Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Daring Baker's Challenge: Macarons and the Case of the Missing Feet!

I couldn't have been more excited about a Daring Baker's challenge - imagine having just come back from Paris and sampling the world's finest macarons, only to find out that you yourself are being challenged to produce the same pastry!

Alas, the macarons were not to be. I tried to follow all the advice out there: I aged the egg whites 24 hours, I tapped the baking sheets, I let the unbaked cookies dry out. But the end result was simply not a macaron. A fine almond cookie, sure, but there were no feet! If you scroll down to the other posts below on macarons, the feet are the ruffly edge on the bottom of the macaron cookie. At any rate, at least I tried (and will try again!) and got a good caramel sauce recipe out of the deal.

The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

This batter looked promising: smooth, shiny. What could go wrong? HA!

Alas: these are just glorified almond cookies. Light and airy - but no feet! Arggghhhh.
Still, the caramel was delectable. Not a total loss.

For all things macaron, including recipes, I suggest going to Tartlette's blog. I used her Salty Caramel Sauce, which is the filling for her Pecan Pie Macaron. My shells were unflavored. I think I overfolded my batter. And I will have to experiment more with my oven, which uses gas mark numbers rather than actual temperatures. Live and learn!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Eating My Way through Paris: Macarons part 3

This is the entrance of Ladurée on the Champs-Élysées, a patisserie with a very different modus operandi than Fauchon. Fauchon is modern and chic. Ladurée is aiming for baroque opulence, with velvet walls and chandeliers. It certainly works!

Here's the line on a Saturday night.

There are attendants in white gloves, ready to wrap up whatever delicacy you like.

And the wrapping is absolutely fabulous, as you can see here. This is a little Ladurée tableaux
I set up in our lodgings that night - before we promptly gobbled it down.

Aren't they lovely? Clockwise from the top: bergamot (yes, the spice
that flavors Earl Grey!), pistachio, chocolate, citron, and raspberry.

These were pretty good - I think the pistachio was especially yummy. The bergamot flavored macaron was interesting - it captured the taste of a mildly sweet and creamy cup of tea without being too weird.

Okay, this is not a macaron, but it is, in my opinion, Ladurée's pièce de résistance: a rosewater-raspberry concoction with oh-so-subtly flavored cream and tiny bonbons embedded in the sides. The bottom is a pâte à choux, filled with more cream.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Eating My Way through Paris: Macarons part 2

Fauchon is located by the L'Église de la Madeleine, along with Hédiard, another gourmet food store - which makes for a very tasty corner of Paris, all around.

This is at Fauchon - amazing store, with all sorts of goodies: foie gras,
terrines, pâte de fruits, etc. But look at these pastries! Those are raspberries,
painted a pearly white! I really cant' say enough good things about Fauchon.

Eclairs at Fauchon - not sure what I think of decorating
an eclair like a hot dog, but I'm sure they taste good.

A citron macaron from Fauchon. Perfect macaron shell - you can see the
crunchy exterior, followed by the almondy chewyness, followed by
perfectly flavored filling.

The macarons we ordered at Fauchon were full size - about 2-3 inches in diameter, as you can see above. I must say that they were fantastic. Maybe taste and texture are affected by the size of the macaron - maybe the bigger the better? Anyway, these were a welcome treat after a very wonderful but exhausting day at the Louvre.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Eating My Way through Paris: Macarons part 1

Since relocating to Heidelberg, Germany, I've been astounded by how easy it is to get to other European locales. Last weekend we headed to Paris - only 3 1/2 hours by train! As my mom said, "That's like driving to Tahoe!" (from the SF Bay Area, that is). One of my main incentives for going to Paris was sampling all the macarons I've been obsessing about for the last year or so. It seems that this meringue sandwich cookie has taken the foodie-world by storm. So here goes for our Paris macaron taste-off:

This is the display in the Lenôtre, in Bastille, 11th arrondissement.
We stopped there our first morning, for our first macaron tasting.

These were light and satisfyingly crunchy-chewy, with lovely fillings.

I was impressed by the chocolate ganache filling - very rich. The others we tried were pistachio, frambois (raspberry), and caramel, with sea salt. I think my favorite was the caramel (it usually is!), but one complaint is that the sea salt hits you first when you bite into the macaron, and it's a bit strong. The burnt-sugar taste of caramel comes almost at the end, which is too long to wait, in my mind. All in all, though, a great sweet treat - light but very satisfying.