There is this cookie called a coconut macaroon….
there is also the delightful Italian Almond Macaroon…..
and then there is a heavenly bit of pleasure called a French Macaron.
Yes, all 3 are cookies, but that is about all they have in common.The first macaroons were almond meringue cookies similar to today’s amaretti, with a crisp crust and a soft interior. They were made from egg whites and almond paste (a combination of equal parts of ground blanched almonds and sugar, mixed with egg whites—today glucose or corn syrup can be substituted). The name of the cookie comes from the Italian word for paste, maccarone (mah-kah-ROW-nay), and is also the word for pasta/macaroni and dumplings.
While origins can be murky, some culinary historians claim that that macaroons can be traced to an Italian monastery—where they were modeled after the monks’ belly buttons!
Of course, Catherine didn’t tell me this story herself….so who knows, and today both the Italians and the French claim the cookie as their own. Both are wonderful and in my humble opinion, a hundred times better than America’s Coconut Macaroon. So, I am going to remove the coconut version from the table for today.
Colmar is located in the Alsace region of France. Surrounded by vineyards, full of spectacular restaurants, Colmar is known as the Venice of France. Lovely canals meander through the town, making Colmar one of the world’s most beautiful cities in Europe as well as one of the most photographed. But to me….it was the sparkling glass and glistening highly polished brass of the dessert display cabinets full of beautiful French pastries in delicate pastel colors that I remember the most. I must have stood before that display for 20 minutes trying to decide which flavor and color of Macaron that I wanted. Unless you’ve experienced it, there is no way to imagine the joy of that moment! An absolutely perfect pastel yellow lemon macaron and a cup of hot tea in a beautiful porcelain tea cup, so thin you could almost see through it. The tablecloths were starched and ironed to perfection as was our server’s long apron. All together, it was a beautiful experience!
So what brings all this chatter about Macaroons/Macarons? Let me tell you how I spent close to 4 hours of my day.
About 8 years ago, I became a member of Les Dames D”Escoffier, a world wide philanthropic society of professional women leaders in the fields of food, fine beverage and hospitality. The invitation-only membership, composed of 27 individual chapters across the United States and Canada, is highly diversified and reflects the multifaceted fields of contemporary gastronomy and hospitality. We are so fortunate to have a chapter here in the Kansas City area. I thoroughly enjoyed the organization, the programs and my fellow members, until Arch was diagnosed with cancer. I found my time for organizations was limited, so I chose to take a leave of absence.
|Chef Carter Holton|
Today I attended a class and demonstration by Chef Carter Holton, held in the beautiful kitchens of Portfolio Kitchen and Home at 8027 State Line, Kansas City, Mo. Portfolio is owned by Geri Higgins.
Chef Carter prepared literally dozens and dozens of French Macarons, all in beautiful colors and amazing flavors. Carter Holton is the pastry chef for La Fou Frog, as well as The River Club here in Kansas City and teaches for The International Culinary School at The Art Institutes International - Kansas City. He received his degree from the Culinary Institute of America, the CIA.
With humor and authority, Carter prepared our treats. explaining his procedure as we watched carefully. Making a perfect Macaron is not the easiest thing in the world. Those small colorful pillows held together with creamy ganache are a lot of work! Most of the class attendees declared their desire to order the Macarons from Carter rather than rushing home to make their own! In all honesty, I was pretty fired up as I left Portfolio, but on returning home I had second and possibly third thoughts. I haven’t given up totally, I just need to get my ducks in a row, hopefully insuring success. I need to go shopping for perforated bottom sheet pans for baking, several more Silpats for lining those sheet pans, and a scale for measuring ingredients by grams. This making Macarons is not like throwing together a batch of chocolate chip cookies!
For now, I am not going to give you Carter’s recipe. I need to make them a few times, working with his written recipe and instructions as well as trying to incorporate the notes I made as he spoke about the procedure for making the finest macaron. So, stay tuned, I will keep you posted! In the meantime, if you have a French bakery near you, go have a cup of tea and a French Macaron; I’ll be doing the same.