This weekend my friend Gina and I had the wonderful opportunity to take a macaron making class at Blue Tierra Chocolate Cafe in South Boston. We arrived about an hour early and ordered ourselves drinks and cookies to pass the time. I was anxious about how the class might actually turn out. The chocolate macadamia biscotti I had was soggy instead of crunchy, and the girl working behind the counter seemed less-than-friendly. And the a/c in the cafe was intolerably cold. I should mention, however, that my mochaccino, served in a fancy little teacup, was absolutely delicious.
I should not have been anxious about the class. It was awesome. It turns out the girl behind the counter was Jen, the owner of the shop. I can understand why she might have been stressed when we first arrived. As the only person there, she had to run the counter and set up for the class all at once. We started the class nearly a half hour late because customers kept coming in, but she evenly put up a “closed” sign on the door and devoted all her attention to her students. Even though the class was supposed to end at 3:30, she stayed until 5pm to let us finish baking all of our cookies!
Jen ended up being not only super friendly and nice, but a really wonderful teacher. She explained everything about the process of making macarons, from why certain ingredients are better than others (powdered food coloring, for instance, instead of liquid so as not to thin out the batter) to why the cafe was so ridiculously cold (if it’s too humid, the batter won’t dry out enough before you put the macarons in the oven).
There were seven of us in the class, so she split us into two groups. Four friends who had come together were one group, and Gina and I were with the last girl who had come by herself were the other group. In total we would end up making three batches of macarons, so we got to pick three flavors. I was psyched because everyone agreed on vanilla and salted caramel which are my two favorite macaron flavors. For third, we picked lemon. Jen started the class by demonstrating the whole process with the lemon.
Then we got to pipe the buttercream onto the lemon macarons and sandwich them together.
Then it was our turn to try piping the macaron batter. Jen made it look a lot easier than it is. She recommended drawing equal-sized circles on the back of the parchment paper before starting, making it easier to judge the correct size for each macaron. I thought it would be easy to “eyeball it,” but my macaron discs definitely got bigger in size with each row I made. I did get better at “flicking” the piping bag, the quick back and forth action Jen suggested for making sure the tops of the macarons were flat and didn’t come to a peak like a Hershey kiss. I was also really good at whacking the cookie sheet on the counter, something you do to rid the batter of air bubbles. It’s a scary proposition, taking all your hard work, raising it high in the air, and then slamming it down on the table. I thought for sure all the parchment paper would go flying and my macarons would end up face down on the floor, but they didn’t. I laughed at Gina when she did her tray, delicately tapping the counter like someone afraid to knock too loudly on a door.
Each tray of macarons had to rest about a half hour before going in the oven. Then each tray had to bake for about 15 minutes, rotating halfway. No wonder the class ran so long. Jen runs Blue Tierra with just a mid-size consumer oven! Occasionally she’d put more than one tray of macarons in at a time, to speed up the process, but she didn’t recommend doing it. Only a couple of the macarons my group piped cracked after baking. The vast majority of them looked great! They all had great “feet.” That’s the term for the bubbly, ruffly bottom edge of each cookie. We were really happy with our work. Plus, the couple that cracked and looked ugly just had to be eaten right away instead of boxed up all pretty. The sacrifices we make!
The last time I wrote about macarons, I mentioned how the woman at Macaron Sweeterie always shames me about the fact that I buy boring, ugly-colored macarons because my favorite flavors are the ones that come in various shades of beige. Well, the awesome thing about making your own macarons is that you can color them HOWEVER YOU WANT! So our boxes of super delicious awesome macaron flavors were still super vibrant awesome macaron colors.
We each got to go home with about a dozen and a half macarons. Considering macarons typically cost $2 each, that alone was worth the price of admission. The wonderfully informative class was just the buttercream on the macaron! Jen said she hopes to offer some chocolate making classes in the fall. I will be the first to sign up! Now that the process has been demystified a bit, I also can’t wait to attempt making macarons on my own at home!