Forget souffles; this year's trendy pastry is the frustratingly temperamental French Macaron. Those of you who have attempted the cute, whimsical sweets know the feeling when your sugary little friends come out of the oven flatter than a car tire after strolling a bed of nails. Heartbroken, you scrape away at your baking sheets, unceremoniously trashing your failed creations as yet another batch of macarons falls flat on it's face. The lore is seemingly endless; some recipes have you start your oven scorching hot, and then drop the temperature, some have you wedge the door open slightly with a wooden spoon, and some tell you that the only way to achieve macaron nirvana is to bake them with the door completely wide open. They can't be THAT hard, can they?
Shamelessly, I admit that I tried 4 times to make French Macarons, each attempt resulting in travesty. Defeated and macaron'd to exhaustion, I took a hiatus from the finicky French pastry and put the project on hold.
And then along came "Irresistible Macarons" and I once again fired up my stand mixer and broke out my piping bag to do battle with the beast one last time. I followed the recipes exactly, measuring each ingredient and even checking the temperature of my sugar syrup (to make the Italian meringue, which seems to be the secret to every successful macaron) with an infrared laser thermometer. Lo and behold, what came out of my oven were perfectly round, light-as-air macarons sitting atop the "foot" that is a dead giveaway of a perfectly cooked macaron.
Like making Hollandaise, once you get the hang of the routine; how to incorporate the sugar syrup just right, how to fold in the egg whites without losing volume and so on, French macarons become easier and less intimidating. I'm not going to sit here and tell you that macarons are effortless; they are still very much a study in technique and finesse, but Irresistible Macarons manages to draw out the pastry chef in all of us with sound recipes and simple, step-by-step direction.
Impress your friends and family with the elegance and finesse of French macarons. It's an incredibly versatile dessert; once you get the basic shell recipe down, you can add ingredients like cocoa, cinnamon and minced candied ginger to tweak your macarons into entirely original creations. If you suspect you will ever contemplate making French macarons, it would be a grave mistake to not pick up this book.
Softcover, 72pp, $13.99
Review by Kevin Jeung