How to Make Macarons like the French in Glasgow

What happened to this week? It has been a real macaronathon and it’s not even over yet.  On Tuesday it’s la Fête du Macaron in Paris and so it will be ‘my duty’ to taste some for you. In the meantime, let me give you a taster of last weekend’s macaron event at the Aye Write Book Festival in Glasgow.

It’s the first time I’ve been asked to demonstrate how to make macarons in a library – and the Mitchell Library to boot. My macaron kitchen was in a suitcase but somehow the oven was missing, so preparation was key with “Here are some I made earlier.” It’s just as well I’d prepared more than needed. Have you ever tried to transport 3 pastry boxes of fragile macaron shells through security at Beauvais Airport?

That could be another service Mr O’Leary can offer to RyanAir passengers when booking online: Will you be transporting Parisian Macarons? Then tick the box for another €30. As this wasn’t a service this time, these 3 boxes went through the stuttering security conveyer belt, then jolted back in again just for an extra look. When they eventually came out, the boxes were upside down and many macarons were smashed. I’m surprised they didn’t confiscate the ones that were intact!

It’s a ‘macaron’, so no confusion with this coconut macaroon bar

The event was chaired by the lovely Elizabeth McMeekin of the Herald and Times Newspaper Group. She knew how to put everyone at ease and how to deal with a chatterbox like myself, by keeping the session to one hour!  A huge thanks to Waverley Books for organising the event, Eleanor Abraham (the Editor) for the photos, and such a friendly audience. When you return to Glasgow after being so long in Paris, you really appreciate how the Glaswegians are so helpful, chatty with their sing-song accents and down-to-earth.

With a low table, one way to help the audience see properly was to whisk in the air! Whisk your egg whites to stiff but glossy peaks…

Elizabeth asked if you needed to be an experienced baker to make macarons. Well, assuming you cook or bake a little, it’s easy. Even my Dad made macarons and he buys his cakes! (Sorry, Dad, but it’s true…) His came out perfect first time around just by following the recipe to the letter. It was a proud moment!

Then the actual process which makes a macaron a macaron with a foot…macaronnage!

macaronage technique – easier than you think!

Have I always made them perfectly? No. When I came home after a macaron lesson in a pâtisserie, suddenly my oven wasn’t like the professionals and there were many cracked macarons that ended up crushed in desserts. My children referred to the ‘best mistakes’ once as les caves à l’orange due to huge hollows and asked for them again recently. Could I really make my blunder again? I’m not sure, but one thing is certain: your oven is often the biggest culprit. As le blog only started up after the launch of the book, I don’t have any of it documented here. But the lessons learned from all the experiments in the kitchen were learned quickly and the results of making perfect macarons at home are simply written in the book.

The fun moment: out with the piping bag, then leaving the little rounds to air while answering questions from the audience. There’s one that is still foxing me: can you bake macarons in an AGA? Well, I’m sure you can but you’ll definitely need an oven thermometer to check the heat. I need to find someone who has one so I can try it myself. Have you ever tried them in an AGA? I’m dying to hear from anyone who has given them a go using one.

Q&A plus TASTING TIME! Fresh macarons versus macs left to do their magic after 24 hours.

Tasting time!  After assembling the fresh ones, the audience were eager to try. It’s important to taste the difference between ones just made and those that are left for 24 hours. It’s definitely worth the wait. Macaron magic takes place when the filling and its flavour permeates into the shell, making the special fondant centre, the meringue like crunch on the outside… I can now feel one coming on, can you?

One of the hardest questions: what’s your favourite macaron?  I’ll leave you with a peek of one of them: white chocolate, pistachio and wasabi. If you love wasabi, you’ll love it with pistachio.

Pistachio, white chocolate and wasabi macarons (recipe p.63)

Happy Macaron Day to you all on 20th March. Och, who am I kidding?
Every day is macaron day in my book! :-)

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52 Responses to How to Make Macarons like the French in Glasgow

  1. Bakes-A-Lot Sue June 12, 2012 at 00:47 #

    Hi, I have tried macarons once in my 2 oven Aga, top oven was too hot and bottom oven too cold but I will have another go and watch them like a hawk!

    • Jill June 12, 2012 at 08:57 #

      Sue, making macarons in an Aga is definitely challenging! Let me know how you get on but don’t give up hope for making macarons if it doesn’t work. Just try using someone else’s oven! Good luck.

  2. Jaime April 4, 2012 at 11:30 #

    Beautiful macarons! So far, I’ve only ever made them in a halogen oven as well as an oven similar to an Aga at a friend’s. The results are never consistent and I’ve since been too traumatised to try again. But after reading your post, I think I will get an oven thermometer and chance another attempt. Thanks x

    • Jill April 6, 2012 at 07:20 #

      Oven thermometer is the way to get to know your oven. Go for it, Jaime!

  3. thoma March 28, 2012 at 15:32 #

    You look so cool in front of the audience! I think am interacting with a really great person in this blog ;p The photos are sensational. I would like to try wasabi, yes with pistachio. Sorry I don’t even know what’s AGA :(

    • Jill March 29, 2012 at 08:55 #

      Thoma, an AGA is a cast-iron cooker. Link to details below in my previous comment reply. I’d love to try cooking with it one day! But I can imagine in India, there’s no need for constant heating in your kitchen, eh?

      • thoma March 29, 2012 at 17:56 #

        Boy, the temperatures are soaring…and we can even think of heating food with an air con ;p It’s really bad and we suffer because only the rich can afford centrally air conditioned residences!!

  4. Pudding Pie Lane March 22, 2012 at 19:24 #

    Oh no, I missed Macaron Day! Funny thing is, I actually bought some macarons that day (didn’t make them, please don’t judge me! :p) just by chance, but I think it’s fate calling :) Sorry to hear about your macaron mishap with security at the airport :( but it’s lovely to see photos of the demonstration, it looks really fun!
    I think my favourite flavours are some that i have tried form Pierre Herme – the rose is pretty damn good! Apparently they also do a strawberry and wasabi one but I’ve never tried that, though I do really want to try wasabi macarons!
    By the way, this might be a stupid question, but what’s an AGA? :S

    • Jill March 23, 2012 at 08:07 #

      Hi Xinmei,
      I tried the strawberry & wasabi and it was great but not much wasabi. That’s why I love making macs myself, since you can up the dose ;-)
      An AGA is a cooker with a cast-iron frame that has continuous heat. Here it is in more detail.

      • Pudding Pie Lane April 4, 2012 at 23:12 #

        Yeah I totally agree :D – although once I opposed the dose of match so much in one cake it was like eating a pound of tea… :S
        Ah, great, thanks for the link! One day… if I own a house (or a bakery!) I may get one :D

  5. Gourmantine March 21, 2012 at 20:23 #

    Oh dear, going through airport security with macarons…? I don’t envy that, but I would have loved to take part in your workshop. Looks like you’ve had fun :)

    • Jill March 21, 2012 at 21:41 #

      Great fun, yes, and even more so if you had been there as macaron support, Gourmantine!

  6. Cucina49 March 21, 2012 at 17:30 #

    Oh, what fun! I’ve always wanted to go to Scotland. Hope you get some rest soon!

    • Jill March 21, 2012 at 17:34 #

      REST? That’s all I officially do – I don’t have a job, hubby says. ;-)
      You must visit Scotland…

  7. Maureen March 20, 2012 at 18:09 #

    I can’t imagine making macarons from gear you brought in a suitcase. You’re either extraordinarily brave or hugely talented. I think I know which. :)

    These are just gorgeous to look at. HMD!

    • Jill March 21, 2012 at 17:19 #

      Perhaps just ‘mad’? ;-)

  8. sonia March 20, 2012 at 13:58 #

    Hi Jill, Congratulations for being on top 9 !!!!!!
    The macarons are looking so delightful and appetizing. A very well made post with beautiful pictures.Loved ur pictures. Have a wonderful week ahead. Thanks & Regards, Sonia !!!

    • Jill March 20, 2012 at 14:15 #

      Thank you for your sweet words, Sonia!

  9. 5 STar Foodie March 20, 2012 at 12:41 #

    What a great demo! Nice! Happy macaron day!

    • Jill March 20, 2012 at 14:13 #

      Thanks Natasha I’m having a ball today. On way home in trainfrom Paris to get back to my students and embarrassed to count the number of macs in my bag! Haven’t eaten one yet …

  10. Hester @ Alchemy in the Kitchen March 20, 2012 at 07:29 #

    Hey Jill! You´re a star! You look right at home up on that stage – despite the best efforts of Ryanair and security! Will your dad be giving up the bought baked goods now that he can make macarons?

    • Jill March 20, 2012 at 08:02 #

      No, I don’t think so Hester – I think he’s just feeling rather pleased with himself knowing he can make them now :-)

  11. Sandra's Easy Cooking March 20, 2012 at 04:45 #

    I wished that I could of listened you in the audience! Your macarons look amazing, Jill! What a unique combination..wow white chocolate, pistachio and wasabi..who thought that wouldn’t work! Congrats sweetie on making top 9 on the Foodbuzz!!!!

    • Jill March 20, 2012 at 08:02 #

      What? That’s news. Will have to look it up – thanks, Sandra!

  12. FreeSpiritEater March 20, 2012 at 02:05 #

    Yes, every day is Macaron day! Sounds like it was a pretty successful event, you look at ease and I can tell you’re having a great time. Lovely photos, it’s so great to see you in action. And if your dad was able to make perfect macarons, maybe I will too lol. Thanks for sharing your experience with us, so glad it all went well! =]

    • Jill March 20, 2012 at 08:03 #

      If I can make them, if my Dad can make them… ;-)

  13. Anne@FromMySweetHeart March 19, 2012 at 23:02 #

    Jill….oh what a fun event! It looks like you had to jump through a lot of hoops to make it happen! But I bet everyone learned a lot! Happy Macaron Day! Oh what I wouldn’t give just to have a taste of those wasabi-pistachio-white chocolate macarons! So unique! : )

    • Jill March 20, 2012 at 08:04 #

      You are a SweetHeart, Anne. Merci xo

  14. Tina@flourtrader March 19, 2012 at 19:09 #

    I am so glad that luck was on your side and you still had some macarons intact after your travels. The event looks like it was a lot of fun and you did pull out all the stops on your demo, awesome flavor blend. I’ll bet you have more demo opportunities coming your way! Happy Macaron Day

  15. Kiri W. March 19, 2012 at 19:03 #

    I love the thought of a macaronathon! :) What a cool event, looks like you and all the attendees had a blast!

  16. Claudia March 19, 2012 at 13:15 #

    You know – somewhere inside your life is a delicious comedic play. Glad all’s well that ends well and happier yet that Security did not confiscate your macarons for a taste treat during their break. Wasabi? I’d give it a go.

    • Jill March 19, 2012 at 13:22 #

      Hehe – I have plenty of material for you, Claudia! Luckily the whisk didn’t set off the fire alarm.

  17. Mardi@eatlivetravelwrite March 19, 2012 at 11:23 #

    Jill – SO MUCH FUN! I know all too well about the stresses of being “in the spotlight” teaching macarons but I am at least in a (albeit tiny) kitchen! You did so well – lucky lucky people!!!

    • Jill March 19, 2012 at 12:45 #

      Thanks so much, Mardi. I’ll take a tiny kitchen any day but it was so much fun!

  18. Nami | Just One Cookbook March 19, 2012 at 07:31 #

    If you ever come to SF, I’m there and will bring lots of friends! ;-) So many audiences here and you look so elegant and natural! Wasabi is a good match with pistachio? That’s first time hearing it – even though I don’t eat wasabi, I will eat your wasabi macarons and I mean it! :-)

    • Jill March 19, 2012 at 08:50 #

      Aha, Nami – you would love them, I’m sure. Will have you eating wasabi yet! Oh, I want to return to San Francisco and meet you finally in person – and your friends. I could wear flowers in my hair. Hmm, hmm.

  19. Elyse @The Cultural Dish March 19, 2012 at 02:32 #

    What a great post! That is so awesome that you did this in a library! Perfect macarons as always!

    • Jill March 19, 2012 at 08:51 #

      It was pretty daunting, Elyse, but the Glaswegians are just so wonderful and so a great audience.

  20. Liz March 19, 2012 at 01:10 #

    What a gorgeous library! And you are just a natural, whipping egg whites in the air! Sorry about the airport mishap…I would have been sweating bullets….and you look cool as a cucumber! Happy Macaron Day!!!

    • Jill March 19, 2012 at 08:43 #

      Looking cool? My knees were shaking under that table, Liz! That library was rather impressive – felt like stepping into another epoque.

  21. Paula March 19, 2012 at 00:36 #

    I commend you for being versatile and talented enough to run a Macaron baking class in a library! What a delightful education for everyone present.

    • Jill March 19, 2012 at 08:42 #

      Thank you, Paula. It was fun and great experience! Love the Glaswegians since they put you at ease no problem.

  22. Amy @ FragrantVanillaCake March 18, 2012 at 23:13 #

    I would have loved to attend your demonstration! Looks like you had fun despite it being difficult to transport the macaroons. I am loving the idea of the macaroons you have shown in the photo above! they sound amazing! Wasabi and white chocolate pistachio sounds divine!

    • Jill March 19, 2012 at 08:40 #

      Amy, these are pretty special. I thought they were pretty adult but even my eldest daughter loves them!

  23. Ivy March 18, 2012 at 19:54 #

    Great job Jill and congratulations. Wow, you are so brave. I don’t think I would ever want to cook in front of an audience. When are you coming to Greece :)

    • Jill March 19, 2012 at 08:39 #

      Brave? I couldn’t stop shaking when I was about to put in the powdered colouring, Ivy. But I could perfect it if could come to Greece!

  24. Parsley Sage March 18, 2012 at 18:04 #

    This! This is what you need to come do in Cayman. Books & Books…you need to get on the Books and Books International author circuit so you can come show me your moves :)

    Looks like so much fun (not the crushed security bit of course!)

    • Jill March 19, 2012 at 08:37 #

      Oh, this is too tempting! You could show me some cocktails and your lovely restaurants, Carsley ;-)

  25. Gerry @Foodness Gracious March 18, 2012 at 16:51 #

    Nice job!! Was that a Lee’s bar you were holding up? I miss those sweet toasty things :) But…I like macarons better and I’m intrigued by your wasabi addition.
    Take care…

    • Jill March 19, 2012 at 08:36 #

      Gerry, that sure was a Lee’s bar. Brings back these coconut sweet memories, eh? The real ones contained potato!

  26. Jamie March 18, 2012 at 16:32 #

    I love this post! What fun to lead a class/demo like this and I can see that it calls for much creativity! Funny you mention wasabi because I just bought the new Lindt chocolate wasabi bar and want to use it for a ganache for macs! Now I need to work in some pistachios! Happy Macaron Day, Jill, and I wish that I could spend the 20th with you in Paris tasting macs. Guess I can only go and pick up a few Pierre Hermé (now sold in Nantes) and Vincent Guerlais/

    • Jill March 19, 2012 at 08:35 #

      Jamie, sounds like Hermé isn’t giving that much away. Still queuing for my one mac, though, said the Scot in me. Yes, this demo did need some creative thought…
      Lindt chocolate wasabi? Wow. I need to find this! Although I prefer adding my own dose of wasabi for the heat. The pistachios are really wonderful together.

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