Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Mad About Macarons!

A couple of weeks ago I discovered a macaron cookbook, Mad About Macarons! Make Macarons like the French, through a comment posted on my Macaron Madness blog. Turns out the author of the book, Jill Colonna, stumbled upon my blog and posted a comment. Jill is originally from Scotland but now lives in France and is a serious fan of macarons -  a "macaronivore," she says. And I think Jill may be my first blog comment poster from France. Cool!

I decided to order Colonna's book which was recently released in the US and Canada. I called Jerry at my local book shop, Monkey See Monkey Read, to see if he could get the book for me. He said "yes" and ordered it right away.
The book arrived within a week and last Thursday I picked it up. At quick glance I could see the book itself was a treat with many beautiful pictures of macarons.

I couldn't wait to really delve into the book so after dinner I brewed a pot of tea in my Paris tea pot (it has a picture of the Eiffel tower on it), sat down on the couch with my tea and a couple of chocolate orange macarons and read Mad About Macarons! cover to cover.  The book is wonderful! There are 37 macaron recipes (including a nut-free recipe for those with nut allergies) with such fun flavor combinations as "Whiskey MacCoffee" and "Thai Green Curry" in addition to the more standard Vanilla, Almond and Chocolate. In addition, Colonna suggests tea and wine pairings for each recipe, comments on presentation and packaging and has a few recipes for your leftover egg yolks.
No surprise - I decided I had to try one of Jill's recipes but with macaron making you can't do things quickly. First off, Colonna suggests "aging" your egg whites for four to five days in the fridge. So I cracked and separated my eggs and put them in the fridge.

In the meantime I had some work to do to prepare for my first Mad About Macarons! recipe.

Since the recipes in the book are all in grams (precise measurements are a must) I headed to The Measuring Cup, my local cooking store, and bought a digital scale. I also headed to Penzey's Spices  in hopes of finding Bitter Almond Extract, one of the ingredients for the almond macaron recipe I wanted to try. I couldn't find bitter almond so I decided that I would try the recipe with regular almond extract.

There are a few other things in the Mad About Macarons! cookbook that are a challenge to find here. Custard powder is one, though I happened to have some Bird's Custard tucked away in my cupboard. My local grocery store and co-op don't carry custard powder but Byerly's does. I have yet to find Vanilla powder though the people at Penzey's suggested I might find it at a craft store that sells cake decorating supplies. (note added 12/12/11 - I discovered that The  Measuring Cup and Byerly's both carry Vanilla Powder - expensive stuff but worth it!) Jill suggests using "a flexible plastic patisserie scraper" for preparing the macarons - I didn't find one at The Measuring Cup so will keep looking.

Also there are several things that I had to double check to make sure I knew what they were. The basic macaron recipe calls for eggs, ground almonds, caster sugar and icing sugar - here caster sugar is granulated sugar and icing sugar is powdered sugar. Some recipes call for "full milk" which is the same as whole milk yet another recipe calls for whole milk and not full milk. Not sure what to make of that. One recipe calls for "single cream" and I still have to figure out what that is. There are other little things that puzzle me in the cookbook but I'm sure I'll figure them out as I go along.

Finally, on Sunday night with my ingredients figured out, my scale ready and my eggs aged (or almost - I couldn't wait and only aged them for three days!) I started making Almond Macarons (Macarons aux Amandes - Colonna includes the French names for each recipe. I love it!).

I decided to make the shells turquoise blue simply because I've been wanting to make blue macarons.
Guess what? My shells baked up perfectly! I was so excited. Then I made the custard-based almond filling.
Making a custard-based filling wasn't as easy as I would have liked it to be. I followed the directions but still ended up with lumpy custard sauce. So I sieved the custard - I've always wanted to say that I sieved something. It sounds far more glamourous than "I squished the custard through a strainer to get the lumps out."

In the end, I was a little worried about the custard filling tasting too custardy. I almost gave up and made a buttercream instead. But I filled all of my beautiful blue shells with the almond custard and tucked them away in the fridge. Then I  waited - according to Colonna macarons need to sit for 24 hours before eating "as this lets the filling infuse into the shell."

Once again I struggled to wait for the entire length of time I was supposed to but I got close! I tried my first Blue Almond French Macaron on Monday afternoon and all I can say is WOW! It was better than good - it was wonderful. So I tried another. And another. And shared a bunch with a couple of friends. I was hooked on French Macarons before but now I really am!
And guess what? Tonight I'm cracking a few more eggs to get them started on their aging process so I can try another Mad About Macarons! recipe.

I'm thinking I will make Dark Chocolate Macarons (Macarons au Chocolat Noir) next. Or Chocolate and Lapsang Souchong Macarons (though I think I will substitute Earl Grey tea for the Lapsang Souchong). Or maybe Tutti-Frutti Macarons (Macarons aux Fruits Rouges).

Ah - so many macaron recipes to try and so many little bites of heaven to share with my family and friends. Life is good indeed!

6 comments:

Jill Colonna said...

Myrna,
Gosh, what an amazing surprise this morning to read your wonderful post! I'm so flattered and bowled over that you like the book. Thank you - merci beaucoup!
Regarding the more difficult things to find, don't worry - a pastry scraper isn't completely necessary if you can't find it. Just ensure that your spatula is of good quality - rubber and flexible - and it will do the job.
For the ingredients, with the Editor, we've put together UK-US terms, to help. For the moment it's on the Facebook page at https://www.facebook.com/note.php?note_id=179474795404113. There is also a 2nd edition coming out in January, including the terminology and list of stockists. I'll be putting them up on the website shortly.

I'm so glad you enjoyed making macarons, too - and the custardy filling tastes great in the end, eh? It's totally worth the wait. Your macarons look fabulous! Bravo.

shebicycles said...

I especially love the little French teapot in the photo with the macarons! I haven't yet started my first attempt with these ... but you continue to inspire me to try!

Kim - Liv Life said...

Isn't Jill's book wonderful?? I had success with the directions as well and was blessed with beautiful macarons, the first we had ever tasted and we loved them.
Your teapot is awesome!

Myrna CG Mibus said...

Thanks, Jill, for your comments and link to the Facebook page. I will make comments there if I find good sources for some of the ingredients and supplies.

I agree, Kim - it's a fabulous book and so fun to look at as well. I love the pictures.

My teapot was a wonderful find at a tiny bookshop. I loved it at first sight and it was so well priced that I just HAD to buy it :)

Anonymous said...

Would you post how the different creams she uses translate into what we have here in the U.S.? I have her book but still can't figure it out. She says double cream is heavy cream, so I guess that is heavy whipping cream here, right? But then she says single cream is light cream. What is light cream here? Most confusing, most recipes call for simply whipping cream. She says to use light whipping cream for those recipes that call for whipping cream. So I guess the main thing I want to know is what is light whipping cream called here in the United States? Thanks much.

Myrna CG Mibus said...

Check out the Mad About Macaron website, http://madaboutmacarons.com Under "Ask Jill" there is a page on UK/US Cooking Terms. though there isn't a great answer for what single/light cream is.

I believe I used half and half for single cream but don't remember for certain.

You can post a question about creams on the Mad About Macarons Facebook page. Jill is very good about answering questions.