Sunday, June 29, 2008

Macaron Masterclass

After a rollercoaster love affair with macarons that included some highs and some lows such that I had declared my hatred of macarons, some time has passed and I'm ready to get on the rollercoaster again.

However, this time I had a secret weapon to make sure that I have more highs than lows. I was having a Macaron Masterclass with the master. No, not Pierre Herme, but the next best thing. I was having a Macaron Masterclass with Melbourne's Macaron Master Markham (MMMM), Duncan Markham, from Syrup and Tang, whose love affair with the Macaron is well known throughout the blogging community.

The day started when both Jackie and myself arriving punctually to Master Markham's palatial abode for a class in how to make macarons (ok use your best French accent and say it with me maca-rawn, roll your r's now).

We were using Duncan's Italian Meringue Method to make the macarons. This method is much more reliable, although slightly trickier as it requires making a syrup. Go to Duncan's post to get a detailed recipe and instructions.

Duncan showed us how to make the macarons with a run through of the ingredients and method before doing a hands on demo. It looked so easy when he showed us. Previously, I was so stressed when making it. I guess when you do it many times, it gets easier. The key to everything though is to learn how your oven works in relation to the macaron mixture. Being able to control the baking rate will result in either perfect macarons, or slightly less than perfect macarons.

Here were some shells that Jackie and I piped. Notice the irregular sizes, plus how we piped them too near such that they stuck together to make siamese macarons.

The hazelnuts that we shelled for use in the filling. Duncan had roasted these prior to us arriving and the house smelt so good. I remember a tip on an infotainment show that says you should bake something when having open house inspections as the smell helps to induce people to buy the house. Well, I reckon you should roast nuts as this smell trumped that of baking bread even.

Here we are plonking (and I say plonking as we had no technique whatsoever) on the filling. You're supposed to dollop a high mound in the centre and then squash the two macaron shells together from the edges so that the filling flattens out and also you don't break the shell.

Here is the master himself, making a ganache to put into the shells. Note, there was no Vogue magazine style photoshopping at all of this photo, Duncan really is that good looking.

Finally, when you do everything correctly, you get an amazing looking and tasting macaron. Hooray! I made a perfect macaron.

We did a basic vanilla shell and a chocolate shell and mixed and matched those shells with a chocolate ganache, lavendar and chocolate ganache (eew this flavour just tasted like toilet freshner to me, but Duncan thought it was "interesting" and growing on him), chocolate and hazelnut ganache, and my favourite favourite favourite flavour, violet.

I will definitely be trying to make macarons by myself. I have so many flavour combos to try out. A huge huge thanks to Duncan for being so generous with his time and talent to help teach Jackie and myself how to make macarons. Now, if you too want to make macarons, contact Duncan. He might be persuaded to run some small classes for a reasonable fee. You'll take away the satisfaction of making these wonderful pastries and the actual macarons that you can eat till your hearts desires.


  1. Thanh, you've made me blush terribly! It was lots of fun for me and you shouldn't understate how well you got the hang of piping the shells. Even though some ended up too close together, the shape was really good.

    Thanh's been kind enough not to mention that I curdled/split my buttercream (the violet) and I didn't have time to repair it as time was running out.

    Given Thanh's enormous enthusiasm, I think a lot of his friends are going to be benefiting:)

  2. Omg!! I just made macarons last week too, hehehe! They didn't look like that though!

    xox Sarah

  3. Duncan, the buttercream still tasted amazing. Thanks so much for taking time out to teach me. I'm definitely going to be making a lot more macarons.

    Sarah, what a coincidence. I saw your macarons, they looked a lot more rustic, but equally delicious.

  4. Oh, fun!! Looking forward to seeing some of your efforts now that you've been taught by the macaron master!

  5. I've already made a list of everything I need to buy tomorrow night Agnes. I need to get a piping bag, a small saucepan, a good scale and lots of almond meal. Then let the macaron experimenations begin.

  6. Thanh, how about dropping some off on your way out!?!?!? V x

  7. Fantastic - looks like y'all had a great time! The probability of macarons at the next bloggers' banquet must now have tripled, right? :-) Oh, wait - quadrupled with Sarah also in on it. :-D

  8. Vida, the next batch I make, I'll let you know.

    Cindy, it was heaps of fun. I'm happy to make some for the next meet up, just as long as Duncan doesn't bring some for comparison as mine would pale against his.

    Are you back from London? How long did you go all up?

  9. Yes please, Thanh! I'm already impressed by the look of yours and I bet they're far more authentic than the one I ate at Cafe Vue. :-)

    I've moved on from London (I was only there 4 days), but am still in the UK for another week. I've just been catching up on some blogs while in a hostel with a decent internet connection. :-)

  10. I'll bring some macarons at the next meet up.

    I look forward to reading more of your posts about England.

    A hostel with a decent internet connection, isn't that an oxymoron. They usually charge through the roof for internet usuage.

  11. Tell me the secret to getting Duncan to teach so we can all get in on the act!!! Vida x

  12. Vida, it's a combination of genuine enthusiasm about the macarons from my end mixed with some generosity on Duncan's end.

  13. That could work!! Vida

  14. I would love to know how to make those macarons...

  15. Vida, if enthusiasm doesn't work, you can always nag Duncan or bribe him. :-)

    Manuela, you can give them a go. Just go to Duncan's blog via this link and read up his very detailed recipes. Let me know how you go if you try to make them.

  16. Olá Manuela. E um pouco diffícil, mas espero que tu tentas os fazer.

    I'm always open to nagging and bribing:P

    Thanh, we need to see evidence that you've been doing some more at home! Come on! And do you mean to tell me that I'm going to have to think of something else to bring to the banquet?!

    Internet in many hostels and simple hotels has improved by miles -- wireless has meant easy solutions for these places without the need for much financial outlay. I had free wireless access in most of the places i stayed in on my travels... though it does assume you have a laptop or pda with you on the road.

  17. Duncan, I'll get round to making them soon. I'm not risking making any at night where I'll get so stressed if it goes wrong. I'm going to do them on the weekends when I have heaps of time.

    There is never too many macarons. Especially violets ones. Can you believe I, me, myself and I, finished 90% of the macarons that we made (I gave 10% away) in about 5 days. That's a hell of a lot of sugar. Today my work mate commented that I was looking a bit tubby around the stomach area. No guesses for why.

  18. Grasshopper, there is needed more devotion to consumption. Five days! Too slow. The wise macaronnier must eat with twice the speed for to have empty boxes to fill anew.

  19. More devotion? Any more and I'll soon be rolled out of the house and need to start taking medication. :-)

    I do want the empty boxes to be refilled though.

  20. Hi Thanh,

    I just had to say I have no idea how you and Duncan manage to keep such trim figures!!! Hehehe

    xox Sarah

  21. Sarah, I have no idea how you keep your trim figure either. My gut is increasing quite quickly nowadays.

    By the way, I went and bought some cookbooks on the weekend that you and Duncan recommended. I bought Nigella's Domestic Goddess, Women's Weekly Bake, Donna Hay Modern Classics 2 and Larousse Gastronomique. They all look to have fantastic recipes.

    Any suggestions on what I must try from Nigella's book seeing as you're a huge Nigella fan.