Thursday, February 17, 2011

The Macaron & This Weekend's Market Menu - 19 February

I can't believe it's Thursday already!

I've been wrapped up this week preparing an order for a baby shower. My client decided that macarons would make the perfect take-home favour for the guests at the party and I couldn't agree more. There isn't much you need to do to a macaron to dress it up and whether they've had a macaron before or not, most people only need one look to know that this pretty little pastry, all filled with cream, is going to taste delicious.

They say (or at least I say) that macarons are the new cupcake although I'm convinced that they have much more staying power. The french have been building these little burger cookies since the 1800s so I'm surprised they've only just made their way into the popular stream in the last few years.

Well I say thank goodness. I welcome in a change from the cupcake. Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a good cupcake every now and then (and again and again). But macarons set the bar a little higher.

For instance, there's no hiding the quality of a macaron behind a cute little swirl of pink frosting and a pretty gumdrop garnish. Macarons, though demure in stature, not only look like art, they taste like art. And to make them is to pour all your baking skill into a pastry that should take your breath away.

A macaron shell should always have a smooth top set above an evenly bubbled foot. It is this seemingly simple foot that can drive the best of chefs mad. To go through all the steps (aging your egg whites, whipping them, grinding your almonds to powder, sifting your tant-pour-tant gently over the fluffy whites, folding the batter just the right amount, piping the rounds and letting them dry before baking) only to find, once baked, that the smooth tops have cracked or the shells have resisted their characteristic rise is disappointing to say the least. I've experienced my share and shed a tear or two over the loss of innocent pastries.

But the look is just the beginning. The texture of the shell is ever important as well. I always prefer a thin crisp layer on the outside that gives way under gentle pressure to a smooth inside that melts away in your mouth. The shell is like a picture frame for the filling. It shouldn't detract from the flavour you're about to experience inside - it should showcase it; a perfect compliment.

According to Pierre Herme, the amount of filling in each macaron should be equal to the weight of the surrounding shells. I've had many macarons and I place Pierre Herme's above all for texture, flavour, and quality so I listen to his advice on macarons.

And when you bite into a macaron, there should be no question about the flavour you are tasting. This is where the creativity really happens. The combinations are endless, the inspiration is abundant and the quality of the ingredients is so important.

It's the design of the shell that is alluring - simple and pretty, but it is the flavour inside that lingers and keeps a person coming back for more. There's nothing quite like it.

Well, I've gone on quite a bit longer about macarons than I intended and I really wanted to tell you the flavours that will be available at the St. Lawrence Market this weekend. So if you're still with me, here's the menu:

Fresh lemon curd reminds me of sunny summer days.

Market Menu
February 19th

Lemon Meringue
vanilla swiss meringue buttercream with a bright, citrus lemon curd centre

Blueberry Kumquat
sweet blueberry & tangy kumquat preserve surrounded by vanilla buttercream

vanilla buttercream with a raspberry centre

Roasted Pistachio
nutty & sweet pistachio buttercream

Sea Salted Caramel
salty & sweet caramel in a vanilla buttercream

rich Callebaut dark chocolate ganache in a chocolate macaron shell

Kumquats resemble oranges, but are much closer to the size of olives. I like to eat them whole since the skin is sweet and the inner fruit is tangy.

And this Saturday, since I'll be attending a wedding, you won't find me manning (womanning?) the Lemon Tree table. Look, instead, for my mom, Roslyn. She's an amazing woman and one of my biggest supporters. She may not have taught me how to bake, but she's always encouraged me to be creative and do what I love.

Have a great Family Day long weekend!


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