There's no denying that this past year has been the year of the macaron. They appeared everywhere in various forms and they are quite expensive little treats when you buy them retail. Of course we adore them, Amaya especially so. While many would have you think that they are difficult to make, much like the souffle, their notoriety gives them cache. If they were perceived as easy to make we would balk at how expensive they are in stores. Much like chocolate, a fine macaron is a work of art. When they are beautiful and flavorful they are the perfect little indulgence. Crisp and creamy, chewy and melting on the palate, they encompass a range of textures that manage to create a complete dining experience in one small bite.
Les Petits Macarons: Colorful French Confections To Make At Home is a jewel of a book written by Kathryn Gordon and Anne E. McBride. We've worked with Anne through the Experimental Cuisine Collective and greatly respect her work. Checking out the book was a no-brainer and since Kathryn Gordon is an instructor at ICE we were expecting great things. We were not disappointed. There is a wide range of flavors and expressions in these pages. Savory and sweet, classic and modern, there are macarons for every palate. Years ago someone asked us to locate a recipe for Sarah Bernhardts, which we did with some difficulty. I was so pleased to a recipe for them in this book and earmarked it for future explorations. It falls in a small section at the end of the book for "less than perfect" macarons, which has some wonderful confections although I always thought the less than perfect ones were for eating in the kitchen. This take them to the next level.
As much as I loved this book, I must admit I found the arrangement of the basic recipes a little bit confusing. There are tips and tricks in the beginning, followed by the four masters recipes, through the macaronner stage, followed by piping and baking for all, with a trouble shooting section at the very end of the book. There's a bit of flipping pages back and forth while you're making them. I must confess that I had trouble with the baking method, which called for starting in a low oven and increasing the heat partway through the cooking time. The problem may be with my older electric oven not heating up quickly enough. Her basic recipes (Italian and Easiest French) worked beautifully using my normal baking method so I simply made the adaptation and continued on my way. I do love the thought and science that went into her Easiest French Macaron method. As someone who believes in the power of innovation I appreciate the fact that she was willing to play with a classic recipe and turn it on its head. The real glory here is in the information and the variations. After all there are a million recipes for basic macaron in books and on the internet but where else can you find Violet macaron shells, Pumpkin Bourbon Buttercream, Popcorn Pastry Cream, Chile-Pineapple-Kumquat Marmalade or even a Key Lime Macaron that look like a little tiny pie in one place? Of course many of these fillings and flavors will have uses far beyond the macaron. All it takes is a little imagination.
There is a companion website for Petits Macarons. The video is definitely worth watching if you've never made them before. While not a step by step view, it shows you the key visuals for beating, mixing and slamming the pans on the countertop. And Kathryn and Anne are charming. It will make you want to get into your kitchen and bake.
This week we are giving away a signed copy of Les Petits Macarons: Colorful French Confections To Make At Home. To enter to win please leave comment below (with an email address so we can contact you if you win) telling us why you love macarons. Comments are moderated and will not appear immediately. One entry per person please. Winner will be picked on Friday, March 16, 2012 at 9am EST. This giveaway is now closed. Our winner has been notified via email. Thanks for all your comments.
March 13, 2009