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Monday, March 8, 2010

Finding the flaws in the "macarons"

The popularity of this delicate pastry has most pastry shops now scrambling to find a good recipe to call their own. This post is not to look down on any pastry shop, but simply to demonstrate the complexity of the product and how it can not always be replicated.

In my travels I have noticed that geographically, the further you travel away from Paris, the less people know about, or how to master the macarons. Of course, there are many stores all over the world that import their delicate pastries frozen directly from Paris. But for those who want to call it their own, there is a period of trial and error just like any other product.

To demonstrate this, let's compare some macarons from Montreal (on the left) and some from just outside Ottawa in Quebec (on the right).

Now to better understand how i am comparing let's go through a list of characteristics that a macaron should and should not have.
- A macaron should have between 1:1 to 2:1 cookie-to-filling ratio
- The filling should be smooth and light, yet firm and not sticky
- The surface of the cookie should be very smooth and have a shine effect to it.
- The texture inside the cookie should be chewy and soft
- The "pied du macaron" (foot of macaron) is a characteristic that should always be present. This edge surrounding the the bottom of the cookie is part of its correct baking process. By letting the macaron rest before baking, a soft crust forms. With baking, this crust is raised by the baking of the egg whites and the whites then escape from the bottom, forming the "foot" of the macaron cookie.

If you take a look at the ones on the left, they have more height and the foot all around the cookie. The cookie-to-filling ratio is good and the chewiness is present and just right. The macarons on the right hand side have a good amount of filling, but the cookies should have been a little higher, giving the macaron more height. By seeing some discoloration of the original color (browning), we can determine that the lack of height is due to oven temperature. When oven temperature is too high, the cookie bakes faster and doesn't have the chance to rise, making the final product flatter and more spread out.

The ones on the right we're not all that bad though. The matcha green tea macaron was filled with a matcha infused chocolate ganache which was very flavorful. The maple syrup was also a very original and Canadian twist to the refined french macaron. Of course, the classic raspberry macaron was also good. If only they had more height, it would have made them a lot better looking.

Competition is fierce, and is not showing signs of getting any weaker. Especially with a fast food giant introducing "Macarons" in their McCafé lign of stores. You've guessed it! McDonalds has always adapted their menu items to the country and culture they find themselves in. It was a no brainer for the McCafé stores to carry a ligh of macarons to feed the public's demand in France. Of course, this has brought furry and worry to the biggest names in the French macaron business. It will only be a matter of playing the waiting game to see how the the "McCarons' " popularity plays out.

Where does that leave me and my macarons from the middle of the Canadian prairies? It surely gives me a lot on my plate and surely motivates me to always surpass myself to achieve the best results possible. I only want to introduce this product to Western Canada. To do only that will be rewarding enough!

Stick around for more of the "Macaron Saga" coming up soon.

Eat well, sleep well and till tomorrow!


1 comment:

  1. Any idea where I can find these in Winnipeg? I'd kill for some. :-(