I saw a tweet by @fujimama stating they were organizing a workshop on French Macarons with the one and only Helen DuJardin. In less than a split second I sent an email to LaFuji Mama and said please include me! You see, I had read about Demystifying Macarons in the Dessert Professional magazine a few months ago. It arrive on my doorstep (actually the post) and I was instantly delighted as the cover was done by my favorite watercolorist Paris Breakfasts. Perusing the article there was none other than Helen DuJardin who would lead me kindly through the seemingly simple act of making a French Macaron.
In 2008 I set out to make them and failed the first time. The lovely ones we sold at the bakery looked nothing like mine. Mine had craters and pocks and were not very shiny. However, they had great feet! I must be doing something wrong! Discouraged I gave up and began looking for a class. In 2009 I tool a chocolate class in Anaheim and mentioned that I would pay to learn to make a French Macaron. They said, well, maybe if you could get a group of women to want to take the class with you we could put something together. Sigh. I live at the edge of the earth by SoCal standards. People gasp when I tell them how far I drive to attend things like special technique classes. The idea of getting people to a class was daunting. I set aside my dreams of the perfect macaron.
Then that wonderful tweet came in January of 2010. And of all the people I thought I’d never have me teach the secret to macarons, Helen would be my teacher. Gasp! Excitement! Thrill!
So on a Saturday a few weeks back I went excitedly with my sister to the class. We arrived on time after a two hour drive to the class. What a true joy to meet the organizers and Helen. Helen is everything you imagine. Your best friend, your teachers, your favorite french confident! I told Helen I had tried desperately to find my copy of Dessert Professional so I could have her sign it, but alas it was not to be found! Yes, I was a true Helen DuJardin groupie.
For the next four hours we laughed, chatted and learned from our friend Helen. She explained the culture of France, the sweetness of the Macaron, and the wonders of the south. She invited us each to join her for dinner if we are ever in her neck of the woods. We were each mixed our own batch of Macarons, with Helen over our shoulders, guiding us to get the recipe just right. Then we learned that Macarons, even when done perfectly, sometimes have their way and Pfft! you begin again another day. I love that! We each went home with our box of Macarons, and with the charge to give it a try on our own, knowing if we had any questions Helen was just an email away.
The following Thursday my egg whites were ready. I had ground my almonds previously. Mis en place! Powdered sugar blended with the almonds. Egg white in the bowl ready to be whipped up, granulated sugar added. Color! I added my powdered food colors to the almond mixture, whipped my egg whites and began blending. It came together perfectly! I got the same “look” I had at the class. These cookies were going to be great!
I piped them on to the silpat sheets and set them to dry. The oven was hot and ready to go 30 minutes later. I set the time for 13 minutes and set them in to bake.
Ten minutes seemed to short, 20 too long so I decided on 13 minutes. I was channeling my inner Helen, as I peeked on them and knew the timing was going to be just right.
And right it was! I removed them from the oven and let them cool a bit, maybe five minutes before lifting them off the sheet. Many people wonder if the silpat sheet is a necessity. I say yes! It made the back side of the cookie peel right off and it was smooth and looked almost as great as the top! I tried a sheet on parchment as a comparison. The parchment did not give as smooth a bottom and there were some gaps. For me, silpat is a must. It’s also a great choice if you are a “green” baker. Parchment gets used once, then tossed. The silpat will work for years. Oh I’ve gone on and on! Well, if you are still with me here’s a picture of my perfect domes coming out of the oven. Oh, and they had feet! Not skirts, but feet. The little bottoms had risen just right and there were no bulges around the edges. The rose for the occasion!
This was a complete success! Much better than my first attempt. Thank you Helen, you’ve made me more confident! Thank you for tweeting about this class @fujimama!