Ganache Macaron Baking class at Boxpark, Shoreditch, 4th December 2013
“Baking is a science, cooking is an art.”
This phrase has never been clearer to me than it was yesterday. Macarons should not be mixed too much, or too little. You need to be very intimate with your oven to make sure they turn out just right. They will even behave differently depending on the humidity and temperature outside and inside the kitchen! What a stark contrast to the dish I had made the day before…
Is it worth it, I hear you say? Absolutely.
I first encountered Ganache Macaron at the Taste of Christmas Festival a couple of weeks ago. They specialise in exotic-flavored macarons and can create some incredible things with macarons (if you don’t believe me, take a look at this macaron dress that was featured on Made in Chelsea!). This week, they very kindly invited me to their pop-up shop in Boxpark to learn the secret of these little delights. They are still there until Sunday 8th December, so I would strongly recommend paying them a visit, whether it’s for a class or to buy some of their boxes. The class yesterday was quite small with only 3 attendees, but this meant we could ask all the questions we wanted and benefit from a less crowded oven.
Now, to the macarons. My personal relationship with these round colourful pastries is somewhat strange. I first read about them in Enid Blyton, but never quite understood what they were. I always imagined they looked something like eclairs (let’s not even get into how I thought those looked before I saw one!). In Switzerland, Lindt & Sprüngli sell Luxemburgerli, which are very similar, but far more airy with a slightly melting quality. It was only when I visited Paris in 2010 that I saw macarons in La Durée and realised the similarities between the two!
Since then, I have become more familiar with macarons, but I never ever thought of making them myself. They were filed away in my ‘unattainable cooking’ category, which includes perfectly poached eggs, gutting whole fish and cake decorating, amongst others. However, I’m glad to say that this myth is now debunked! I will definitely be making these again, just as soon as I purchase a hand mixer (I definitely don’t want to beat them by hand like for my lemon meringue pie recently…).
The class at Boxpark was taught by Audrey, an expert pastry chef and co-director of Ganache Macaron. She started off with a demonstration of how to make the macaron shells (can you believe there are only 4 ingredients?!) and showed us how to pipe them onto the baking tray. Everything was very precise, as you could imagine, but not as difficult as it seems.
Then it was our turn!
We beat the egg whites until they turned stiff (thank you, hand mixer!), added some colouring and then mixed in the other ingredients.
Now comes the hard bit: la macaronage. This is a very precise process that takes out the air from the batter to give it just the right consistency. It’s important not to do this for too long, else it will turn to liquid and all is lost!
Then, we piped them carefully with the help of a stencil.
And then came the oven, which is quite rightly the cause for what could be called ‘macaron fear’. Audrey explained to us over and over again how important it was to know our oven well, almost intimately. ‘Sometimes it takes 10 minutes. Sometimes 20. Sometimes it’s at 160 degrees, sometimes 140.’ The trick is to test a few shells at a time when you’re starting out – that way you’ll soon learn what temperature and time works for your oven. It’s quite a fiddly process!
We then took a 30 minute break while our macarons formed a skin and were baked, in which time I explored the Boxpark, a funky and unique venue in Shoreditch. I ate some falafel to avoid a sugar coma and soon found myself back at Box 17, where our macaron shells were ready, looking absolutely beautiful. I always thought the so-called ‘foot’ of the macaron (which is the curly bit at the bottom of each shell) was created specifically, but I was amazed to see that it just appears when you bake the shells! Who knew?
To finish off, we still had to make the macaron filling and assemble them properly. Audrey demonstrated just how we had to do this before letting us get creative with some coloured icing. And this is where I fell short. I was very good at assembling the macarons, but I’ve never been very good at drawing, painting or decorating. As you can see below, I soon gave up trying to make designs and decided to stick to simple letters. But I think it worked out just fine, don’t you?
Ganache Macaron is an absolutely delightful company and I thoroughly enjoyed their baking class. The atmosphere was very friendly, and Audrey was a brilliant teacher. I highly recommend going if you can, as it’s a great way to spend an evening with friends, family or even for a date! And I must thank Ganache Macaron for providing me with yet another weapon in my culinary arsenal: a delicious, delicate, perfect-as-a-Christmas-gift weapon.
Merci, Ganache Macaron, et bon appetit!