Remember the cupcake invasion of a few years ago? It seemed no café or bakery was legally entitled to operate without stocking highly decorated cupcakes in dazzling flavour combinations. Weekends in home kitchens were spent making batches of cupcakes, and it was almost impossible to have a wedding, birthday, baby shower or gathering of friends without a selection of toweringly iced cupcakes.
But Australians have moved on, and it is the macaron to which we are now enamoured.
At its simplest level, a macaron consists of two sweet meringue biscuits, between which is sandwiched a buttercream, jam and/or ganache filling. This style of macaron, an evolution of a simpler, far older confection, dates back to Paris in the 1830s.
Although in that time the macaron has never been far from the hearts, minds and appetites of Parisians, the sweet treat’s Australian dominance seems to have happened almost overnight.
Their emergence already underway, a number of starring appearances Masterchef seem to have sealed the deal.
Adriano Zumbo’s appearance on the show resulted in queues of over three hours outside his Sydney patisserie (as well as a sold-out macaron making class at The Essential Ingredient Cooking School, Prahran).
The appeal of macarons is easy to understand. They are a textural symphony, a crisp shell giving way to airy meringue and, finally, cool, creamy centre.
Their deceptive simplicity encourages experimentation, both in the trademark bright colours and in the often-exotic flavour combinations, including ingredients such as truffles, olives, green tea, fig, goat’s cheese, avocado, carrot, foie gras, beer, vegemite, olive oil & rosemary and almost any other imaginable combination.
And then, of course, there is the taste. Macarons are sweet, naturally, but unlike many other pastry decadences, a rich complexity lies beneath the sweetness. The combination of layers allows for in the introduction of acidity and/or sour notes, and the neutrality of the meringue’s flavour allow the chef to impart whichever flavours he or she might want to try.
Part of the mystique around meringues comes from the perception that they are extremely complicated to create at home. In fact, most macaron recipes are reasonably straight-forward, and while measurements need to be adhered to accurately and one or two missteps have the capacity to render the mix unusable, it usually only takes two or three attempts to create macaron magic at home. And the effort is undeniably worth it.
In this blog post, discussing her preparation for the macaron class she was teaching at The Essential Ingredient Cooking School, Rozelle, Trissa explains that “you need to be meticulous about weighing your ingredients and methodical about finding the right oven temperature that works for you (every oven is different). At the same time there a certain artistry in knowing when your macaron batter has reached that “desired consistency”.
If you’re keen to try your hand at macarons, there are many recipes online (we’ve already linked to three in this post). For any equipment or ingredients you may be lacking, The Essential Ingredient can help.
We stock professional-grade equipment and the highest quality ingredients, and are suppliers to many of Australia’s top restaurants, bakeries and patisseries.
For the perfect introduction to macaron creation, or to refine your technique, keep an eye on our Classes & Events page for macaron-specific classes.