Many of you know that when I was in Paris this summer, I took advantage of having a couple of weeks to occupy myself filled this time with some macaron-making classes. Since I (rightly) figured I might have macaron fatigue after a few classes (and, errr, a number of macaron-tasting sessions!), I also signed up for a class at L’Atelier des Chefs called “Les Secrets de la Confiserie” – Secrets of Candy Making. Whilst this class did include macarons, we also worked on guimauve (marshmallows), sucettes (lollipops) and caramels mous (soft caramels). With only five people in the class, there was a lot of hands-on learning with Chef demonstrating each step and then having us finish it up.
To be honest, I have always been a little intimidated by things like making candy. My recent experiences making marshmallows and chocolates are a testament to the fact that my skills, whilst they extend (sometimes) to macarons, definitely need some work in the area of more technically-challenging sweets and candies. In fact, what I learned at this class (as well as in all of the macaron classes) is that one of the most important “secrets” is having a decent candy thermometer. And guess what? They just happened to be selling these “en promotion” at the end of the class. So, of course, how could I resist? Yes, some people bring French delicacies back from France, I bring candy thermometers back in my luggage. All right, who am I kidding, we had French treats, wine AND odd things like candy thermometers in our suitcases
Because making candy is really all about making sure that your ingredients (mostly sugar and water) are at the right temperature and if you can make sure that you get that right, c’est simple comme bonjour (it’s as easy as ABC).
I mean, really – how easy do these lollipops look?
Well, again, Chef made it look SO simple….
Whilst it’s important to cook the sugar syrup you will pour into your egg whites to the correct temperature, Chef also showed us how to tell whether the mixture was ready by the feel of the bowl. And introduced a concept that is really so easy that I can’t believe I didn’t think of it before – piping the marshmallows out so you don’t get in a huge mess. Ahem…
Lastly we made perhaps the least successful recipe of the day – soft caramels… The process is again, so easy… You cook up the sugar syrup, add the flavouring (we added raspberry) and leave it to set in the fridge until it’s able to be removed from the pan and cut up..
Our caramel never quite set in the short amount of time we had (2 hours total making four recipes) to cut into squares so it was VERY soft. The idea is to wrap them in cellophane. Or, you know, just eat it off a spoon…
I really enjoyed this class – again, all in French (some of it quite kitchen-technical) so it was stretching me not just in terms of vocabulary but also put me out of my culinary comfort zone. I would never have tried these recipes on my own at home but with the safety net of a Chef standing right there, it all seemed so do-able. So we’ll see how I go once I am back into my normal routine and have time to cook again. These look like they might be fun to try on a dark winter afternoon!
Congratulations to Fiona (not on Twitter and does not have a blog but a long time reader of this blog!) who won my Le Dolci macaron class giveaway. For all those of you who entered, so sorry it wasn’t you but hey, you can always sign up at Le Dolci anyway!