Friday, March 22, 2013

Pierre Herme

Macarons, the new "it" thing.  Everyone is going crazy for them like someone just created them for the first time.  That's the thing with this industry...  trends, trends, trends.  (At least cupcakes and cake pops are on the decline!)

First things first, let's make sure we're all on the same page.  I am not talking about a mound of shredded coconut (macarOOn).  I am referring to the delicate French cookie.  A macaron should have a beautifully smooth, hard outer-shell with a chewy soft inside.  They are typically filled with a buttercream, ganache, or jam.  

When I was in culinary school, and macaron day came along, I was very excited.  At that point I had never had one!  Everyone makes a big deal about how hard they are to make - and, don't get me wrong, it's not the easiest thing to make, but with some practice, they're not too bad.   Anyway, when they were finally ready for consumption, I was not as impressed as I thought I would be.

Fast forward.

One of my best friends, Ange, and I were in Paris getting ready to go on a bus to head to Versailles, when, out of the corner of my eye, I saw a sign for Herme.  Pierre Herme - one of the most renown pastry chefs in the world.  We had a few minutes to kill so we headed in.  The place was beautiful.  Everything looked perfect.  I decided to give macarons another shot.  If I didn't like these macarons, I wasn't going to like any macaron.  I chose a pistachio, a vanilla and, because it looked so elegant, a chestnut.  I was BLOWN AWAY!  It melted in my mouth.  Ange, too, was impressed.  (She even bought a couple hundred dollars worth to take home!)  In the corner of the store was a little table with a simple stack of books.  The Macaron Cookbook.  It was all in French but I bought it anyway.

Fast forward, again.

I never made anything from the book.  First of all, I do not know anyone who speaks fluent French, and, on top of that, the directions are so persnickety that I just didn't have the patience - until NOW!  This past Christmas, my cousin's best friend, Christine, bought me the translated version.  It's been sitting in my room for weeks untouched.  It wasn't until recently Christine returned from Paris with a batch of Herme's macarons that I couldn't go another day without one.  The one flavor that took me by surprise was the Olive Oil & Vanilla.  I've really been enjoying the subtle flavor it adds to desserts - ice cream, cakes, etc.

He puts chopped green olives in his, but I just wanted the smooth white chocolate, vanilla and olive oil ganache to fill mine.  I did sprinkle a pinch of some high quality sea salt to fill in for the brined olives.

If you're too lazy to make your own macarons, I recommend Bouchon Bakery at Rockefeller Center.

The ganache mise en place.

Macaron a l’Huile d’ Olive et Vanille
an original recipe by Pierre Hermé

Olive Oil Ganache

60 grams whipping cream
1/4 vanilla pod
90 grams high quality olive oil
135 grams Ivoire couverture (chopped)
Put the heavy cream into a small pot with the vanilla bean pod and bring to a boil.  Take off the heat and remove pod.  Pour into a bowl containing the white chocolate and allow to sit for three minutes.  Whisk to form a ganache.  Slowly drizzle in the olive oil while whisking to emulsify.  Let sit at room temperature, stirring often until the ganache sets.
Almond Sugar Mix for Macaron
200 grams whole white almonds
200 grams confectioner’s sugar
Process the whole white almond in a food processor, add the icing sugar and process once more. Sieve.
Green Macaron Mix
400 grams almond-sugar mix
75 grams fresh egg whites
1 gram green food coloring
200 grams sugar
50 grams water
75 grams old egg whites
1.5 grams egg white powder
Combine all ingredients together from list 1) ( do this only right before you begin your sugar syrup, otherwise you will end up with an unblendable mass). cook the water and caster sugar to 245F. When the syrup reaches 226F start whipping on medium speed the egg whites with the egg white powder to stiff peaks. Pour slowly the cooked syrup in a trickle over the meringue. Leave to cool down to 122F, take the bowl out and fold the meringue progressively into the first mixture. Add a third of the meringue to lighten the mixture and then fold in the remaining meringue.  Continue folding until the batter is slightly loose.
Piping and baking the macarons
With a piping bag fitted with a plain round nozzle, pipe macarons on tray lined with parchment paper. Bake in a convection oven at 320F (or conventional at 350) for about 14/15 minutes. Once baked, slide the macarons on cooling rack to cool.
When the shells have cooled and when the ganache has reached pipable consistency, fill one shell with a nice dollop of ganache and a pinch of fine sea salt, top with another macaron, making sure to assemble 2 shells of the same size.
Store in refrigerator for at least 24 hours before consuming. Take out of refrigerator, 2 hours before consumption.

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