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Art of the Macaron: Cooking Classes at Aubergine

Pastry Chef Ron Mendoza at Aubergine

Art of the Macaron: Cooking Classes at Aubergine

It’s small.

That was my first thought on entering the tidy, well-lit kitchen at Aubergine. I had attended an eight-course dinner there the month before, a sumptuous and innovative menu featuring white and black Alba truffles, expertly woven into each luxurious course. I knew what sort of magic could come from the belly of this modest space.

It would be my first time meeting Executive Pastry Chef, Ron Mendoza, a lanky fellow with salt and pepper hair and the sort of thick, square-framed glasses hipsters wear. The Chef directed me to my spot, at which point, he poured me a glass of Champagne.

At my workstation I found a folder with the recipe, a neatly folded apron, towels, an assortment of containers and a piping bag and tip. As he went through the instructions, I noticed the other students taking copious notes.

Mendoza smiled while mentioning that his favorite part of teaching macarons was watching student attempts at piping.

How hard could it be? It’s a cookie. I am, after all, trained as a classical artist, a sculptor, and a winemaker no less. I watched him pipe out an entire tray in what seemed like mere seconds, gracefully moving from one macaron to the next with the precision of a concert pianist.

Needless to say, my tray was less than perfect, not the flawlessly piped tray of an Executive Pastry Chef who’d made hundreds of them. [Literally, hundreds. As Ron informed us, you really cannot make less than 100 macarons at a go, because at a smaller volume, meringue is quite impossible.]

Resolute, I went home to try the recipe again. I bought piping bags and tips, and exactly the sort of almond flour the Chef had cautioned against, and comforted myself with the advice of yet another Chef, David Lebovitz:

“I am not exactly sure why so many people want to make macarons. I usually tell them—“Come to Paris!” and buy them here. They’re not really something people would consider making at home: like baguettes and croissants, you’ll find them at many neighborhood bakeries and pastry shops, and even in the frozen food department of the grocery store. It’s like making your own hot dog buns if you live in America. It’s just something most people don’t do.”

I carefully measured out my ingredients on a scale, as Ron had advised, for greater precision, and attempted to more finely grind the almond flour in my Cuisinart.

So where did things fall apart? The meringue stage did me in, no matter how much I beat the meringue, using egg whites that sat out overnight, it never formed satisfyingly stiff peaks as the meringue in class. When folded into the TPT, it collapsed utterly, just like my confidence.

It was an enormous relief to run into a fellow-classmate at Relais & Châteaux GourmetFest a month later, who admitted bitter defeat after his third attempt.

Will I try them again? Probably. In the meantime, as David Lebovitz cautions, the only real solution is to visit to Paris. Or Aubergine.

The Parisian Macaron

Ingredients

  • 300 Grams powdered sugar
  • 300 Grams almond flour
  • 100 Grams egg
  • 300 Grams sugar
  • 80 Grams water
  • 110 Grams egg whites
  • 30 Sugar

Equipment

       Cookie sheets lined in parchment paper, a proper kitchen scale, and 1 medium piping tip and bag.

Instructions

  1. As Ron explained, the proper macaron takes three days to make and assemble. Set aside an entire weekend, it also helps to get enough sleep and to drink plenty of water before attempting this recipe. Psyched? I am.
  2. Begin by separating the eggs, your egg whites should be left out, in a covered container overnight.
  3. Make the filling, this can be either ganache or lemon curd, the instructions for these are below.
  4. Day 2: Preheat the oven to 285° F. Sift together 300 grams powdered sugar and 300 grams almond powder, TPT, or tant por tant.
  5. Pour 80 grams of water over 300 grams sugar, in a small saucepan. Heat to exactly 115° C.
  6. Whip 110 grams of the egg whites on medium speed, when at soft peak stage add 30 grams of sugar.
  7. When the sugar syrup reaches 115° C, pour into the meringue base slowly until incorporated and whip at a medium speed for 5 minutes.
  8. Add the reserved 100 grams of egg whites to the TPT and a small spoonful of the meringue and beat vigorously to make a stiff paste. Gradually fold in the remaining meringue to make a smooth batter.
  9. Pipe batter onto parchment lined sheet pans. Allow the trays to set 15-45 minutes at room temperature. Curious to read about why or why not to let the batter rest, it’s all about achieving the perfect  foot, you know, check out David Lebovitz’s helpful blog post: French Chocolate Macaron Recipe
  10. Place trays in the oven for 6 minutes. Rotate trays and bake for another 6 minutes. When the macarons have cooled completely, flip them over. Pipe filling onto one half of the cookie and assemble. Giving each cookie a small twist helps the filling to work it’s way to the edge of the cookie. Let them rest a day before serving. Store them in an airtight container. This recipe makes 100 cookies. If you succeed, I want to hear about it.

Classic Macaron Fillings

Lemon Curd

  • 200 Grams lemon juice
  • 200 Grams sugar
  • 100 Grams egg
  • 1 Gelatin sheet, softened
  • 150 Grams white chocolate or butter
  • 50 Grams almond powder

Instructions

  1. Combine juice, sugar and eggs in a stainless bowl or small saucepan and cook on medium heat, being careful not to burn. Stir frequently.
  2. Add the gelatin sheet and remove from heat.
  3. While the mixture is still warm, blend in the white chocolate or butter and stir until melted. Finish with the almond flour.
  4. Place the lemon curd in a airtight container and refrigerate overnight.

Dark Chocolate Ganache

  • 300 Grams heavy cream
  • 250 Grams dark chocolate
  • 30 Grams honey

Instructions

  1. Melt the chocolate. I’ve taken to melting chocolate in the microwave, but this can also be done in a saucepan over medium-to-low heat.
  2. Bring the cream and honey and bring the mixture to a boil while stirring.
  3. Remove the cream and honey from heat. While the mixture is still warm, blend honey and cream into the chocolate in three additions, to make an emulsion.
  4. Place the finished ganache in a airtight container and refrigerate overnight.

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