Friday night as the snow fell and the roads got really horrible, I spent three hours learning how to make macarons! I took a class with Cecilia Mercante, a French pastry chef famed in town for her delicious, light French macarons. If you remember, one of my Danbo pictures a few weeks ago featured Danbo standing next to three macarons. We bought them at a local cafe in town that sells them. And where do they get them from? Cecilia of course. And bless her heart for making them!
Cecilia Mercante is a certified pastry chef and owner of Cecilia’s Pastries. She has an industrial kitchen attached to her home here in Ann Arbor and she offers a lot of amateur classes as well as ones for professional chefs. Her kitchen is amazing!
Her classes are also really small, which is great for learning. There was just me, and then three other ladies: two sisters, Kelli and Karen, and then another woman, Preeti. People come from all over the state to take her classes, too!
Cecilia’s process is simple: Watch me. Then you try it. It worked great in my opinion. First we all gathered around, introduced ourselves and then watched as she demonstrated how to make the meringue cookie. She was VERY technical, but explained that in addition to being a pastry chef, she also studied chemistry. So she knew all the science behind why the cookie is the way it is, why the egg whites are beaten the way they are, why you leave egg whites out the day before, etc. It was fascinating. I learned so, so much.
I won’t lie. Making macarons is very complicated. We knew this going into the class. When REB and I wanted to make them, we found recipes online that just seemed so hard! You have to separate the eggs and keep the egg whites in the fridge over night, then take them out 1-2 hours before you’re going to work the next day. This helps spread out the protein bonds in the egg whites so the cookies become light like they’re supposed to. Yay science!
So when it was our turn to make them, we were a little nervous and intimidated, but again, Cecilia was there watching us and making sure we were following the recipe properly (and that we had listened to her during class time ;-)..)
We all took turns with the different mixers and adding in our food coloring based on which kind of macaron we wanted to make. If you noticed up there, mine was bright pink as I was making raspberry.
After folding our egg whites in with the almond meal/powdered sugar mixture (and learning how to fold properly without overbeating the egg whites to make sure we don’t deflate them), we had to “macaron” the batter, or break it down even more, so that it wouldn’t have lumps. Next, we had to fill our pastry bags and then pipe out the cookies.
Let me tell you…it was not an easy process, but it was so, so fun! There is a whole process of knowing how to hold your pastry bag properly, how to fill it properly so not to overfill it, or stain your bag. There is a process of how to stand over your baking tray, squeeze and make the size of the cookie you want (all mine were on the bigger side – whoops!). But the end result was seeing some beautiful cookies ready to bake!
Like many pastries, you have to let them sit before you bake them. I already knew from reading about how to make macarons, that if it’s too humid when you make them, it could basically ruin the cookie. That’s true for a lot of delicate desserts, but for these guys especially – it could be a bad!
So while we waited for them to set, then bake, then cool, Cecilia showed us how to make the most perfect, sweet buttercream to fill them. She added the flavors we were all making, and then added more or less depending our tastes :)
After we learned the proper way to remove the macarons from the parchment paper, and refilled pastry bags, this time with the buttercream, we set to work on depressing our cookies a touch and filling them!
The end result left each of us with about 30-35 macarons to take home! Since all of us liked the flavors the other made, we decided to share and take home some of each! It was so nice of the girls to share. I ended up leaving with raspberry, coffee, nutella, pistachio and rose flavored maraons!
It was hands down one of the most fun things I’ve ever done. I can’t wait to go back and take more classes with Cecilia. It will have to wait a few weeks while she’s in France. But I can’t wait until she’s back to learn how to make more yummy treats and of course, buy more macarons.
Thank you Cecilia for taking the time to teach us how to make these amazing, yummy cookies! You are truly a wonderful teacher and so patient. I know we all learned a lot that evening and took away a lot from the class. Hopefully we won’t be scared to try making these on our own soon! But if not, we know where to find you when we need to cure our macaron fix :)
Have any of you taken a cooking or baking class before?
What did you learn to make or bake?