Sunday 3 March 2013

Macarons at the Agrarian Kitchen

A few weeks ago I went the Agrarian Kitchen for the macaron class.  I was especially looking forward to this, as I have a few of my friends coming to the class with me.  It was going to be a super-fun, sugar-filled day.  The class was taken by Alistair Wise from Sweet Envy.  You know those beautiful macarons sitting in the immaculate display in his shop?  We were taught that very recipe.  The one that took Alistair two years to perfect. YES!

The day began with a forage in the garden for herbs.  I wasn't able to make it because of work, so no photos of the gorgeous garden, I'm afraid...  But I did get there in the nick of time before the cooking began though.  Phew!

The recipe begins with sieving (a lot of) almond meal and icing sugar (hands kindly modelled by my friend Liz, and colleague Natalia!)

At first, I thought Alistair had a pet name for this sieve, calling it "Tammy".  But after some googling, it turns out this is a Tamis.  While you don't need to have a special gadget like this one, it does make life a lot easier.  

Once the dry ingredients are ready, we got started on the meringue.  Alistair has chosen to use the Italian meringue, as it's a bit more lenient with time.  It's pretty important when you're making thousands of shells in one go!  Eggwhites were separated while the sugar was melted over the stove.

At just the right time, eggwhites were whisked, and hot sugar was carefully poured into the now whipped eggwhites.  The mixture cooks and became glossy and stiff.

Then comes to the most difficult to explain part of the entire process, mixing the meringue with the dry ingredients.  I was amazed how vigorously Alistair was working the mixture and takes a bit of elbow grease to mix it properly.  The idea (although, I didn't do this in class) is to get to a consistency that drops back into the bowl when you lift a little of the mixture up.  Sounds easier said than done though :/

Once the mixture's made, it's time for pipping them out.  It's amazing watching Alistair pipe these out, so quickly and perfectly.  The tray is then tapped rather violently to remove any bubbles and flatten the mixture out. 

The shells were decorated with a bit of nifty toothbrush work, and they were ready to rest until dry.  We've decorated other shells we added coloured sugar crystals, while others we've added nuts.  We even got to play with awesome gold dust!  These were baked off and we slowly build a mountain of macaron shells.

While we waited, we also made some of the fillings, like raspberry jam and lime and mint marmalade.  I love the herb selection at the Agrarian Kitchen, and find Rodney has planted something new everytime I go there.  He has inspired me to grow my own and I've made a herb patch in my garden, using secondhand bricks.  It's small, but useful, and I don't think I can live without one now.

We also made a dessert called "Gabba Gabba Hey", which uses the macaron mixture, but stencilled rather than pipped.  Most of the air has been knocked out of it, and because it's so thin, it's baked into a crispy biscuit.  We've made two lots of ice creams to go into it: basic vanilla ice cream, and a morello cherry sorbet.  Ripped raspberry with the crunchy biscuit and cold ice cream.  It was  the highlight of the day for me.

We took a break from the cooking from the very warm kitchen and Rodney cooked us a lunch of grilled baby goat cutlets, with potatoes and salads (and no cucumbers in sight!)  I haven't had goat many time before, and none as simply cooked as this, and yet, this was by far my most delicious goat I've ever eaten.  Mmm... I think I will seek out more goats from now on. 

After our rest, it was back in the kitchen to assemble the final macarons.  The secret is to build a sturdy wall of buttercream to trap the jam.  The one below was my favourite macaron for the day, I think it had a cherry jam. 

Stacking on the second shell and the macaron is done!

I just have to include this for Liz.  Here are your anatomically correct macarons ;)

I had such a great day at this class, and have came away with so many tips about making macarons that are impossible to convey from reading a recipe.  I feel like I can attempt to make these at home again. 

Thank you for another great class, Alistair, Rodney and Severine!