Graine de macarons! (Ecole de Pâtisserie du Pavillon Elysée Lenôtre, Paris)

Wednesday December 23rd 2009.
8.45am Pavillon Elysée Lenôtre, Paris 8ième
I WILL learn how to make macarons with FEET.

The setting is sublime…

A brave dozen of us head downstairs to the workshop:

Un petit café to start the morning…

And some snacks in case we got peckish throughout the nearly 4 hours…

And off to work it was!

With the jovial Chef François Schmitt, we would work through three flavours of macarons – pistachio, chocolate and walnut. This workshop was in French and thankfully I speak fluent French though there was quite a bit of terminology very specific to baking that I wrote down for future reference. It was hard work though – all that concentrating! Chef François was so laid back and matter of fact about these, the curse of budding pastry chefs everywhere that throughout the morning, even when someone did something not quite perfectly, there was never a doubt that our macs would succeed!

The way the workshop took place, Chef would show us a technique and then have one or a few of us come in to take over. So we weren’t making a batch of macarons perse, rather having a hand in many batches. The fact that they turned out so well (see below) with so many of us involved makes me believe that a perfect macaron is within my reach…

First up, macarons au chocolat with a chocolate ganache filling.

I’m not going to post all the recipes here, rather, pictures, tips and tricks.

Firstly, a new term has entered my vocabulary – tant pour tant – basically equal parts almond meal and icing sugar (which must have 3% starch in it – does ours in Canada contain starch? Mental note to self to check…). The tant pour tant is mixed in a food processor, then sifted with more icing sugar and cocoa powder (in this instance) until a very fine powder is obtained. The “restes” (the chunky bits that won’t pass through the sifter (below) can be used in other pastry recipes (like in the bottom of a fruit tart for extra flavour).

The egg whites have been separated from the yolks FOUR DAYS EARLIER!!!! They looked kinda icky but they certainly did the trick…

Yes, the egg white mixture is reddish – food colouring is added to make sure the macarons have a nice brown colour. Cocoa when it is cooked will tend towards grey. Who knew?

Check out how cool Chef François is – just mixing and chatting…

The mixture was quite thick…

The man is a macaron machine! He showed us the technique – put the nozzle touching the tray then press the bag with your other hand and lift the nozzle off to the side – like a comma… This way you don’t get the silly peak on top. We all had a chance to practice and everyone’s turned out pretty well. True, Chef was hovering in the background…

Into the oven they go at 160 degrees C for 12-14 minutes ON THREE TRAYS. Again, who knew? One tray per oven only. Helps when you have six ovens.

The trays are turned halfway through cooking.

Out of the oven they come “when they feel right”. I know how they feel but can’t describe it.. They rest for a couple of minutes…

Then you literally POUR cold water under the paper.

They sit for two more minutes then are easy to pluck off. They rest on their little domes until you are ready to fill them.

With tempered chocolate ganache – I will never NOT temper my chocolate ganache again – so easy. (Well, chef made it SEEM easy!)

OMG – aren’t they just perfection?

And of course we all had to taste the filling.

Next on the agenda, macarons pistache:

Leading the way again. He would pipe one tray and leave the other 5 to the class.

What gives them this great colour? Why black and yellow food colouring, of course!

Both the pistache and the noix macarons were filled with “massepain” – a filling based on a nut paste (pistachio, almond, walnut) which I normally don’t like but this was subtle in a way it shouldn’t have been since it was so rich…

And lastly, macarons noix (walnuts):

Check out everyone getting in on the food colouring action here – red, black, blue and yellow, all added to the egg white.

The macarons were carefully boxed up:

And mine even survived a crazy métro ride with 50 000 people pushing and shoving. I held them above my head for fear of them being crushed…

A wonderful morning, money well spent. I have a ton of notes and tips and tricks and temperatures etc… that I will follow to a T the next time I make macs. I can hardly wait to get home to try again!!!!

They also TASTE amazing. Chef said they are best the day after they are made (so basically with the waiting for the egg whites to be ready, you’re looking at being organised FIVE days before you want to eat them), but Neil wanted to see if the small fortune was worth it. It was.

And a Christmas Eve special treat – because I can’t just pretend that they all were perfect (though these weren’t mine):

Merry Christmas and keep on checking in for more culinary adventures from Paris… I’m off on another workshop today whilst Neil and Alicia enjoy a meal of a lifetime. Posts will be written…

58 thoughts on “Graine de macarons! (Ecole de Pâtisserie du Pavillon Elysée Lenôtre, Paris)”

  1. What an amazing, wonderful experience and fabulous macs! And I can so tell that you are now in love with those little, tempermental babies. Thanks for sharing this great day at Lenôtre with us and can't wait to see more of your adventures! Next Mac Attack we'll be expecting only the best from you!

  2. Sooooo, no resting?

    Mardi, these look fabulous. What a wonderful day! Thanks for letting us tag along. Bisous to Neil and Alicia from both of us. I'll be posting our little adventure next week, I'm thinking…

  3. I recently wrote a post about macaroons, but haven't actually tried making them. I had some from the original bakery in Paris – very good. Yours look equally good though!

  4. I'm going to try to make macarons for the first time right after the holiday. Your post is great and I know it will make the experience so much easier. Thanks, Mardi.

    Best wishes for a very Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

  5. How wonderful for you Mardi! What an experience!!! And great post!
    Wishing you a dazzling Christmas, in Paris, how could it not be?

  6. What a great experience for you. You've been practicing these macs before and now you're in Paris. Sooner or later you'll be an expert. 😀

  7. Ahhhhhh! I've been wanting to do a macaron class for awhile… looks like I have a new excuse to go to Paris. And to practice my francais 🙂

  8. What an incredible lesson in macaron making!
    Just popping in to wish you a Merry Christmas and a happy holiday!

  9. What a wonderful post! A true dream come true! Learning to make macarons at LENOTRE. Lucky Girl! I made them last summer, I managed feet but alas the tops were not right. Now I can see what I did wrong, hopefully I can put this new knowledge to work. Keep posting! I love these Paris reads! Pam

  10. Joy – I can't wait to try them again either!

    Jamie – oh the pressure the pressure! I think at least my macs won's fail SO much next time!

    Kate – nope, no resting. And yes it was so lovely to meet you and Dan! I will be writing my post including our visit for sometime next week too. So much to write about here…

    Chrystal – well Lenôtre is known as "le top" here amongst those in the know though everyone has their preferences…

    Chez us – well, I don't know about pro… but I will try my best!

    Cathy – I am glad you are inspired!

    Lori Lynn – thanks – you too!

    Myrtille – toi aussi!

    Dawn – yay!!

    Fuji Mama – well we will see if I actually learned anything when I try them at home! Joyeux Noël to you and yours too!

    Divina – I hope so!

    Linda, mais oui!

    Fresh Local – thanks and you too!

    Gypsy Chef – thanks and glad you are enjoying the posts!

    April – thanks!

    Martha – and no sand storm in sight!

    Edite – they only last 5 days after you make them but perhaps we can have a "workshop" in Toronto when I am back home… Joyeux Noël to you and Richard and Scott!

    Taste Hong Kong – You too and thanks!

  11. What a delightful little macaron class you've attended and shared with us!! I heard in the olden times that they actually let the egg whites sit out in room temp for at least 24 hours!!

    Merry Christmas!

  12. Ellie – well some of us need the extra help, right?

    Penny – Soon, I am sure the macaron class will make its way to you!

    Jen – FOUR days these were left at room temp – ick! (but it clearly worked!)

  13. Anything that comes from Lenotre can't be bad. I can tell you that American powdered sugar has cornstarch. Maybe it's the egg yolk that spoils the eggs left out?
    I don't have a website or account except at AOL: Harbot

  14. I've been looking forward to reading about this. Makes it seem so easy peasy, I guess we just all need Chef François and an industrial kitchen and we can achieve this every day! Did Chef François express an interest in visiting Australia anytime soon?

  15. Wonderful post! I enjoyed the pictures and the descriptions of the LeNotre workshop. Merci beaucoup et bon restant de votre séjour a Paris.

  16. Sweet! An excellent post and truly deserving of the Number One "Top 9" Foodbuzz. Thank you so much for taking us with you on your culinary journeys!

    ~Cleo Coyle
    author of The Coffeehouse Mysteries

  17. Well, you deserved #1 in Foodbuzz Top 9! With all the shoveling and pushing inside Metro… I know how it was! Well earned! I wished I was Paris at that time 😀

  18. mardi, they're gorgeous! (and your photos here are beautiful.) i'll bet the ones you make when you get home will turn out perfect after this workshop – it sounds like it was definitely money well spent! you've planned a great visit to paris – thanks for taking us along!

  19. Tres jolie!! Mardi, you know how we have icing mixture and pure icing sugar in Australia, the icing mixture has the cornflour in it. Glad I learnt something in my cake decorating course!! Bonne annee to you both.

  20. I may have missed a previous post, but how did you find out about this class? It sounds divine. I went to a class in Melbourne earlier this year – macaron obsessed. I am intrigued that they use icing sugar with starch. I thought that was a no-no. Obviously it's the real deal. I saw macarons being made last year in Paris at Gerald Mulot – in their kitchen for retail sales. I didn't think to ask that question at the time!

    What a wonderful experience that you had here. Now you'll be a macaron master yourself! 🙂

  21. A terrific step-by-step Mardi.
    How lucky that your French is fluent too.
    I love your rejects the best-very sculptural

  22. Moonglow – glad to oblige and feed your enthusiasm!

    Paris Breakfasts – LOL re: the rejects – I thought they were kind of fun too! And yes, the being fluent sure did help!

    Julia – I actually googled "macarons cours paris" and then "macaron classes paris" and came across a post on Paris Breakfasts about Lenôtre. Pure "hasard"! Re: the icing sugar and starch – I think everyone has their techniques and this just happens to be Lenôtre's… As for being a macaron master, well…. we'll see!

    tastyeats – thanks!

    Tami – thanks for the info – I guess I never really thought about the difference before…

    Best Family – we shall see if I am able to recreate these babies sans the help of Chef François!

    pixen – thanks! I am stoked that this made #1!!!

    Cleo and high low – thanks! Squeeee! Number 1!!!!

    Alexa – I am glad you enjoyed it!

    Andrea – many thanks!

    Conor – I have dibs on Chef François visiting me here in Canada you know! And yes, the industrial beautifully outfitted kitchen really helps!!!

  23. What a lovely recap – those domed macs look so perfect, every one of them! Thanks for sharing your day with us, I would love to attend one of these workshops!

  24. Hi! What a beautiful write up, thank you!

    I have a very silly question: is almond meal the same as ground almonds? I've also seen macaron recipes call for almond powder, but don't know the difference! The only thing in UK shops in ground almonds 🙁

  25. Alexandtheweb – Yes, almond meal is ground almonds. You would want to still zap them in a coffee or spice grinder or the food processor to make them as fine as you can though.

  26. Boquete Gourmet – thanks so much for your kind comments. Your site is wonderful and most definitely a lot further on than "in progress"! Was in Boquete two Christmases ago and it was wonderful! Thoroughly enjoyed it.

  27. This is fabulous. I just found it by reading today’s post. I’m a new macaroon devotee and though I don’t have the space or a decent kitchen to make these, I am, as I write, trying to find better-equiped friend to loan me a kitchen. Thank you for a great article and wonderful photos.

  28. Chef Schmitt was NOT jovial in my classe – guess he was having a bad hair day. We got to do very little of significance IMO
    We just did a little of the grunt work mostly. I was not best pleased by the class at that horrid price 🙁
    C’est la vie. My post on it is here:
    I think I learned more watching at Gerard Mulot:

  29. Delana – thanks so much for your comment – glad you are enjoying the blog!

    Carol – looks like you had a different chef than ours (who was François Schmitt) – so perhaps that was the problem? (also I think you already commented earlier on up there?!)

    • Oh no worries – I was just wondering if it was in fact you – when I transferred my blog to WordPress, I lost the links to people’s names in the comments and wouldn’t figure out if it was you as well! Funny that you had such a negative experience – it was your post that I came across that made me book at Lenôtre!

  30. Such a difference reading this post after taking the class, Mardi! I see the chef does some things different… like sift. I did exactly that before, and used the bigger bits for the nut paste fillings… but Chef Antony was very much against this as you read in my post. And, it looks like your Chef had an assistant. I think that would be important. Ours did not, but he definitely needed one. I think this is why he forgot to speak English! Making the nut paste fillings would be interesting for me. I would love to have your recipe, if you still have it somewhere. I love how your Chef laid out the spoons for tasting. Ours did not. We just did it on our own. And, as you saw, the chocolate one failed. But, I am not discouraged. It was a wonderful wonderful day. I think our Chef did use the same technique as you describe that yours used… but, only when showing us how, though he did not describe it, or have us practice the correct way. Your description of “like a comma” helped me a lot!
    Great re-read, Mardi!
    I am still in Belgrade. Way behind on my reads, but will be home later next week. I will continue my quest to conquer the elusive French Macaron. Thanks for the inspiration.

  31. Pingback: Piece Montée -also known as Croquembouche | Always Leave Room For Dessert
  32. Heey, I love your blog!! Your posts and photos are beautiful!! I also love Paris and I’ am going there this month so, could you give me some information about the Lenotre’s classes, please? As I’ am brazilian, it’s been very difficult to make contact with the people from Lenôtre. I just would like to know if teenagers can do these workshops or they need to do the specific classes as “Les Toques Juniors”,
    Thank you!!


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