BAKING MACARONS WITH LA CUISINE PARIS
Julia Child, Eat your heart out!
Started by an American who moved to Paris over a decade ago, La Cuisine Paris aims to bring the art of French cooking to all from the kitchen to the streets (including food tours in both Paris and Versailles) all in English.
With their classes and workshops ranging from French bistrot lunches, to croissants, to baguettes, to macarons, to a cheese workshop La Cuisine works to bring their passion of French cooking and savoir faire to all kinds of visitors.
I was lucky enough to have a truly Parisian experience by participating in their macaron making class while on my recent trip to Paris. While it may seem hard this is something anyone can learn and a skill you can surprisingly replicate in your own home.
A LITTLE BIT ABOUT MACARONS
Somewhat of a trendy item there's a level of class associated with the macaron. Fashionable to gift, the ideal sweet treat, and a beloved cookie of tea salons and patisseries worldwide, the macaron is unpretentiously the star of the dessert world.
There are two elements to the perfect macaron – the meringue-based cookies and the ganache. The cookies were born in Italy, deriving from the origins "fine dough" and were introduced by the chef of Catherine de Medicis in 1533!
Typically found in round form the cookies are primarily made of almond powder (or flour), sugar, and egg whites – so surprise they are gluten free!
It wasn’t until the beginning of the 20th century that the macaron morphed into the delicious tiny “sandwiches” we now know and love. Pierre Desfontaines (the grandson of Louis Ernest Laduree – yes that Laduree) was the one who had the genius idea to take two cookies and fill them with a "chocolate panache" and the rest is history. From there chefs have taken these colorful, pillowly desserts to the next level consistently coming up with new sweet and savory flavor combinations.
We could probably contribute the rise of the popularity of the macaron thanks in part to Sofia Coppola‘s 2006 film Marie Antoinette, where we received sensory overload in the scenes which Kirsten Dunst is surrounded by multi-colored luscious pyramids (provided by Maison Ladurée). But it is thanks to another master macaron maker (and my personal favorite) Pierre Hermé that we now have ‘Macaron Day’ which since 2005 is now celebrated all over the world.
BAKING WITH LA CUISINE PARIS
Dining is something the French take very seriously and La Cuisine recognizes this. Each of the classes differ slightly but the team is there to offer a fun yet informative couple of hours. My class was diverse with people from North America all the way to Australia! We never felt overwhelmed or out of place – after all cooking is a shared experience that bonds people together.
One of the best things about walking into our classroom was the immediate sense that I would be able to replicate the afternoon back in my apartment in New York. Plus we used KitchenAid stand mixers - and any chance I get to use mine at home I will jump at! Their kitchens weren’t overwhelmingly professional looking, and the equipment we used were all things I already have in my cabinets and drawers.
After getting a little pep talk from our chef, Ségoline, we were off!
She made the experience as much of a group team-building experience as it was a learning experience and everything was hands on so you weren't just standing around watching wondering when you would be useful.
We started by making the almond mixture which I must say was far more authentic than that one time I took a macaron class in the states. This is because at La Cuisine we actually sifted out ground almonds and powdered sugar into a bowl rather than using store bought almond flour, and we learned the preferred method of coloring the cookie dough is by using powered food coloring.
The meringue that we created for our cookies was made using the Italian method, which was something our chef told us she prefers and is also the method most of the famous chefs and pastry houses use. The meringue (like a typical meringue) consisted of egg whites, sugar and water, which we created by carefully pouring a sugar/water mixture into beaten egg whites and whisking until the meringue mixture was no longer hot.
Throughout the process chef Ségoline never came over and took the reins as she wanted to make sure the end product was our own creation. It was the perfect balance of instruction and learn-by-doing.
Once we had our two base ingredients for the cookie she showed us the fine art of folding the mixtures together. This is key! Over mixing causes your cookie dough to have the wrong consistency and therefore won't bake into those perfect little rounds with the textured ends. But don't fret, this isn't a time to get overwhelmed! Chef Ségoline monitored our progress and everyone's came out perfectly!
As our macarons were baking chef Ségoline helped us make our ganache fillings, and even better we were able to choose our own flavors! The ganache is easy enough as it consists of chocolate, cream, butter and any additional item you need for your flavor i.e. vanilla bean, lemon, rose, etc.
Once all of our macaron elements were baked, mixed, in piping bags and ready to go it was time to assemble!
The best part about taking a group class is being able to work together and swap cookie colors and ganache flavors. This way we were able to leave with the perfect combination of green, pink and blue cookies paired with chocolate, vanilla, lemon and (my personal fave) pistachio fillings!
As we rounded out the class each pair was able to create the perfect take-away box of macarons. The serendipitous aspect of the class was that it took place the day before my birthday, and as you should wait 24 hours before consuming your macarons their readiness timed perfectly with my birthday picnic!
Taking a cooking class while your in France is something you must add to your itinerary! Not only will you be able to sample some of the most delicious local foods you’ll go home with the knowledge that you can recreate a little piece of Paris in your own kitchen.
La Cuisine has a variety of English taught classes that run 6 days a week. Ranging from €69 to €190 for a walking tour. Whatever your desire to learn while in France La Cuisine is bound to have a class, or workshop or tour to meet your needs.
MACARON TIPS & TRICKS
The perfect time to start beating your egg whites while you’re making your sugar/water mixture is once the candy thermometer reaches 108 C / 226 F.
You’ll know your meringues are the perfect consistency if you can hold the bowl over your head and nothing falls out!
Your cookie batter is perfect if it can fall off your spatula in a ribbon effect.
Invest in silicone baking mats! They are way better than parchment paper and will make your baking life so much easier.
Making the cookie batter doesn't have to be intimidating! Just remember mix the almond mixture into the meringue three times, wait about 8 seconds, do it again and you're good!
Your cookies are ready when they are stable and don’t jiggle when you touch them. Once they are completely cooled they should peel off easily.
Wait to consume your macarons until 24 hours after you’ve made them – this allows the inner cream more time to meld with the cookie.
Your flavor for the inner cream or ganache should be added before it goes on the heat.
Your ganache should be placed in the refrigerator for about 20 minutes before you use it so that it comes to a “Nutella consistency” – this is how you know it’s perfect.
BIG thank you to the team at La Cuisine for making our macaron class possible! It was an experience I will treasure forever and I will definitely be stopping by again on my next trip to Paris!