Baroque’s Macaron Masterclass

I have been so excited about writing this post ever since getting the opportunity 2 weeks ago to be a part of a special macaron masterclass at Baroque during a filming for Sydney Weekender. Soy and I loved the dinner we had at Baroque Bistro Patisserie, as you can tell from our very first post on honeyandsoy. I was seriously considering attending the macaron masterclasses that they had started in June, as macarons are something I have always wanted to master but have always failed at (ok once, but I never tried again as I was so scarred from that experience). So I was ecstatic when I found out about being able to attend the special event, and my heightened mood carried throughout the week and the morning that I travelled to Sydney, through to the entire experience!

While the crew filmed their introductory piece, chef Jean-Michel Raynaud came over to introduce himself, hand out our macaron guides and fill us in on what we could expect from the afternoon. His official title is “Production and Business Development Manager”, but to me, he is Macaron Master and more importantly, a genuinely warm and lovely person. I cannot think of any other person who can say that they became a head pastry chef at age 20, have worked in a 3-Michelin star restaurant, been the head chef at Planet Cake for 12 years and also have an MBA and leadership qualifications from Harvard University! I am in absolute awe of Jean-Michel but what strikes me the most about him is his genuineness, humility and interest in other people. I am very very happy to have personally experienced in reality a belief that I hold- that people who have true talent in whatever it is they do are giving, generous and unassuming. After a particularly unpleasant brush with an ego in the restaurant industry in the days before my macaron masterclass, I truly needed the reinforcement that Jean-Michel and Baroque provided in my beliefs about the existence of goodness in the food world.

Now a little bit about the macaron- not to be confused with the coconut macaroon- is a pastry that came out of Paris, as a twist on the Italian amaretti and made a recognisable icon by people like Pierre Hermé and Ladurée. A macaron is basically a sandwich of meringue shells and filling. The meringue shells are made of almond meal, sugar and egg whites, and the filling can be anything in your imagination that is of piping consistency. The shells are all made the same way, with different colourings, and are not actually flavoured. Where the flavours come from is the filling. The shells absorb the flavour from the fillings as they re-hydrate, which is why it is so important to rest the macarons for 1 day before eating them.  At our masterclass, we learnt to make a dark chocolate macaron and a salted caramel macaron. While you will see that the process is quite involved, once the macaron shells are made, they can be kept for up to 2 months in an airtight container. Jean-Michel told us that about 50% of macarons sold in Australia are imported from France. And Baroque + La Renaissance are of course, one of the main patisseries that make fresh macarons daily.

First, we learn to make the fillings- dark chocolate ganache and salted caramel. The chocolate used in the ganache is Valrhona, of course, and should be around 50% cocoa. And I learnt to only use fresh cream in the ganache, not thickened cream, as I had been using in the past. Thickened cream has added gelatine, which is another ingredient that takes away the naturalness of the cream. I was particularly interested in learning how to make the caramel, as I have a somewhat fluctuating success rate with caramel! The key ingredient is fleur de sel, which remain as flakes and not only give a burst of saltiness in a mouthful of caramel, but also actually bring out the sweetness of the caramel.

Once the fillings are being set in the fridge (sorry for a lack of photos of the filling- I needed my hands to make them!), we started making the macaron shells. Jean-Michel explained that  Tant Pour Tant (meaning ‘as much as’) is a an equal mixture of almond meal and icing sugar, sifted together, and forms the basis of the macaron shells. The TPT is mixed with half the egg whites (which must be aged i.e. left in the fridge for at least 24 hours). Then comes the technical part- sugar and a little water is heated up to 118ºC and is then poured directly into egg whites being whipped in a stand mixer. This makes a glossy meringue that is then folded into the TPT and egg white mixture. I did say this was technical, so it is much easier to understand if you watch it being demonstrated.

Then, the macaron shell mixture is piped into perfect little rounds. That is, Jean-Michel’s are perfect, little rounds! My shells are… misshapen, to put it in the most polite manner! Jean-Michel reassures us that piping requires a lot of practice, and goes around helping us to perfect the “squeeze and cut” technique.

But, when you make 75 000 macarons a week, a macaron machine is a must!

Perfectly baked macaron shells with a smooth, shiny top and lovely feet!

Piping the filling was thankfully much easier than piping the actual shells! Just look at the lush caramel filling! Once the caramel was set, Jean-Michel whipped it until it became this much lighter colour- it had to do with whipping the butter that had set again in the filling.

Another little trick when assembling the macarons- twist the top on, instead of just pressing the 2 sides together. The twist makes the filling come out a bit with rounded edges, which just adds aesthetically to a beautiful looking pastry!

After assembling the macarons, they went into the blast freezer for about 20 minutes. This gave the macarons a beautiful shine, and replaces the step if you make them at home, where you need to rest the macarons in the fridge for a day for the meringues to rehydrate and become chewy, and take on the flavour of the filing. Et voila! A sample of our completed masterpieces:

Dark chocolate- Dark Valrhona ganache "Guanaja 70%"

Salted caramel- Caramel with fleur de sel (pure sea salt from Britanny, France)

And extra macarons generously given out by Jean-Michel, so we could have a taste of the other flavours offered by Baroque-

Pistachio & Sour Cherry- Pistachio and cinnamon white chocolate ganache with a sour cherry centre

After a pretty long and involved session, we were starting to become a bit peckish. And there appeared Olivier, whose family runs Baroque and La Renaissance, and who actually arranged this special session, with chocolate and coffee eclairs, and champagne to celebrate! Did I really need any more reason to love Baroque?

Apparently so, because the eclairs were heavenly. The coffee eclairs were much more subtle than I expected, and the choux pastry was moist and tender. And I bet it was Valrhona chocolate in the chocolate eclairs! Jean-Michel kept asking us throughout the class if we would try out the macarons at home. I could sense that he truly wanted us to learn and kept emphasising that it was not as difficult as it looked. He said that he was very happy when he saw us being able to finally get the hang of piping, and being able to box up our creations at the end of the day. I felt so inspired, and I was truly convinced that I would do Jean-Michel proud by making my own macarons at home. And since attending the masterclass, I have! I will write about my experience trying my hand at macarons in a post to follow very soon. But, I would really recommend Baroque’s macaron masterclasses to anyone with an interest in pastry making, and though not necessary, a basic skill in pastry making will go a long way, as macarons are very technical. The price for the macaron masterclasses are a fair amount, which is another reason why I think one does need to have an interest already, but I can assure you that you will definitely go away with the knowledge and skills to (finally, for me) succeed at making a beautiful macaron.

The Baroque Macaron Masterclass


When? Every Sunday from June 13th – November 14th, 2010. Classes run from 9am – 2.30pm

Cost? $220 per person

What do I get? Learn how to make the perfect macaron, then leave with a certificate of completion, an apron and a box of macarons. A light lunch included.

To enrol, ring 0406 519 679 or click here!

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