This is about cookies, but sometimes you have to tell a story about friends first.
I have amazing friends. Seriously.
We’re all sorority sisters from college. The beauty on the left below has been my BFF since college, and the rest of us seriously reconnected over the last few years via a series of sorority reunions. Like share our darkest secrets and fears kinda reconnected. But also that, “Hey, you know what, I’m a cranky-ass bear on a Tuesday at 1:34pm, so please listen to me bitch about the fact that my dog just shat on the floor…again,” kinda reconnecting.
We all talk pretty regularly now… like multiple times a week via phone, text, Messenger, Facetime, etc. God bless technology. This is the one time I will say that, given that I often am caught saying I want to go back to 1985.
I’m blessed to have the kind of friends who’ll travel around the world for one another.
The beauty in blue knew she was going to be in Paris this April to be with her husband while he was on business, and she asked me if I wanted to come visit her. Duh.
Paris in Spring? Double DUH.
So what did I do? I called the 5 other sorority sisters with whom we’d reconnected and asked if they wanted to come along for a wild ride of a week. Cause why not? Worst anyone can say is I’m crazy, and trust me, it wouldn’t be the 1st time I’ve heard that.
I tried to pull off a ruse that I wanted to bring “family,” but quickly realized how awry that situation could go if I tried to pull off a surprise visit with 5 other people while she was on a visit with her husband in Paris. One person? Sure. Five more people? You can see how that could go really wrong, really fast. When I told the beauty in blue what my thoughts were about having us all come see her, her voice brightened so much on the phone, I knew this could only be another amazing bonding experience!
Life is life. Sometimes the dog shits on your floor multiple times in a day, and you need friends to hear you cry about that, and then sometimes you pack up and travel to Paris to see those same friends because you all have major life shit going on, and Paris seems like the right thing to do.
Violá! Six of seven of us ended up in Paris last week.
We did a great combination of high touristy things, combined with super cool local vibes kinda shopping, dining, and cooking experiences. Three of us had been before, and for three of these beauties, this was a whole new world. We all saw a side of Paris we’d never seen before.
Truth is, Paris isn’t my favorite city. Sure, it’s beautiful and chocked full of amazing history, but I’m pretty sure my disdain came from the fact that when I went about 7 years ago, we were in a high touristy area, were traveling with pre-teen kids, and did super touristy things so the kids could see the highlights of Paris. And, as in any city, when you have smaller children, your Spidey senses are on high alert. My husband and I spent so much time making sure the kids were safe, it kinda killed some of the magic the kids probably got to have. Needless to say, I’m not a fan of traveling with small children.
No worries, I found some of that magic back on this trip. We stayed in an airbnb apartment on the outskirts of the city in an area called Boulogne-Billancourt, a western suburb of Paris (about 20 minutes from Versailles), and while we didn’t do a ton in that area, it had some lovely local restaurants, patisseries, and groceries where we were able to enjoy a much more low-key local vibe, eat in with freshly baked pastries every morning and even cook in a few nights.
When we threw this trip together, we compiled a list of things we wanted to do while there. The beauty in blue wanted to do a cooking class, and I wanted to do a baking class, amongst a long list of other requests. So thank you TripAdvisor, I was able to find such experiences.
Meet Marthe. Marthe knew her shit, took her shit seriously, and trust me, we were expected to give a shit. We did the macaron baking class in her private apartment in Paris, and what an insane experience it was!
The weekend we arrived, Paris was breaking 60 year high temperature records (oh, like close to 90F), and we were in Marthe’s small apartment, there was no AC, and there were 9 of us in there. We were all sweaty Bettys cause Marthe didn’t open any windows. Only after an hour and a half of sweating, did Marthe bring out a fan.
Despite this, we actually still had a blast and learned a lot.
Here’s the recipe of my favorite macaron we made, and good friggin’ luck. I took the class with Marthe, and as I reread this recipe, I’m not so sure I even understand…
Long and short, it’s a recipe based off the famous Parisian Pierre Hermé’s recipe made with Italian meringue. Go figure a French macaron is made with an Italian meringue. We’ll call it a United Nations recipe. Actually, Italian meringue will create a shiny macaron that has no holes in it, and a French meringue will produce a matte looking macaron that has small holes in it. And when you’re Marthe, holes in your cookie and no shine are a no go.
Trust me when I tell you that both taste lovely.
You can do the conversions. You can also try to figure out what she’s saying – she’s left out steps and has written the recipe as if you know what’s she trying to say…it’s not a recipe I’ve rewritten yet for American consumption. Have fun.
Read below the recipe for what we really learned.
LA CUISINE DE MARTHE RASPBERRY MACARONS
- 200 g Ground almonds
- 200 g Confectionner sugar
- 150 g egg whites (75 X 2) (around 5 eggs)
- 200 g Caster sugar
- 5 cl Water (= 1/20 l)
- 15 g caster sugar + 1G dried egg white
- a pinch of salt
- 1 small pinch of red food colouring (powder)
FOR THE FILLING:
- 400 g Raspberry
- 1.5 g Agar agar
- 170 g Caster sugar
- Lemon drops or a bit of grated feve tonka (option)
Before all :
- Weigh 2 quantities of 75 g of egg whites that have been separated from their yolks. These should be kept in containers and placed in the fridge 3 or 4 days before cooking the macarons.
- A day before making the macarons, toast the almond powder in the oven for 10mn at 150°C.
1) Preheat the oven to 130°C (Ventilated)
2) To make the macarons shells, whizz the confectionner sugar and ground almonds to a very fine mixture, then sift into a bowl.
3) In a separate bowl whisk 75 g egg whites with a pinch of salt to soft peaks. Heat the 200 g caster sugar and make a syrup. Place a thermometer in the syrup and when it reachs _80/90°C start to beat the egg whites and add 15 g caster sugar + 1 g dried egg white, in 3 times. When the thermometer reachs 118 °C add slowly the sugar syrup in the egg whites. Add the food colouring in necessary. Continue to beat the meringue 5 mn30 to cool down. The meringue should become shiny and stiff.
4) Mix the other 75 g egg whites with the almond + sugar with a rubber spatula. Then add the meringue and mix with a flat spatula until a fluid mixture.
5) Put the mixture in a pastry bag.
6) Line 2 baking sheets with baking (silicone) paper. Pipe small rounds of the macarons mixture, on silicone paper on the baking sheets. Give the baking sheets a sharp tap on the work surface to ensure a good “foot”. Leave to stand at room temperature for 15 mn (30 mn if humid weather) to form a slight skin.
7) Bake for 12 mn. Open the oven door 2 times during the baking. (after 8mn and after 11mn, each time for 5 secondes)
8) Make a caramel with 170 G caster sugar and add the raspberry in which you can add a bit of grated Fève Tonka or lemon drops. Then add the agar agar, mix and put aside in a fresh place.
9) Use the raspberry jam to sandwich pair of macaroons shells.
10) Making beautiful macaroons is not difficult, but you’ll need organization, the right tools, high-quality ingredients and time.
My Thoughts After Baking:
- OK, you see line item #10 in the recipe, “Making beautiful macaroons is not difficult, but you’ll need organization, the right tools, high-quality ingredients and time.” Ms. Marthe speaks mad truth here. There is an art to making macarons. Seriously. This is why there are shops singularly dedicated to this cookie in Paris.
- In the ingredients, it calls for almond powder. Get almond flour and run it through a food processor, blender, or Vitamix.
- Or as Marthe says, whizz it.
- There is something to be said for setting out the ingredients days ahead of time, like suggested. I think it boils down to the cookie having snap. Our macarons never got that snap you associate with biting into one of these wee beauties. I dunno. It was also pretty damn hot and humid in Paris when we made them. I am neither a French master of macarons or a weatherman. Regardless, they still tasted good.
- Marthe is the kinda chef who makes her own jam filling for her macarons. Likely, I’m the same kinda gal, but only in the summer when I’m in jam makin’ mode. But, as Ina says, in a pinch, a GOOD store bought one is fine.
- Marthe reminds me of a stern Ina. Marthe didn’t smile as much, though.
- If you’re trying to decipher line #3, you’re basically making Italian meringue, which means you’re heating sugar to a syrup, and then adding it to whipped egg whites. There is timing in this recipe, as in when the syrup gets to a certain temperature, you begin beating in the sugar and dried egg whites (meringue powder) to the whipped egg whites. Once the syrup reaches its peak temperature, you then add it to the whipped mixture and meringue happens.
- It sounds way more complicated than it actually is.
- OK, line item #4. Watch the video below. This was one of the secrets of the trade that we learned. Who knew? That’s why we took the class. This process makes the mixture become fluid so it’s easier to pipe, and it incorporates the flour/sugar mixture into the egg whites. Don’t go beatin’ the snot outta it. There is finesse to Ms. Marthe’s trick. Watch and learn.
- A side note about Marthe, here. She told me to start left and go to the right. So…I did. Then she told me I was doing it backwards. Apparently French for start left and go right means start on the right and go left. Just do something similar to the above, and your mixture will become fluid enough to pipe and all ingredients properly incorporated.
- Line item #5 – cut a 2 liter plastic drink container in half, and you have the perfect vessel to hold the piping bag while you fill it. Nifty lil’ trick, eh?
- Piping macarons… pipe vertically, not slanted. Listen and watch Marthe. Press and go. Press and go. Do not slant. Do not worry about the peaks. The next trick will show you how to get rid of such things.
- And dear Lord do not tell Marthe that your piped macaron looks better than hers. You think Darth Vader has a death stare? You ain’t met Marthe. My friend said this jokingly, and Marthe’s stare made her actually step back several steps.
- Once you perfect your piping skills, then you must slam and tap. What do I mean? Watch Marthe. It’s OK to be aggressive when you bake. This is all meant to get rid of those lil peaks from vertically piping. Press and go.
- Yes. Let them rest for 15 minutes before baking. It forms a skin for baking. Yes, open the oven for the full 5 seconds at the 8 and 11 minute mark. It releases built up humidity. These are the tricks I’m sharing with you that will make a difference.
- Wanna know the trick to getting these lil’ beauties off the paper? See below.
- Then just put a bit of your homemade or store bought – no judgement here – jam in the middle. Violá, the elusive macaron is yours.
Below, Shari’s Berries best explains the difference between a macaron and a macaroon. I’ll let you try and figure out why the French cookie name comes from an Italian word, and the macaroon is an English derivation of the French cookie name.
Just don’t go to France and ask for a macaroon if you mean a macaron. You will get something akin to Marthe’s death stare.
Like I said, meet the United Nations cookie.