The Macaron Mojo Problem

Tell an experienced gourmand that you’re planning on making macarons for your dinner party this weekend and he’ll look at you as though you’ve just announced you’re going to jump the Snake River Canyon on a rocket-propelled sky-cycle. You can’t! It’s too dangerous! Such is the aura of fear that has come to surround this once-humble sweet, mostly thanks to one man: French pastry master, Pierre Hermé. For it was Hermé who, in the 1990’s, set out to reinvent the simple macaron as a showpiece for his singular creative genius.

He succeeded. In fact he succeeded too well. So much so that in the process of updating a classic he — as my mother might say — ruined it for everyone. Now all but the most audacious professional bakers go limp at the very thought of making a macaron. Why? Because theirs won’t look as good and taste as good as Hermé’s, obviously. Even some of the world’s best cookbook authors have bought into the mentality, omitting macarons entirely from their books — or worse — writing about them but declining to provide readers with a recipe. The message is unmistakable: if you can’t make a world-class macaron, you shouldn’t even try.

What hogwash. A macaron is composed of just three ingredients: sugar, almonds and egg whites. Exactly how they come together is, admittedly, a bit of a trick. However it’s by no means beyond the ken of a careful and committed home baker. If you know what to look for, you can make up an excellent macaron batter in as little as ten minutes — and have them baked up in about an hour total. Heed the science and you can, with surprisingly little effort, produce a macaron that will amaze your friends and terrify your enemies. I’ll show you how. Stay tuned.

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