April 25, 2010 11:12 AM   Subscribe

Here are three first approaches [PDF] to the macaron.

Once you have the basics down, you might move on to the niceties of technique, such as mastery of the sucre cuit or "Italian meringue" method. Or you could try new flavors: pistachio or rose, for a start, and then the myriad variations in the monthly MacAttack showcase: cognac butter ganache, licorice mascarpone cream, lavender and vanilla bean...
posted by Iridic (44 comments total) 34 users marked this as a favorite
I want to get this in before somebody snarks that macarons are gonna be the next cupcake to say that I, for one, am okay with that.

If it takes hipster bandwagon hopping and a moment in human progress where people take macarons to excess and make them something they weren't meant to be, propagating fly-by-night franchise opportunities for thousands of little man macaron entrepreneurs through the heartland of America, where people have never heard of macarons, nevermind tasted them, all to settle down in a couple years to a new equilibrium where good macarons are as easy to get as dropping into the local coffee shop, there isn't a long-term downside.
posted by ardgedee at 11:28 AM on April 25, 2010 [11 favorites]

Om nom macarons. I like hazelnut. Or chocolate macarons topped with a layer of caramel milk chocolate ganache dipped in dark chocolate. My workplace is a den of overindulgence.
posted by Night_owl at 11:36 AM on April 25, 2010

I want to get this in before somebody snarks that macarons are gonna be the next cupcake to say that I, for one, am okay with that.

I don't know, I think the macaron craze has already peaked.

As delicious as they are, they really aren't suited to be coffee shop food: besides being difficult to make, they need to be fresh and I don't know that coffee shops are up to that challenge. I'd prefer they stay put and a little obscure in bakeries over stale, tough ones becoming what people think of when they imagine macarons.

Trader Joes already sells frozen macarons - while the vanilla ones aren't bad, exactly, I'd just rather they didn't do that.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 11:55 AM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Are macarons the same thing as macaroons?
posted by Dr Dracator at 11:56 AM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Macarons are commonly also called macaroons (or French macaroons). But they are not all the same thing. Wikipedia has a decent rundown.
posted by Night_owl at 12:01 PM on April 25, 2010

Funny timing; I just bought macarons for tea this afternoon at La Boite in Austin (disclaimer: owned by friends) and I'm eagerly anticipating them.

I'm frankly pretty thrilled that I can get decent macarons without having to make them myself now. What ardgedee said.
posted by fiercecupcake at 12:05 PM on April 25, 2010

I've been enjoying Not So Humble Pie's recent looks at macarons, including the fairly exhaustive 101s on both French and Italian styles. Particularly how she goes to the trouble of getting them wrong in different ways to see how the results are affected - that's dedication.
posted by polymath at 12:15 PM on April 25, 2010

Oh sweet tapdancing Moses, I love me some macarons. They were often my undoing when I lived in Paris. Ladurée is one of the oldest and most respected of macaron-makers, with multiple locations in town (although the best is the centuries-old tea room near Madeleine). I my experience, they are the best for "classic" macarons, such as chocolate, vanilla, coffee, rose, cassis, and violet.

For unusual and innovative macarons, my favorite place was Pierre Hermé, although he certainly isn't alone in that category in Paris. His white truffle and hazelnut macaron is a seasonal delicacy, while many other flavors rotate in and out of the menu, such as olive oil and vanilla, saffron, rose and lychee, and so on.

Solon and Thanks does have a point in that macarons are only good when they're very very fresh; they rapidly become inedible. The most successful macaron-makers in Paris manage this by having such constant demand during the day, that any fresh batch is almost immediately sold and eaten. For smaller bakeries, though, maintaining and fresh but sufficient supply of macarons is not easy.
posted by LMGM at 12:19 PM on April 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

Macarons were already the next cupcake. It's all about cake balls now, at least when it comes to weddings (usually a good indicator).
posted by Never teh Bride at 12:51 PM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Reading those directions on making macarons makes me tired. I would rather someone make them for me. I like the ones from Paulette when business takes me to Beverly Hills; they make life in a hotel room a bit brighter.
posted by medeine at 1:03 PM on April 25, 2010

When I die I wish to be buried in a pile of salted caramel macarons from M Macarons, Calgary Farmers' Market.
posted by ethnomethodologist at 1:08 PM on April 25, 2010

Bah. If hipsters knew what was good for them (a haircut and a tour in the Navy, hurf durf), they'd be making whoopie pies the next big thing. It combines the convenience of the sandwich with the components of a cupcake.
posted by mccarty.tim at 1:08 PM on April 25, 2010

I'd be 90x more likely to buy a macaron than a cupcake in cold blood. You can make cupcake at home very easily, and it'll likely taste better, if not look as great. You can bake and frost cupcakes within an hour if you hurry.

Meanwhile, a macaron takes piping bag, the skills to use a piping bag, and the patience to carefully make little sandwiches. I respect the skills of the macaronists, and they look delicious, so I would love to pay to try one.
posted by mccarty.tim at 1:14 PM on April 25, 2010

If you make a lot of ice cream (as I do), macarons are an inevitable side-effect. And now I need bigger pants. Damn you, eggs.
posted by le morte de bea arthur at 1:22 PM on April 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

I think the macaron craze has already peaked.

I've literally never even heard of macarons until right now.
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:39 PM on April 25, 2010 [5 favorites]

Bah. If hipsters knew what was good for them (a haircut and a tour in the Navy, hurf durf), they'd be making whoopie pies the next big thing. It combines the convenience of the sandwich with the components of a cupcake.

haha! I love that you said that, because whoopie pies already were the next big thing - last summer, I think. The NYTimes ran an article on them and they were everywhere.

I follow a lot of baking blogs, especially through foodgawker and tastespotter, which make it really clear when trends come and go because they basically turn into this for a few weeks.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 1:39 PM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

that was a laughing-with-you haha not laughing-at-you haha - I had thought about mentioning whoopie pies in my previous comment.
posted by Solon and Thanks at 1:39 PM on April 25, 2010

One thing that helped me when learning macarons was to stop the folding of the batter a little bit early, put it into the bag, and pipe the first cookie. You can then observe how the batter settles on the sheet (how far it spreads, if the peaks don't settle, etc.), instead of guessing based on the consistency in the bowl. If the batter looks good, pipe the rest. Otherwise, you can close the end of the bag, and knead the batter inside it until it loosens a bit. Over-mixing will wreck the batter completely, so this gives you a couple chances to stop yourself before you get to that point.
posted by iloveit at 1:51 PM on April 25, 2010 [5 favorites]

So are cake balls the brave new world of delicious, popular baked goods, or is there something else around the corner? I'm just making my first set of macarons today, so I feel criminally behind the curve.
posted by SNWidget at 1:54 PM on April 25, 2010

Funny, I am only familiar with the macaron's close cousin, the Luxemburgerli. Officially it's a different product, but really, I think that's splitting hairs. I say they are pretty much the same, except that Luxemburgerli is a better name. Macaron is too similar to Macaroon, while Luxemburgerli includes the word burger. It's like a little luxurious burger: Luxemburgerli.
posted by molecicco at 1:58 PM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Can we not have liege waffles as the next big thing? Macarons are already on the decline, and cake balls -- premasticated for your convenience! -- just don't do it for me.
posted by timeo danaos at 2:19 PM on April 25, 2010

Ooh, or bubble waffles.
posted by unknowncommand at 2:44 PM on April 25, 2010

Heeeeyyy Macarona! /boogies
posted by The otter lady at 3:11 PM on April 25, 2010

I dislike macarons because people always think you're talking about macaroons, and it's confusing to explain and you feel like a big ol' snobby pedant.

I've never had a cake ball, but if they're anything like Oreo balls, I'm on board.

2011 will be all about petits fours. (This is nothing more than wishful thinking on my part, because I have no idea what the next big thing will be. But if you're a trendy Manhattan bakery and you're reading this, seriously, you want to consider petits fours.)
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:35 PM on April 25, 2010

The high end dessert restaurant I manage does a pistachio with honey rose buttercream icing macaron and an almond with vanilla buttercream icing macaron. They look adorable, yet I cannot eat nuts. Alas alack.
posted by lazaruslong at 4:48 PM on April 25, 2010

Screw petits fours, let's make 2011 be all about plus fours instead.
posted by LobsterMitten at 4:49 PM on April 25, 2010

Forgot the link.

Its also hell confusing since we have the macarons right next to the coconut macaroons. A lot of communication errors.
posted by lazaruslong at 4:49 PM on April 25, 2010

posted by ovvl at 5:00 PM on April 25, 2010

I never heard of macarons until a few years ago. Then I saw some in a bakery, pastel bright and rather teeny looking. I thought why the hell is everyone crazy about those little cookies? By appearance alone, I was unimpressed. They're not cheap, either.

Then I ate one. The heavens sang, doves burst out of nowhere into the sky where a rainbow sprung across the sunbeams, dazzling and beautiful. In other words, I like macarons a lot. They have this amazing combination of crunchy and chewy that even homemade cookes don't. And the flavors are like the real thing (chocolate, various fruits) but times a bazillion.

Unfortunately, they are really difficult to make. Even the wrong room temperature and humidity can fuck up a batch of macarons, so they'll likely stay pricey and away from your average home chef.
posted by zardoz at 5:03 PM on April 25, 2010

Aren't cake balls just rhum balls without the rhum? Rhum balls are puke. It's just a chintzy way to get rid of stale, unsold cake.
posted by Evstar at 5:12 PM on April 25, 2010

Odd you should mention, timeo danaos; I'd never heard of Liege waffles until a day or so ago when walking through the business district I saw a small shop specializing in them. (Until I got close enough to read their sign clearly I thought they were just advertising Belgian waffles.)
posted by hattifattener at 5:34 PM on April 25, 2010

Are macarons the same thing as macaroons?

I'm not sure if you're serious or not, but it's the second line in that wikipedia link there. Counting the line that shows what the article's about.

But, that said, I think this totally explains when I thought I read the other day that "macaroons" were the new cupcake. I need glasses.
posted by inigo2 at 6:01 PM on April 25, 2010

Mācrōns ārē thē nēw cūpcākē!
posted by hattifattener at 6:17 PM on April 25, 2010 [1 favorite]

Ooooh this is timely. I just made a batch of chocolate macarons that were too crunchy. Still, even if the texture isn't perfect they're pretty tasty.

My vote for the next ocean-jumping pastry is the taiyaki. They're the perfect combination of crunchy and soft, and the subtle sweetness is just lovely.
posted by Alison at 6:59 PM on April 25, 2010

Agree with Evstar, cake balls are the baking world's equivalent of spicy tuna. Still, there is a bakery here in Dallas that does a cake ball with red velvet/cream cheese frosting, dipped in white chocolate, and I really like them... even if I feel gross for doing so.

Having never been to France, my favorite macarons are from Miette and if I lived in SF I'd have another shameful cookie addition. Fortunately my second favorite are made by my baker friend nearby.

I don't agree that macarons have peaked. I think that the "patisserie trend spectrum" is more like this, from out to in.

Cupcakes: way, way out. There are a few last-ditch novelty attempts to prop up the cupcake, like cupcakes for men and cake balls. But otherwise, cupcakes are DOA. Basically, once a trendy dessert shows up at Starbucks, it's Over. That's a total death knell.

Cake balls and cake pops: The inevitable result of the glut of cupcake shops; these are well on the way down. There was a swell of interest a couple years ago among those who wanted to "discover" "the next cupcake" but ultimately, it's just not that interesting of a pastry.

Whoopie pies: over on the coasts, it sounds like, but now trending in Middle America.

Macarons: clearly trending upward (viz. this post).

Pie pops: Since Luxirare's gorgeous tutorial last year, these are on the horizon of an explosion of popularity. I think that these are going to be everywhere for summer 2010 (cherry, apple) and holiday 2010 (pumpkin, pecan).

Pastries to watch:

Donuts: So out that they are poised to come back in, esp. high-concept doughnuts like Voodoo.

Petits fours: Still primarily just a wedding shower and holiday staple, but hovering on the edge of the bubble. A couple good write-ups from Smitten Kitchen or NYT and it's on.

Not a pastry, but in general dessert-spotting, I suspect that gourmet popsicles are going to be very big for summer 2010, esp. alcoholic ones and exotic flavors.

Being the jingoistic Texan that I am, I would love to see classic local recipes like the Texas Sheet Cake or pecan balls with chocolate sauce start to get some traction (also, besides the jingoism, am lazy and just wish more people served them). This isn't trend-spotting... just hopefully putting it out in the universe for my own dessert consumption self-interest. Hear me, Google? Texas Sheet Cake is the Next Big Thing!!!

And, since I've been dying to saying this out loud somewhere and this seems as good a place as any:

Restaurant chefs who continue to keep chocolate lava cake on their dessert menus are LAZY and should be SHOT. Stop PANDERING to the unsophisticated palate and do something INTERESTING—rather than sending tasteless, half-baked cakes to the table with a couple of sad raspberries and a canned vanilla sauce that you deceitfully call "crème anglaise."

Call me a dessert snob but I automatically think less of a restaurant with chocolate lava cake on the menu. To me it shows that they consider their pastry menu an afterthought. The other offerings are sure to be a sweaty crème brulée and a flavorless "New York Style!" cheesecake with strawberry sauce, straight out of Sam's Club freezer. Yuck.
posted by pineapple at 7:18 PM on April 25, 2010 [7 favorites]

Although we may disagree about the staying power of macarons, there is much in what you say, pineapple, and your comments on the evils of chocolate lava cake should be written in letters of gold. But if we're agitating for classic Texan baked goods, can we please get some love for the kolache? Man, I would love for a kolache trend to sweep the nation.
posted by timeo danaos at 7:56 PM on April 25, 2010 [3 favorites]

See, I personally have little need for a kolache trend, because I grew up in a Czech community and since birth I have never (KNOCK WOOD) lived more than two miles from a great kolache shop.

But I agree that the world deserves to know of them.

Especially since, while the fruit koláče are very nice, my faves are the sweetened cream cheese ones and the ones made with sausage and or shaved ham and cheese, which Homesick Texan didn't mention. My local shop makes a venison kolache that is simply brilliant.

There is so much that could be done with kolache pastry, really... it would make a lovely bread pudding. Oh my God, a kolache filled with dried cherries and topped with foie gras. Too decadent for breakfast but as a clever deconstruction for a tasting menu....</drool>

timeo danaos, you're onto something here. Forget the Texas Sheet Cake! Kolaches really should be the next big thing. MeFi bakers, take note!
posted by pineapple at 9:10 PM on April 25, 2010

"Not to be confused with Macron or Macaroon."

Or macaroni.
posted by iamkimiam at 11:41 PM on April 25, 2010

As delicious as they are, they really aren't suited to be coffee shop food

We have a chain of bakeries (in London anyway) called Paul here, which sell macarons. They're pretty expensive, thoguh sometimes I wonder about getting some just as ornaments as I love the bold-yet-pastel colours.
posted by mippy at 4:16 AM on April 26, 2010

Agree with Pineapple. I have thought that macarons were on the outs, but we continue to sell out of them so maybe not. I just kind of hope they are, because I'm not that crazy about them and I'm especially not that crazy about making them. FWIW, they don't necessarily have to be made the day of consumption. If they're frozen right after you put them together, they're good for a week.
posted by Evstar at 6:49 AM on April 26, 2010

This is a really charming cute fun book about Macarons. Highly recommended.
posted by Perplexity at 7:21 AM on April 26, 2010

I didn't realize that whoopie pies are actually gobs. My Pennsylvania Dutch grandmothers were hipsters! The thrift store chic and huge (ironic?) paintings of Catholic saints should have tipped me off.
posted by Toothless Willy at 9:54 AM on April 26, 2010 [1 favorite]

Kolaches really should be the next big thing. MeFi bakers, take note!

This, a thousand times, this. I can think of millions of ways that kolaches could be trendified and yet still remain totally amazing all the time. Bonus: kolaches are not so completely out of the park difficult that your average home cook couldn't give them a whirl and be successful. That's something macarons lack.
posted by devinemissk at 11:44 AM on April 26, 2010

Cakes, bah. What we need is a Tart Revolution.
posted by emeiji at 12:25 PM on April 26, 2010

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