Good Taste: Macaron and On

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My wife Laura and I just got back from our honeymoon — a year after our New York wedding but not one bit thusly diminished. During our whirlwind trip to London (with a 24-hour Paris jaunt), we ate and drank many delectable, memorable things, but the one thing I yearned for the most, once we were back in our high desert New Mexico home — the symbol of the trip’s deliciousness and fleeting nature — was the multi-textured, melt-in-the-mouth macaron.

For the uninitiated: imagine two light shells, with a faint crunch giving way to airy, chewy interiors. These round shells, composed of almond flour, powdered sugar, and egg whites (gluten free!), are joined by some kind of buttercream, jam, or ganache. Yes, the basic flavors of chocolate or pistachio are transporting, but when macaron purveyors get creative, the results swerve into divine dimensions.

Move over, cupcakes, and for that matter, cake pops. Get ready for the reign of the macaron.

In Paris, we visited Fauchon, the Versailles of delicacies. In addition to proffering macarons, this gilded high temple to the taste buds also offers the fanciest, tastiest versions of everything — cheese, paté, cakes — I even saw the prettiest bottled water ever. Flavors of macarons included basics like chocolate, vanilla, and raspberry, along with trendy salted caramel and an orange-chocolate ganache mariage.

Back in London, we ended our ogle-fest trip through Harrod’s with a stop in the Ladurée, a pastel confection of a space.

We’d planned to have tea there, but there was a long line of glam globetrotty types waiting, so we just queued up at the to-go counter, where some chic counter servers deftly filled customers orders while others refilled the display, in a swift, unerring choreography of precision and grace.

Clearly, dawdling was not an option, so we made our choices quickly. Chocolate, pistachio, and then Petale de Rose, Cassis Violette, Mango Jasmine. Looking back at their menu online, I wish I’d had more time to peruse and choose, as I would have loved to try the Bergamot, the Muguet, even the Réglisse, which is midnight-black and licorice-flavored — and famous for being so good, even licorice-disdainers (I’m one) enjoy them.

We paid for the slim column of macarons and stepped outside into the softly falling rain. The pistachio was wonderful, so delicate and creamy. But then I tried the rose. And I gasped. It was like smelling the rose perfume wafting from the neck of a beautiful woman, or from a bouquet or garden — in the form of a mouthful. It was a smell in the form of a taste, feminine and fleeting.

It hooked me.

And that is why I just spent all weekend, back in my Santa Fe kitchen making rose macarons. I can’t be on vacation forever, but I can tide myself over until the next visit by mastering the art of macaron-making. Or at least, enjoying the fact that even middling macarons are worthy of enjoyment.

This practice is not a) not like making coffee can cornbread, and b) also not rocket science. It takes advance planning, but it is worth it! Egg whites must be matured, by separating them from the yolk and then storing them covered in a bowl in the refrigerator for at least 24 hours, but up to a week. I also went out of my way to buy natural food coloring for the pink tint, as I can’t bring myself to buy the regular kind, since it’s petroleum-based (yuck!) and gives my daughter migraines. Rose syrup must be sourced (I found a bottle of Al Wadi’s at my local international foods shop, Ziggy’s) if you don’t have it on hand. Although I used just a plastic bag with a hole cut in the corner to make the first batch, it is better to pipe the macaron shells with a Wilton #12 half-inch round tip.

Side note: We should all have grown up with rose syrup! I mourn that I, a child, poured Aunt Jemima fake maple syrup on my pancakes when I could have been drizzling rose syrup on them instead. Rose jam. Rose frosting. Rose pudding! OK, calming down now.

I did some research, and settled on the recipe included in the Paris Loves Pastry blog, titled “Rose Macarons.” Daniëlle, the self-described half-Dutch, half-African American blogger, lives in the Netherlands, and I stuck with her because she provided lots of helpful tips and troubleshooting information. After my first round, I also benefited from watching this Demystifying French Macarons video, by Jamie-Lynn Siegler look-alike named Josie, of the blog Daydreamer Desserts.

Here’s what I learned from making 2 batches of macarons this weekend. 1. Make sure to use fresh eggs. 2. Do let those egg whites mature for 2 days, minimum. 3. Invest in the pastry tip to help with uniformity and control. 4. When you’re folding the meringue and dry ingredients together, make sure to hit that sweet spot of “blended enough but not too much.” Josie’s video helps with that.

The first time, I did let the egg whites mature, and I used fresh eggs. As a result, my macarons achieved the “feet” that are so very much the mark of a macaron made by a pro — a little frilled collar that saves your macaron from looking like a lowly Nilla Wafer.

But, I really wanted to make another batch, and I wasn’t going to wait until Monday night, when I’d be in full on Mom mode. The second batch got whipped together this morning, and alas, they did not pleasingly puff. However, they were more or less the same size and had smooth tops, not the nipply middles that the first batch had.

So. My refrigerator is now well-stocked with rose macarons, and I feel like I lassoed a bit more of the magic of our honeymoon into my everyday. In other words, I get to have my rose macaron and eat my green chile, too.

Hey — a green chile-kissed macaron, if I could pull it off — that would really be something.

PS: My food memoir, Licking the Spoon: A Memoir of Food, Family, and Identity (Seal Press), was just released 2 weeks early from Amazon.com and BN.com. You can buy it here, and like it on Facebook here, or check out the Licking the Spoon website.

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