You must bake a pie and make French macarons.
Huh? You ask...
Well I have this crazy idea in my head that in order to be a good baker I must learn to master two things: apple pie and macarons. The first seems to be a no-brainer since making a good pie crust seems to be a hard thing to do. The latter is just craziness on my part.
Ah, the French macaron. I had heard about these things for ages but never had the opportunity to eat one until yesterday. There is a little patisserie that opened up on a Queen St. west not too long ago and with two hours to kill, Sean and I decided to venture from Bloor Cinema to Nadege Patisserie. We hopped into a subway and onto a streetcar and not too long after, we were walking into a stark, white pastry shop. It was nothing like how I had imagined. Oh well. Maybe it's the pastries that people come here for.
I kind of expected to see rows upon rows of delicate French macarons but instead was greeting by four rows of macarons in four different flavours: chocolate, cappuccino, chocolate raspberry and poppy. The macarons were $20 for a dozen so I decided to get 3 of each. Even the decor was drab, the packaging was pretty enough--everyone knows I'm a sucker for pretty packaging.
Here's the unveiling: the logo... the box...the inside...the lovelies...Uh, so yeah...there's a few missing. Sean and I had a little nibble while on the streetcar. My favourite was the poppy as was Sean's. The chocolate raspberry (the lilac-coloured one) was also very delicious but extremely sweet and the chocolate filling was quite rich. I haven't tasted the cappuccino one yet. I think the coffee-flavour would counteract the intense sweetness quite nicely. I hope so anyway.
Moving along, here's my first attempt at the French macaron:So yeah, a bit of a failure despite the fact that I tried my best to follow the recipe directions as closely as possible. I had looked up a bunch of different recipes and most of them had the same ingredients. A couple of them called for sifting the ground almonds and powdered sugar while others didn't. I wasn't really sure which one to follow. I then found a recipe and decided not to sift the ground almonds and powdered sugar. I also had run out of pastry bags and ended up piping them through a ziploc bag. Note to self: not a good idea.
I wasn't terribly upset when my first-run macarons didn't turn out as they should have. I had prepared myself for a long battle with the macaron. I was prepared for batches and batches of ground almonds, sugar and egg whites but was a little disappointed that I had not mastered them on the first try. What a feat that would have been!
In the end I called Sean and we decided to give the macarons another shot, but this time at his house. We sifted the ground almonds and powdered sugar separately and then whisked them together and then slowly added them to the soft peaked-egg whites and white sugar. We baked them at 350F for 15 minutes and this was our result:French macarons with vanilla bean filling.
Sean and I completely forgot about the flavouring of the filling and about flavouring the shells with vanilla bean like I had done in the first batch so instead we improved and used the vanilla bean for the filling.
It was good. Ridiculously sweet, but good. I think next time I'd cut down on the amount of sugar or use a bittersweet chocolate ganache to offset the sweetness.
YES! *air punch* French macarons on my second try! (And on Sean's first try!) I guess it really does pay to sift your ingredients.
Oh and just for kicks...