Saturday, January 14, 2012

Macarons Galore; help me choose!

To the Fullest

In the last couple of months I have taught myself to make a wicked macaron. They are hip, they are cool and every body will tell you how hard it is to make them, including me...

But guess what, it ain't half bad, once you get the hang of it!

And once making those macaron shells has become second nature to you... that is where things really become interesting!

It took me two batches to find out that in order for me to really like a macaron to the fullest, it needs to be not overtly sweet. Since the sugar parameters are practically set in stone in a macaron recipe, the only thing left to do is play with the flavors.

Another important factor to make the macaron live up to its expectation of utter exquisiteness, is to come up with a combination of flavors, rather than a single one. Eating it has to be like an adventure into unknown lands, or at times exactly those places you know your way around with your eyes closed.

Pierre Hermé

Pierre Hermé is a master at this, and this whole macaron "revival" can be directly credited to him. His book on macarons has quickly become a hit, and when you start baking out of it, you understand why.

From the "classics" to the "fetish", all the way through to the "exceptions" you never stop being amazed at what he comes up with; wasabe and grapefruit, chestnut and matcha green tea, there's even something in there involving Heinz Ketchup...

Help me choose!

Here are some takes on Hermé macarons from the BreadLab kitchen. You can really do me a favor by letting me know which one of these flavor combinations you would try first, or like best! There's a poll at the end of this post, to make it easier for you (well, there is some scrolling involved...), but if you like to; feel free to leave a comment, it's very much appreciated :-)

(You will help me put together a very special gift for a very special person! but shhhht about that!)

Enjoy, and happy baking.

Chestnut Matcha Green Tea Macarons (Hermé's recipe)
Wasabe Grapefruit (Hermé's recipe)
The Pietra, Hazelnut praline (Hermé)

Lemon and Flaky Hazelnut (Hermé)
Pumpkin Pie Spice (own creation)
Salted Caramel (own creation)
Sour Cherries (own creation)
Vanilla Buttercream (basic recipe)


  1. I don't know if the voting worked, but my 2 choices are Lemon -flaky hazelnut and hazelnut praline. Shall I give my address so you can send me the surprise ?LOL

    1. Thnx for the voting! As a matter of fact, some of these are going to be on sale the 5th of february here in Amsterdam! I'm still working on the fiori di sicilia (it arrived!). Maybe you have any suggestions what to pair or contrast that flavor with? Would love to hear if you ever combined it with something really unexpected!

    2. I would not combine it with vanilla. Am not such a fan of vanilla. That is very personal though. Did use it with lemon curd .Baked a little tart, filled it with curd. Whipping cream with fiori di sicilia on top. I want to try it with kiwi fruit. It is not "unexpected" I leave those type of recipes to you experienced bakers and if it sounds good to me I copy you. LOL.

  2. Looks like you've been busy! I was a little obsessed with Hermé's macarons last spring (I still haven't been to Paris to have one), but I got distracted by other things. I've been meaning to get back to it for a while now. It's been a busy week, but maybe I'll have recovered by next weekend and get up the nerve to make some Italian meringue. Making the batter for the shells does become second nature, but it's been months since I've done it! Which Hermé book are these macarons from? I don't recognize some of the flavours. I have Macaron, thanks to a very good friend who searched high and low for it for me while he was in Paris. I'm curious about the other Hermé books, though, so I'd like to know what you think.

  3. Some of these macarons are by Hermé, some of them by myself (the captions should say which is which) All of the Hermé ones come from "macarons" the (quite sloppy) english translation of it.
    I guess you are referring to the Hermé's "Pastries" book? I can't wait either! This man has taught me so much on flavor! A real eye opener :-D

  4. I haven't taken a look at the English translation. In what way is it sloppy? I have a French copy, which I sloppily translate myself. Maybe the English translation has a few different recipes? I don't remember seeing the lemon and hazelnut one.

  5. It looks like it has been thrown onto the market in a bit of a rush. There are some stupid mistakes, typos that are really confusing (The caption says; ingredients for the pistachio shells, but there is no pistachio in the recipe, or referring to an ingredient with a different measurement than mentioned in the recipe-resumé, those sorts of things. Easy enough to work around it, but not what I paid for of course :-)

    Having said that, it's an inspiring book don't you think? It teaches me a lot about flavor. The lemon and flaky hazelnut is in the English one I don't know if its in the French :-)

  6. I've only made two recipes from it (the grapefruit-americano and the hazelnut praliné), unfortunately, but I am very fond of it. I finally got my hands on some Trablit (that French coffee extract that no other coffee extract comes close to, it seems), so I will be diving back in soon enough. I'm really excited to try some of the more unusual combinations like red pepper, parmesan, and raspberry, but I'll wait until raspberries are actually in season. I wish I'd taken advantage of that during the summer, but I just didn't have the time.

    1. oe, where did you get the trablit?

      I was thinking exactly the same about the summer fruits; let's tackle them when they're around in abundance. I'm a total raspberry freak, so I can't wait :-)

      I'm sitting here with fiori di sicilia essence and thinking of building a Hermé style macaron with it. Vanilla, fiori di sicilia and.... ice cream would be perfect, lol. MM, what was that chocolate called again in the eighties that would give you a senation of "cold" Was it"kilt" or something?

    2. Got a reasonably sized bottle at L'Epicerie for $10 when I was buying liquid glucose from them anyway. I don't know if they ship to Europe, since they're located in New York.

      Still going for your orange creamsicle, eh? I think I have seen a macaron with ice cream in the middle somewhere on the internet...Tartelette, maybe? It could work, though messily.

      Don't know the chocolate you're talking about, unfortunately. I was probably still sucking my thumb back then.

    3. lol, sometimes I forget how fast the years go :-)

      the chocolate still exists, but has managed to avoid me so far, but its only a matter of time :-)

      I contemplated the ice cream macaron, I also like my macaron frozen every once in a while, depending on the flavor, although I have never served them like that. I like to snatch one from the freezer every once in a while when no one is watching, lol.

    4. I've never put macarons in the freezer...I've always made half the recipe if using an Hermé recipe, and so they've only ever lasted a few days (have to share some, right?). Do they keep well in the freezer?

  7. My mother used to eat those choc. She called them ice chocolaadjes. They came in a package and were packed in those little foil paper cups. I thought that 3 years ago I still saw them in Holland. Maybe Albert Hein ?

    1. I have found out by now that it is still in production. But not available in the way it used to be. I haven't found them yet (also not at "appie", but I WILL, even if I have to contact the president of cote d'or, lol. I'm seriously in doubt about actually being able to build that "ice creamish" sensation into a macaron, but hey, I can give it a try :-) isn't it?

      A friend of mine wants to learn how to make macarons, I might start this as a project together with him. Two always know more than one :-)

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  9. Hey Freerk, I don't know how else to get in touch with you, so I'm just going to comment here. I started making the croissants from Tartine Bread today. I just finished up the second turn. It's going okay so far, but I'm a bit concerned about one thing. With the second turn, the dough started tearing in places and a bit of butter escaped. Is there anything I can do to prevent tearing in the future? I'm not sure what caused it...I suspect that I let the dough overproof a little bit during the bulk proofing, and the places where the butter escaped are where large bubbles of gas formed and popped when I was rolling the dough. So I'm a bit worried about how the third turn will go. Any advice about what to do once the dough is torn like mine is?

    1. Hey katie,

      One of the key things in croissant baking is as you know putting in the butter when its consistency is in the same range as the chilled dough.

      One tear will not necessarily ruin your whole batch. As a matter of fact your third turn may actually contain the damage a little.

      Overproofing is never a good thing, but to me it sounds indeed more like a local gas explosion in the dough that bared a bit of your butter :-)

      You might want to dissolve your yeast into the liquid if you are not already doing that. That will ensure a more even distribution of the yeast.

      Also: rising dough produces gas that needs to escape. I like to roll and fold my croissant dough rather loosely to give the gas room to escape in between folds whilst cooling and proofing. If there are big bubbles; prick them with a knife before rolling.

      I'm sure your croissants will be lovely. And every mistake that doesn't kill you makes you stronger ;-)

      Let me know how they turned out!

    2. Wow, thanks for responding so quickly. I didn't really expect you to reply before it was time to roll out the dough again. Thanks for the reassurance and the advice. I just finished up with the third turn. Unfortunately, there were more tears, so I'm not sure what I'm doing wrong. I noticed this time that tearing occurred on the surface of the dough that was touching the work surface. Could it be that I'm just not flouring my work surface enough or something?

    3. That could very well be the case! Give the table a good dusting; you can brush off excess flour easily before folding or forming.

    4. Thanks for all of your help! The croissants came out okay (even here in the US, I've definitely had a better croissant). They look all right, but the layers didn't quite separate as much as they should have, so they don't feel light enough when you bite into them. I also feel as though they're a little too chewy. I might have developed the gluten in the dough a little too much yesterday--I found it very difficult to roll out the dough during the turns and for the final stage, which may have contributed to the tearing. Anyway, I guess they're a good first try. I'll have to try again, hopefully soon, and maybe with a different formula (not a big fan of Tartine Bread's directions--not enough detail). Anyway, I'll post some pictures on my blog today or tomorrow. Maybe you can critique them!