I tried my first macaron at age 25 in San Francisco and it’s amazing I didn’t cry myself to sleep that night. As amazing as that first delectable cookie was, I should have mourned the fact that I lived my entire life up until that day without knowing the heaven that is a French macaron. But instead of being sad, I was glad! Glad to know the airy deliciousness of these delicate treats which have become popular nationwide.
In order to make up for lost macaron eating and appreciating I decided to learn how to make them myself, if for no other reason than to acknowledge the skill and time that go into these cookies. Clearly other people are as obsessed as I am which is why The Gourmandise School of Sweets & Savories can’t schedule enough of their Intro to French Macaron classes. Luckily I got into a class that fit my schedule – after five months of waiting.
And now, after a three hour baking experience with Gourmandise owner and baker extraordinaire Clemence, I know why these precious cookies are so expensive. Not only are some of the ingredients specialty items you won’t have hanging around in your kitchen cabinets, but the cookie creation takes a great deal of precision. For instance, the signature of the macaron is the little “foot” on the bottom – aka the crinkly part. You’re paying for the perfect crinkle, which means the cookies will be light and fluffy yet slightly chewy and bursting with flavor.
As with the French Bistro cooking class I took at Gourmandise, the entire experience was really fun and easy, with plenty of treats to eat. In addition to filling our vanilla macarons with flavored buttercream we also made salted caramel. It is dangerous that I now know how to create this divine cavity-creator. I boxed up a bunch of cookies to take home – and even shared a few with my husband who said my macarons were as good as any from a fancy bakery. Sure, he’s biased but they were crazy delicious!
Oh, by the way: If you can’t get past the waitlist for one of the intro classes there is a way to try making macarons at home. The ladies at the newly opened Le Petite Pantry at the Gourmandise School have created a $10 kit with all of the dry ingredients you need to make 20 cookies in your own kitchen. To ensure everything looks right in the process they even have step-by step pictures on their Facebook page to proof your work (baking pun fully intended).
Let’s be honest: Everyone wants to leave a baking class with at least one skill they can actually use at home. I may opt to travel to Paris for Laduree macarons before creating them myself again, but I did learn that you can use dehydrated fruit – like strawberry, apricot, raspberry or blueberry – available at Trader Joe’s to color and flavor buttercream. Brilliant! Pulverize the fruit into tiny pieces using a food processor and mix it in with traditional frosting for a sweet, tasty version of food coloring. You have now elevated yourself to baking diva. Congrats!
Accessorize: Fleur de Sel de Guerande – use this ingredient to accessorize your baking with fantastic flavor!