganache into hot meringue shells, so whilst they cool down we have an alfresco lunch. Kimm used to live in France and with all of her stories of living over there and the incredible sun we were having, I felt as if we were there. Kimm’s hospitality is incredible, she certainly knows how to look after her guests. Anyone doing her macaron masterclass will definitely have a very special day.
We finish things off by making the fillings for our macarons. Rachael has made a raspberry and rose water filling and I am making lemon. To make everything from scratch takes an incredible amount of preparation, so we use a premade (by Kimm) lemon curd and raspberry coulis. We then mix our flavouring into a white chocolate ganache and pipe the filling onto one shell and twist the other on the top. Some of my filling oozes out of the sides and some are seriously lacking, so I botch fill it once the top is on. I am absolutely making a hash of it. But… voila! 6 hour later we have a batch of macarons.
I love them; they taste incredible and look so pretty but I can’t take full credit; Victoria and Kimm are not only incredible teachers but they did lend a helping hand. Macarons make great favours or a tower at a wedding but I absolutely have a new found respect for the very time sensitive and precise measured technique involved in making just one batch. It’s a true art and when ever I see a perfect little macaron, I now appreciate the insane talent involved to create it.