Learning to Make French Macarons in Paris

As part of the Momondo Experiences Series, the folks at Momondo challenged us to bring you a unique cultural experience from Paris. Because we love to eat, and we think food is one of the absolute best ways to get to know a new place, Casey challenged her comfort in the kitchen with a French Macaron making class!
 
Learning to Make Macarons in Paris

 

French Macarons: sweet and colorful bites of happiness. 
  

Having both visited Paris once before, Dan and I decided to use this trip around to do a bit more than the standard tourist attractions. But while a French cooking class was at the top of my list, for some reason Dan was a little less interested in learning to craft the perfect Parisian treat. So we split up to tackle Paris individually for an afternoon, me promising I would return with a delicious souvenir.

I arrived at Cook’n With Class, a lovely little cooking school in Montemarte, on a cool and rainy afternoon. My macaron teacher for the day was Briony, an Australian native who has been living, cooking and teaching in Paris for well over a decade. After an introduction, our small class of four students donned our aprons, grabbed a cup of coffee and then took our places around the kitchen workspace, eager to begin the three-hour lesson.

The origins of macarons are debated. It is commonly thought that the Italians first brought the dessert to France in the early 1500s; however, it wasn’t until the 20th century that the macarons became the famed cookie sandwich we know them as today. A man named Pierre Desfontaines had the idea to fill two macarons with a chocolate ganache, transforming the slightly boring shell into today’s nationally acclaimed and adorable cookie.

Learning to Make French Macarons in Paris - Colorful Macarons
One of my favorite things about macarons is the filling—the unique flavor possibilities are virtually endless. I was a bit anxious to hear what flavors we would be making in class, hoping to avoid the basic ‘vanilla’ and ‘chocolate’ varieties. Luckily my sweet tooth couldn’t have been more pleased with Briony’s selections for the day: Black Current and Violet Ganache; Chocolate Passionfruit Ganache; and Caramel Beurre Salee (salted caramel). YUM!

Learning to Make French Macarons in Paris - Macaron Filling

We got to work making our ganaches and caramel first so that they could cool during the baking process. While we were melting and mixing, Briony shared her expert tips on crafting the perfect filling. So far, so good—I could handle most of this. But with creamy chocolate and caramel in the fridge, it was time to start the challenging part—creating the perfect macaron shell.

Learning to Make French Macarons in Paris - Casey Macaron Filling

I don’t bake all that often. I don’t even have a kitchen all that often. But I have watched enough Food Network to know a thing or two about a kitchen aid, and I can make a pretty mean brown buttter pumpkin cupcake with salted caramel frosting. No matter. When it came time to make the macaron shells, I knew in about five seconds that I was in way over my head. Luckily my three class participants felt about the same as I did, and Briony was patient with our constant stream of questions.

Learning to Make French Macarons in Paris - Making Macaron Shells

Learning to Make French Macarons in Paris - Making Macaron Shells

We got out the scale and began weighing our ingredients to ensure we had the exact amounts needed. Almond meal and powdered sugar were sifted; sugar water was heated to an exact temperature; and egg whites were whipped with careful precision. Briony reminded us that baking is a science. For our macarons to turn out perfectly, we had to follow each step with vigor and care.

Learning to Make French Macarons in Paris - Macaron Filling

With Briony’s skill and guidance, our meringue was soon ready to be piped onto a wax paper template. Making the shells again proved more difficult than expected, and even with a template, all of our circles were slightly different shapes and sizes.

Learning to Make French Macarons in Paris - Shells Macaron

The shells were then popped in the oven and our coffee cups refilled. We stood in front of the oven, waiting and watching for the cookie to turn just right. The perfect macaron will be slightly crispy on the outside, slightly chewy on the inside, and with a ‘foot’ on the bottom. While baking, it’s important to keep the oven door cracked open to keep the shells from cracking. Seriously, macarons are as high-maintenance as they come.

Learning to Make French Macarons in Paris - Shells Macarone

Around 15 minutes later our cookies were ready for their filling. As we matched shells of similar sizes, I resisted all urges to swipe a cookie for a sneaky sample. With a bit of a gold-dusting here and a bit of piping there, our small kitchen crew soon had six dozen macarons to be proud of.

Learning to Make French Macarons in Paris - Macarons

While our macarons might not compete with the famous Parisian macaron houses, I thought they turned out pretty darn good—no cracking, all of them spherical-ish, and with a lovely array of colors. But of course the most important part: could they pass the taste-test? Briony informed us that macarons always taste better the second day, but I had already waited three hours and there was no way I was going to go any longer than that! I sampled one of each color, and swooned over the results. They were fantastic! The Black Current and Violet turned out to be my favorite, with the Salted Caramel coming in at a close second.

I left Cook’n With Class with a box of 18 macarons, and though I easily could have eaten them all by myself en-route to meet Dan, I did decide to share a few with my wonderful husband and a few Parisian friends. To my delight, the Parisians were shocked to learn that I had something to do with making the macarons. I’ll take it as a testament to how great the sweets were (and not how out-of-place I seem in the kitchen!)

Learning to Make French Macarons in Paris - Macarons

I am a bit skeptical about what results I’ll have when I attempt to make macarons on my own. Normally when I cook it’s with a glass of wine in hand, a loose recipe nearby, and a lot of ‘a little of this’ and ‘why not a little of that’. Or basically I do the complete opposite of perfectly formulated cookie science. But if nothing else, my afternoon of making macarons taught me just how much adoration these sweet little bites deserve. I don’t think I’ll ever complain about paying 2€ for a macaron again!

 

Though you can purchase macarons just about anywhere in Paris, the following are two of the most renowned macaron shops:

Laduree is famed for selling the original macaron, and is named after the grandfather of French macaron inventor Desfontaines.

Pierre Herme is famed for his innovative flavor inventions like chocolate foie gras and strawberry wasabi. Come here on March 20th, Macaron Day, for a free macaron.

 

To take your own macaron making class, get in touch with Cook’n With Class. They offer a variety of cooking classes if (for some crazy reason) macarons just aren’t your thing.

 

Do you love macarons? Have you ever taken a cooking class?

 

Meet: Casey Siemasko


Casey Siemasko is a blogger, content marketer, and co-founder of A Cruising Couple. She has been living and traveling outside of the US full-time since 2011. She finds her life inspiration in exploring the world and seeks to find the magic in the most ordinary of places.

52 Comments

  1. Casey, that is simply the coolest thing ever! I love macaroons and I would’ve died to take that class with you! What was Dan doing in the meantime? Do you think you could teach me how to make macaroons when you visit in June? I’m so envious of you guys and what you get to experience. You’ll definitely be glad later on in life that you experienced so much. 🙂

    Reply
    • Aw thanks Amanda! I wish you could have been taking the class with me – that would have been SO much fun!! I would love to teach you sometime! It seriously takes forever so I don’t know if I’ll be able to in June (we’re going to Canada from the 3-7, so I’ll just be back in time to see everyone on the evening of the 7th) but definitely let’s plan sometime! Or I can send you the recipe if you want to try it first and see how they turn out!

      Reply
  2. Congratulations on your success with the macarons! My mouth is watering just reading about them and seeing the pictures. Love you both.

    Reply
    • Thanks so much! Maybe I can make some to share over the holidays 🙂

      Reply
      • That would be awesome!

        Reply
  3. Oooh, fun! I think you did a great job – indeed, no cracking and all roughly the same shape is a great result! I’m most impressed, though, that you managed not to eat them all before meeting up with Dan and your friends. Not sure I could’ve resisted!
    Sam recently posted…Gourmet Vegan Berlin: La Mano VerdeMy Profile

    Reply
    • Thank you so much! I was really pretty proud of them, even if I had so much supervision in the process haha. It was seriously SO hard not to eat every last one of them immediately. I have such a sweet tooth, too, so it would not have been a problem for me 🙂

      Reply
  4. Oh my Gooood. This is now on the top of my bucket list! 😀 How cool is that? They look super delicious. Were they better on the second day or did you manage to eat them before? I don’t think I could do that… Macarons are simply the best little bites of heaven – I had no idea how hard they were to make. 🙂 I’ll be sure to not complain about the price the next time we visit Ladurée and Paris. <3
    Celia recently posted…A Day In CopenhagenMy Profile

    Reply
    • Thank you! Yea I didn’t realize just how much time went into making them, either. The good part is that it’s easier to make a large batch than a small one, so at least you end up with like a bazillion macarons when you’re done!

      Reply
    • Thank you!! I’m really looking forward to making them a second time around to see how they turn out again 🙂

      Reply
  5. I’ve always thought they looked so cool and it really looks fun to make- but I’ve never been a cookie/pastry person and not sure I’d even like one haha, but they LOOK so freakin’ good! It’s like cucumbers… I WISH I liked them haha
    Rachel of Hippie in Heels recently posted…My Guide: the BEST Itinerary for IndiaMy Profile

    Reply
    • You’re lucky you’re not a cookie person. I have such a sweet tooth, and though I eat relatively healthy otherwise, I can’t say no to desserts 🙂

      Reply
  6. I have been totally wanting to take a macaron making class. In Paris, of course. I’m very impressed with your finished macarons. I hear they are incredibly difficult to make without crushing.
    Jennifer recently posted…Cannes Day Trip: Île Sainte-MargueriteMy Profile

    Reply
    • Paris is definitely the place to learn how to make them! It was such a great afternoon. You definitely have to have a tender touch when putting them together though- they are dainty little things haha!

      Reply
  7. How did you manage not to eat them all before meeting up with Dan? That would have been to challenging for me. 🙂 I like macarons and I wouldn’t mind to have some professional class to learn how to make them, maybe there also is a vegan option who knows.
    Franca recently posted…Our Tips To Cheap Local Living with HousesittingMy Profile

    Reply
    • You have no idea how hard it was haha! That’s a great idea about a vegan option. I have no idea if it would be possible or not because they are so finicky, but it would definitely be worth trying!

      Reply
    • Thank you! I never realized just how much work goes into making them. But now, somehow, I love them even more 🙂

      Reply
  8. I was seriously just looking up how to make these and couldn’t find a good tutorial. Now you must teach me!!!!:)

    Reply
    • Okay! I would LOVE to! Next reunion can be a macaron making workshop 😉

      Reply
  9. Oh my god I love those little things!! They’re addictive!!! I once tried baking them but I ended up with disks harder than a rock 🙁
    I loved how you experienced something totally different in Paris, yet very peculiar 🙂
    I always read your blog, even if I don’t always comment – lazy girl 😀
    xx Pam
    a Blonde around the World recently posted…#TRAVELTUESDAY QUOTES N.6My Profile

    Reply
    • Aw thank you! Don’t worry- we are so bad about commenting, too 🙂 Sorry to hear that your macaron baking didn’t turn out a success. You’ll have to try again some day 🙂

      Reply
  10. Our cooking tends to be fairly simple – threw out all our baking pans a while ago! But eating macarons? Well, who could resist! (And it looks like you had loads of fun learning to make them…)
    Sand In My Suitcase recently posted…Lovin’ lots of things to do on LanaiMy Profile

    Reply
    • Thank you!! Yea haha Dan thinks I’m ridiculous since we don’t even own any cooking stuff, but hopefully one day we will 😉

      Reply
  11. That is pretty cool. The closest class I have ever taken to a macaroon making class is a Thai Cooking class in Chang Mai. Just something about getting into the local food and learning how it is really done adds a layer of memorability (if that’s a word) to a vacation.
    Tim recently posted…Brazilian Death TrainMy Profile

    Reply
    • A thai cooking class would be awesome, too! Definitely on our bucket list as well 🙂

      Reply
    • Thanks Charlie! It’s supposed to let the flavors ‘sit’ or something, but to be honest, I couldn’t really tell a difference haha.

      Reply
  12. Love love love this post!! Would you believe I’ve taken 2 macaroon making classes in London but am still yet to try it at home because I’m so certain I’ll never be able to master it without help from a pro!! I should give it a go I guess but in the time, we’re lucky to have Pierre Herme and Laduree stores here in any case so I’ve still been getting my fix 😀
    Shikha (whywasteannualleave) recently posted…A Sunday in San Telmo Market, Buenos AiresMy Profile

    Reply
    • Thank you!! I don’t blame you on being hesitant to try them at home- I’m in the same boat! But that’s amazing you have two legendary macaron shops nearby. I’m jealous!!

      Reply
  13. Wow, we’ve never seen macaroons that colourful before. We used to love eating these in the UK. Although there are plenty of goodies to satisfy a sweet tooth on GC, macaroons aren’t one of them.
    Gran Canaria Local recently posted…Hito RestauranteMy Profile

    Reply
    • Thanks! Maybe they’ll pop up soon in GC- they seem to be gaining popularity all the time! 🙂

      Reply
    • Thanks Heather! Haha it was not easy to be so generous, that’s for sure 😉

      Reply
    • Ahh you’re so lucky! I would love to live close to a macaron shop!

      Reply
    • Thanks Mary! They were pretty delicious if I do say so myself 😉 Haha and it’s so true- no surprise at all!

      Reply
    • Thanks Micki! I love how creative you can get with the colors and the flavors- it might be my favorite part!

      Reply
  14. I can’t wait for the workshop at our next reunion! 🙂 You did a great job making these!!!

    Reply
    • Macarons are so much fun but I never realized the dedication that goes into making them! I love learning about the history of this kind of stuff as well.

      Reply
  15. What an awesome experience, Casey! I’m definitely more of a cook than a baker as I kind of hate to measure and be precise in the kitchen, but if the reward is macarons, I could probably be persuaded. We only indulged at Pierre Hermé while we were in Paris but I think I’ve established a lifelong addiction! Perhaps it’s for the best I don’t know how to make these sweet treats in my own home…
    Steph (@ 20 Years Hence) recently posted…Travel Photo Roulette #81: The Face of a NationMy Profile

    Reply
    • One day when I get my own kitchen I hope I am still able to remember how to make these because they are so much fun, but very time consuming.

      Reply
  16. We just took this Macaron class on our 5th wedding anniversary trip to Paris based on your recommendation and awesome review. We loved it! Thank you for spreading the word!

    Reply

Trackbacks/Pingbacks

  1. 50 Cool Things to Do in Paris - A Cruising Couple - […] Play Prev Next…

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

CommentLuv badge

736 Shares
Share60
Tweet126
Pin506
Share3
+141