Frugality or folly: macaroons and baking mastery
I have a confession to make: I tried macaroons for the first time about a month ago in Helsinki. Sounds strange? It isn’t, really.
Macaroons were not around when I was growing up In Bulgaria. We can blame it on communism – God knows we already blame too many things on this one – but in truth I believe that each country has developed its very different traditions in two main things: milk processing and sweets. Macaroons are not part of the Bulgarian tradition; not even the more eastern tradition in sweets – baklava and other syrupy pastries are.
Later, I saw macaroons in France and at Airports and they always seemed terribly overpriced. So I didn’t!
Anyhow, I tasted macaroons for the first time a month ago in Helsinki. Shortly after that we spent time in Paris and, of course, there were more macaroons. I started wondering whether they are difficult to make. So, I asked my friend whether she makes them.
‘Well, there are so many people selling them; why would I make them.’ – she replied.
This should have been a warning; what I know about French people is that they are completely obsessed with food in a very non-fattening way – because most of their obsession is channelled not in eating but in preparing the food and setting the scene of the banquet. For French people having food is like seduction – most of the pleasure is in anticipation.
Almost the first thing that I did when we got back home was to check how to make macaroons. It didn’t look very hard – all I needed to do was apparently to make meringues and add ground almond to it. Nothing much to it!
This was my second mistake: I trusted a recipe boasting ‘an easy way to make macaroons’. And I am usually sensible – I’ll never fall for someone telling me that I can lose 20 kg in three weeks following one easy tip; or that I can make a million in two mornings, working in my dressing gown.
When it came to making macaroons though, I reverted to my default setting: how hard could it be. As usual, by the time I realised exactly how hard it is, it was too late to give up.
You can find the recipe for easy French macaroons here if you would like to have a play. It all looked fine until about 2 minutes after getting the macaroons out of the oven: at this point they collapsed.
Don’t misunderstand me, they were still delicious. Thing is, they had to be spooned out of the baking tray. Most annoyingly, I didn’t get to make ganache to stick them together (an absolutely yummy mixture of chocolate and cream).
Have to say, that this was not frugality; it was folly. I may try again or accept that there is a good reason why macaroons are expensive: according to a friend of mine, they are ‘the Formula 1’ of baking. It seems to me I have to qualify first.