Last Saturday, I again attended another Trusted Places event at L’Atelier des Chefs on Wigmore Street in central London. We were there to learn to make macarons, those lovely almond biscuits sandwiching a rich filling (not to be confused with the coconut macaroons). Those around me know my predilection for these confections and when I was invited to take part in the class, I jumped at the chance. Niamh from Trusted Places again organised this event and the London food bloggers in attendance (lovely meeting you all!) were:
- Lizzie from Hollow Legs
- Krista from Londonelicious
- Josh from Cooking the Books
- Alice from An American in London
- Helen from World Foodie Guide
- Jonathan from Around Britian with a Paunch
- Abi from Foodrambler
- Tom from The Food Flunky
- Alex from The Princess and the Recipe
- Mark from Food by Mark
- Mia from Urban Foodie
- Shuna from Eggbeater
Upon arrival at the shop, we were ushered downstairs by the friendly Jerome, who then directed us first to the cloakroom and second to the bathroom to wash our hands. Drinks (soft) had also been laid out for us, reminding us that it was as much a social event as a class. When we’d all arrived and had the opportunity to introduce ourselves to each other, we were then taken to the kitchen, adorned with disposable plastic aprons and distributed amongst the four work tables. Each table was to tackle a separate macaron flavour, one of:
- salted butter caramel
- porto and foie gras mousse
- raspberry and rose
- lime and fresh ginger
My team consisted of Helen, Mark, Tom and myself and we were making salted caramel macarons – I’ll admit that these are my favourite flavour from Ladurée and so I was particularly thrilled!
For each step in the macaron making process, our teacher, Baldwin, would demonstrate to all of us at one table before having us retreat back to our own table to try to mimic him. First step was to sift both the ground almonds and the icing sugar – you don’t want big lumps making your macarons ugly. While that was going on, the egg whites were whipped up (along with food colouring if required) to a stiff peak stage with granulated sugar. Baldwin was always moving from table to table, ready to answer our many questions and to give us a hand when needed. He must have the patience of a saint as we were quite a rowdy bunch, running around the kitchen with our cameras!
Mixing the almond and sugar mixture into the egg whites was quite a challenge, trying to get the combination to look like what Baldwin had accomplished. A lot of the air is stirred out of the egg whites and the mixture acquires the texture of gooey marshmallow. This was then piped onto parchment paper lined baking trays. The fun part was removing the air bubbles from the piped macarons – we dropped the trays from about 1.5 feet in the air, leading to much loud banging around the room! Afterwards, the macarons had to dry for about 1/2 an hour; only when they were dry to the touch would they be baked.
Meanwhile, the fillings were made. For the salted caramel, granulated sugar was first left to caramelise in a heavy pan before a huge wodge of butter was added and left to melt. This caused the sugar to harden but then the addition of heavy cream and some salt and the bringing of everything back to the boil pulled everything back together again.
An aside: The trickiness of making macarons is well documented online and was shown in the first batch of our biscuits from the oven. They were flat, cracked and altogether hideous. Luckily, the other three trays we produced came out fine! Baldwin suggested that there could have been a number of causes: the batter wasn’t at the right consistency, the air bubbles not banged out enough, the oven at the wrong temperature, wicked goblin magic, etc. I suppose it’s all practice, practice, practice, and a bit of luck too. We chose to dispose of the evidence.
After baking, again the macarons had to rest and cool on the trays for another 1/2 hour (you can see what a time consuming process this is!) and when they were finally ready, they were peeled from the paper and filled. Check them out!
And from the other teams, the porto and foie gras mousse macarons (sooooo rich I couldn’t eat more than one),
the raspberry and rose macarons (very nice, and they made cute little penny sized ones too!),
and the lime and fresh ginger macarons (the last I tried and I was glad that they were zingy and refreshing).
Needless to say, after indulging in quite a few macarons, I was fully macaroned out. There were loads extra and they kindly packed them up for us to take home. As I couldn’t look at them a second time, Blai gladly ate them all that night! At the time of writing this post, I can think of them again and am seriously considering baking them at home! They aren’t as light as the amazing macarons from Ladurée or Pierre Hermé but are still so tasty and much much lighter on the wallet!
Regarding L’Atelier des Chefs itself, they offer a number of short classes (30 mins to 2 hours) where you learn to make one or a few dishes in the alloted time – there’s time afterwards to relax and eat your creation and sometimes dessert is included! The lunchtime classes are inconvenient for me (I work far from Wigmore Street) but I’ll definitely be back for that shop at L’Atelier, as they stock such wonderful things (no time for a full browse but that’s for next time!). Classes can be booked by whole parties and menus can be tailored to your event – there was a hen party learning to make some grilled fish with mango salsa right after our class. What a lovely place – I had a terrific afternoon!
All my photos from this event can be found in this Flickr photo set.
L’Atelier des Chefs
19 Wigmore Street
London W1U 1PH