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Falling in love with (costly) 'macarons'
Visitors to Paris might fall in love with the Mona Lisa, the houseboats on the Seine, the Eiffel Tower, Notre Dame, and the Champs-Elysées. I fell in love with the "macaron," which is not to be confused with the mound of baked coconut and egg white that in this country we call macaroon.
When we returned home in October I started a search for a supplier. My research took me to two French bakeries, one in Bellevue and one in West Seattle, which produce the real thing. But these wonderful cookie sandwiches – if an Oreo comes to mind dismiss the thought immediately – of almond flour, egg whites and powdered sugar with a buttercream filling, don’t come cheap here. (Macarons could have been pricey in Paris, too, but the aromas from bakeries made mentally converting euros to dollars impossible.)
Recently, I thought I’d found the solution to having an unending supply of these desserts at a reasonable price. I signed up to take a class. We worked in teams so everyone had a chance to take part. I volunteered to start by beating the egg whites, a task I knew well from years of making lemon meringue pies.
“I think you’d better stop now,” said the instructor a few minutes later. “Let me look. Yes. Those are too stiff, more like a meringue.” No worries. I would make up for this when my turn came to squeeze the mixture onto the baking tray template.
Wait. Why was the mixture oozing outside the top of the pastry bag instead of on the circles marked below? You say I was squeezing from the wrong place? No problem. I’d have other chances to prove my prowess in the kitchen.
While the macarons hardened before baking, we moved on to making buttercream and chocolate ganache fillings. Our last step was to choose our preferred flavors of cookie and fillings and stuff the sandwiches. We could even add pizazz by drizzling chocolate over our creations.
I learned that the drizzle effect you see on restaurant desserts comes from sticking a fork in a liquid topping and passing the fork artfully back and forth across the plate. Even this takes practice.
I brought home 13 macarons. They tasted wonderful. But average cost? $5 apiece. The local bakery, which sells them for $1.50, looks like a great bargain and would never lead to further embarrassment.
Ann Oxrieder has lived in Bellevue for 35 years. She retired after 25 years as an administrator in the Bellevue School District and now blogs about retirement at http://stillalife.wordpress.com/.