Saturday, December 3, 2011

Macaron Tasting Day in NYC~~~

Morning my little macarons~ Guess where I am right now??

I'm coming to you live from a Starbucks in Soho right now~ How cool is that?? Today is one of those surreal days in NYC. One where I can hardly believe that I am here, let alone sipping on a Christmas blend Clover brewed Starbucks having a bagel with cream cheese and blogging. For some strange reason I always thought that one is not a true blogger until they sit in a cafe and blog. Today I can say that I have done it, and it is ever bit as glorious as I imagined.

Ok, I know that I promised Ron Ben Israel next, but I spent last evening having fun going around some of the top Macaron stores in NYC and thought I would give you all a review on them whilst its still fresh in my mind~~~

A little info about the macaron, it consists of 2 shells made essentially of almond meal and a meringue, sandwiched between are often ganache, buttercream or jam. There have been plenty of debate about which Macaron rules, but I believe that it is one of personal preference. Some critics say that the perfect Macaron should be like that of Laduree, flat on top, with a crispy shell that is chewy at the same time. Not too much filling, not too little filling. Everything in balance.

Confession: I'm biased. Up front, I'm gonna tell you all that I prefer the ones I make best, that are based on a recipe from chef Eric Perez of Macaron in Bangkok. I attended his 3 day pastry baking class and was not a fan of the macaron until I tasted the ones we made. They may not be my favorite go to dessert still, but it was he who showed me that a macaron could be tasty, not too sweet, and just the right amount of chew. But like I said. Macarons are sooo highly subjective. More about Chef Eric Perez and his macarons after the review of Manhattan's finest.

First up, Kee's Chocolates~

The selection and showcase available at Kee's Chocolates
on Spring Street

Blood Orange Macaron- Ganache Filled
Cassis Macaron- Ganache Filled

Here's what happened trying to just break the macaron in half. I know it should be bitten into, but come on. THIS shouldn't happen at anytime to a macaron.

I had a little more hope for the Blood Orange macaron, seeing that it is one of my favorite flavors, but alas~

Overall, I found the selection to be good, but the texture of the macarons to be a little off. Too crunchy of an outershell with a hollow void, not enough chew or a moist crumb that I enjoy. Also the ganache was a little overwhelming, such that the flavors of the fruit were not able to shine through enough. If you enjoy a crunchy macaron as opposed to a chewy one, then you will enjoy this, but perhaps stick to a chocolate flavour, something that Kee's specializes in. They also have a good selection of bon bons in store for those with chocolate on the brain. I was fortunate enough to bump into the owner Kee's herself in the store! She's a lovely lady and I'll be back one day to sample her hand made chocolates.

Next up, Dominique Ansel Bakery~

Store front~ Inside is a quaint little place with accents of white and wood. Reminiscent of a cozy little Parisian cafe.
The Salted Caramel Eclair~ The man worked as one of the head chefs in Fouchon Bakery in Paris, needless to say the eclairs he makes are delightful. If you're wondering what it is filled with, it was a fluid vanilla creme patissiere I believe

Lemon Macaron- Good crunch to the outer shell, bit of chew, with a lemon curd filling I believe~ It was nice to have a little tart to cut through the sweet

Canele du Bordeaux- A little custard dessert baked in a mold till dark and caramelized on the outside~ Not many places out of Paris makes good ones as I've been told. This was the very first one I have ever had and it reminded me of the Ambon of back home. A Nonya dessert that has a honeycomb crumb and a caramelized outter crust.

Last but not least for the evening, La Maison du Maracon~

Walking in, you have a very homey comforting feel to the store~

A great variety of unique and interesting macaron flavours~ That range from the seasonal Apple Cider and Cranberry to the boozy such as Baileys and Jack Daniels. They also have the traditional fruits and sea salt caramel which came highly recommended, as well as flavors such as Nutella and Tarte Tartin but there's only so many macarons a girl can have without developing Type II Diabetes. Portion control is key.

So, final pick were the Baileys and the White Russian

Who doesn't need a night cap am I right? And quite honestly, I prefer mine in macaron form rather than liquid. Its how I intend to have all my booze in future.

By now, you can imagine the sugar high. A cuppa tea is necessary. In hindsight, any kind of pastry tasting day should be accompanied with a flask of hot lemon water just to prevent keeling over after the third location

See that folks? That's a nice crumb right there. Neither was the filling too sweet. Plus it really did taste boozy and strongly of Baileys~ Win.

The White Russian was slightly sweeter and tasted a little similar to the Baileys, if you were to pick one, go for the Baileys :)

Overall, La Maison du Macaron lives up to their hype~ Their precision of shell and filling presentation could be better, I like my macarons with a little more frill (feet), but I'm just anal that way. Texture and taste wise though, it was pretty damn good! I'll be back to try more of their flavors for sure. I met a guy in there completely lost amongst the sea of flavors, trying to pick a box for his girlfriend. Now isn't that sweet? But then found out they were for an apology. Guys, do yourselves a favor and buy your girl a box for no reason once in awhile won't you? It'll get you into their good books for quite some time I can assure you that.

Afterall, quoting the NY Times article, "Your slacker boyfriend gives you cupcakes, your lover gives you Macarons."

Back to chef Eric Perez, he specialized in sugar and chocolate work, having even taught in the reknown Ewald Notter School. He was pastry chef of the French Embassy in Washington DC and competed in the World Pastry Cup where he won Silver and Bronze. Pastry Arts and Design magazine even named him top 10 pastry chefs in the United States in 1996. I never knew all this about him when I first attended his class. He was and still is the sweet French man in Bangkok that really got me hooked on baking after the 3 days. We still keep in touch and every time I'm in Bangkok I drop by his school to say hi and pick up a box or 3 of macarons~
Here are some of my favourite macarons made using Chef Perez's recipe~ Merci Chef!

As if macarons need to be any cuter. But here's proof that they can be.

The above heart macaron and these brown delights are sea salt caramel macarons topped with a light sprinkling of feuilletine~ So good and not too sweet! The buttercream filling was made by making a caramel then adding boiling water to bring it back to soft ball stage then adding the butter. Sugar tastes less sweet the longer it's cooked or the more it caramelizes so these don't come out that sweet despite being a caramel. Did that make sense? Hope so.

Here I made some Matcha macarons. Simply colored green with a dusting of matcha (green tea powder) before going into the oven~ Oh I have such a feet fetish.

I leave the macaron shells on the silpat on the holed baking sheet it was on to cool completely before removing them to prevent them from sticking. This also ensures the bottoms of the macarons do not become soggy or sticky upon removal. For those of you who have made macarons before, you know what I mean by this.

Living so close to the equator, humidity is almost always at 80-90% as such, macarons need to sit in air conditioned comfort for about 2-3 hours to form their signature shells before baking. Baking time on a holed baking sheet then takes 12 mins at 150 degrees centigrade in a convection oven. In a conventional deck oven, increase the temp by 10 degrees! By the way, chocolate macarons need to be baked 2 minutes more in general!

The last above point attests to the fact that baking is a precise science and any change in ingredient or element in a recipe changes the chemical makeup of the product and how it behaves and reacts. Fascinating! I have been absolutely hooked recently on the Modernist Cuisine books of late. I don't have them, cos I would have to sell a kidney to buy them. But the FCI library has 2 sets so I've been camping out there reading up and watching the Harvard lectures on Science and Cooking at night before bedtime. They make for wonderful grownup bed time stories :) Yes. I am a pastry geek. I admit it. But go check it out, the channel is on youtube~ Trust me it's amazing.

Ok my lovelies~ That's all for me for now but more to come so stay tuned!!


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