Macarons really have been on my “to do” list for ages. Years, probably. It took a day trip to Paris to finally give me the push I needed (and only then because I wrote that I was going to give them a go!). We saw so many amazing displays when we were wandering around I really wanted to try to make some.
They are renowned for being tricky, but I still got a shock when the first couple of batches didn’t work out too well. I was taught how to make them in September, when I joined a course that a few friends were going on. The class was brilliant, not least because we learnt how to make the proper fillings as well, but I still hadn’t got round to trying them out at home.
There were five of us on the course and we all chose to make different colour macarons. The paler colours tend to get even lighter in the oven so it is worth doing a bold colour if you are going for a strong look. My colours didn’t work out brilliantly (nor did my macarons) and I also didn’t alternate all of my different flavours and colours in the presentation box we used to take them home as I hadn’t realised we were going to take photos:
I thought I had possibly overworked my mixture when I was trying to get the colour evenly distributed, even though I wasn’t using the deep colours, so when I made them at home I used a small amount of colour. The first batch was disastrous:
I read a lot of troubleshooting guides on the internet to try and work out where I was going wrong. There are even ones that show you the consistency of the mixture when it is undermixed, just right and overmixed. If you have a problem the tutorials are well worth seeking out. I decided that not only did I not have the oven at a high enough temperature, I also didn’t leave them in for long enough so they ended up as a chewy, gooey mess. Still tasty though!
So I decided to use a different recipe and tried again and they worked out a lot better. This time I think I actually undermixed them, based on the tutorial I watched (afterwards), but they still worked out: mainly due, I think, to having the oven at a better temperature.
I used buttercream to fill these but I have all the recipes from the course for amazing fillings that I am keen to try next time so watch this space! I left some plain and rolled some in freeze dried raspberry pieces.
Once the macarons are filled they need a while to rest so they keep well for a few days.
We did so much walking and climbing and descending stairs when we were in Paris that my legs ached for days afterwards. We walked up all the steps of the Eiffel Tower and back down as well, a climb of 115m over 704 steps. I am not good with heights because I think I’m going to throw myself off(!) so I wasn’t sure how I was going to cope with the Eiffel Tower. In the end it wasn’t too bad, partly because the steps feel enclosed by both the pillars and the metal fencing and because I tried not to look down too much. The final level has to done by lift, up to 276m, which I didn’t hugely enjoy, particularly with the wind buffeting it! And although I did manage to get outside I didn’t want to go anywhere near the edge so clung to the wall for a couple of minutes before admiring the view from the inside. Much more sensible.
The views from the top are really worth the effort and I am so glad that I went with my friends Frin and Vana, who were adamant we were going to go to the top. I know I would never have attempted it otherwise.
Having seen the vast expanse of Paris from the tower, we went for an amazing late lunch at Les Cocottes and then decided to head for Montmartre, which is not somewhere I had ever been before. The narrow cobbled streets on the steep hill may be more populated by tourists, street sellers and gift shops than by artists and writers as in years gone by, but it definitely still has a certain charm and is great to wander around. We walked up the 300 steps to Sacré Coeur (are you spotting a theme here?) and I discovered that it was a huge basilica rather than a small neighbourhood church, as I had always imagined.
Then as night fell it was back to the train, back to London and back home. We were tired and our legs and feet ached but it was worth it.
Macarons may need a little trial and error but give them a go if you get a chance and try out a few different recipes to see what works for you. I am hoping to make some more soon, with some interesting fillings and will post the recipes and instructions then.