I’ve always wanted to take a baking class especially since it was one department that I can actually finish in the kitchen without hurting myself (finger slicing, breaking plates and cutting my foot from shards, etc.) or burning things (melted a spatula once and plenty of attempted dishes). I can’t cook, but I can bake– although unsure if I’m remotely good at it, but I’m much better at baking than cooking. There’s a difference between the two and it’s because baking requires more finesse, technique, structure and order that I find easier to understand versus when cooking there isn’t much direction or strict instruction because you can use a “dash” or a “sliver” of this and this ingredient and then taste test it, if not enough or too much just add a little more of the other to balance out the other. In baking you can’t really do that, it’s science. You have to make sure that the chemical makeup of each ingredient works and combines correctly with the other ingredient or else you won’t be getting successful results. When you mess up, you mess up, there’s no fixing mid way rather you have to start from scratch.
I’ve baked and tried different recipes throughout college (cupcakes, cakes, pies, etc.) but never macarons (that has recently become REALLY trendy) simply because it was a process that took more finesse and technique than most baking recipes. It’s something that’s very easy to fail at if done incorrectly. But if done correctly the results can be pretty amazing. I’ve seen many macaron bakers come out with the most fascinating shapes and found them wonderful to witness the beautiful results. After watching David’s brother failing at his attempts I felt the urge to try myself. Before I start my wonderful experience, let me just say that this is for a MACARON not, MACAROON. There’s a difference between those two and I HATE it when people can’t use the correct terminology for the sweet confections. Macaron is a sweet meringue-based confection made with egg white, poweder sugar, granulated sugar, almond powder or ground almond, and food coloring. The macaron commonly consists of a ganache, buttercream or jam filling sandwiched between two cookies. Macaroon is a type of small circular biscuit (essentially a coconut cookie), typically made from ground almonds (the original main ingredient), coconut, and/or other nuts or even potato, with sugar, egg white, and sometimes flavorings (e.g. honey, vanilla, spices), food coloring, glace cherries, jam and/or a chocolate coating. Macaron IS NOT A Macaroon.
So last month I had signed me and David up for a macaron baking class for last weekend at Sur la Table. I loved that they provide such wonderful classes in their stores. I chose the Sur la Table at The Grove Farmer’s Market since I thought the atmosphere was wonderful to be surrounded by food places and parking is easy to find and validate (Farmer’s Market parking lot much be validated at Farmer’s Market restaurants and The Grove parking structure at The Grove shopping centers). Each class is 3 hours long and I had selected an early morning one that started at 9:00AM right when the store opened. A good thing about that was that parking was easy to find since The Grove and the whole of Farmer’s Market wasn’t opened yet so there were rarely anyone in the parking lots. Another was that because the class was early, there was very few attendees of the class (another group of three girls and a solo wife) which meant the chef at hand can focus more on each individual.
Our chef was Colette Christian (www.bakingwithcolette.com), who had began working in restaurants at age 14 and went on to graduate from the New England Culinary Institute. In 2004 she began teaching at Le Cordon Bleu in Pasadena, California, and now offers classes at the Art Institute of Hollywood, Sur La Table and the Great News Cooking School in San Diego. She has extensive training in baking and pastry and is a certified executive pastry chef as well as a certified executive chef through the American Culinary Federation. She was an amazing teacher the entire time, she was friendly and outgoing but did not micro-manage us, she allowed us plenty of hands-on-time. She paced the class very well, which I really loved. It wasn’t too slow that my mind got bored and wasn’t too fast that I couldn’t catch up in time. The class was structured well so that it was easy to understand but also passed on many learning tips that I’m excited to try it at home on my own!
We made two very delicious French macaron recipes, cinnamon macarons with coffee buttercream and a chocolate macaron with pistachio buttercream. There was two options: either French style or Italian style macaron making and I was glad that she went with the French style baking since that was what was popular and what we were familiar with. I was also glad that they went with a buttercream filling since I actually do not like macarons because 90% of the time they’re filled with ganaches. It’s not really a texture I enjoy while buttercream is smoother and softer with a lighter and fluffier texture that I thought worked really well with the slight crispiness and fullness of the shells.
The only thing I didn’t quite like was that we had to share all of our effort (like it was a group project). Chef Colette had enunciated and reminded us time and time again that we were going to, but I still didn’t like the idea. Now, if it was something more simple (like a cake), I wouldn’t have minded, but baking macarons takes plenty of effort and correct technique to get the correct results. David and I put our blood, sweat and tears into ours that it came out quite fantastic I might add, we had achieved great pied and the texture was splendid: nice, soft chewiness with a slight crisp on the outside rather than too hard and/or hollow. While the other group’s shell color was a little too dark, shape was off, the texture also ended up being rock hard AND they had stuffed FAR TOO MUCH filling into all our macarons that they spilled (and made the macarons ugly) once they were packed for us at the end.
But, the class itself overall was amazing! I learned so much from Colette and so excited to attend my next class in October. Please find her one her website listed above as well as check out her Instagram: @bakingwcolette to follow her and her amazing recipes! On the next blog post I will try and decipher the macaron recipe and technique for you as I attempt at making macarons at home with an autumn favorite flavor: Pumpkin Spice! Stay tuned! 🙂
Address: 6333 W 3rd St p, Los Angeles, CA 90036
Monday-Saturday 9:00 AM – 9:00 PM