Well, to be accurate, learning how to make macarons and having the lovely tutors at the Cooks Academy rescue me after I made a dog's dinner of my first batch!
I may be something of a Cooks Academy addict. I have done many of their classes starting with their sushi class back when they were still based in Dun Laoghaire. They are now in much fancier digs on South William Street and their range of classes has expanded to fit their larger home. They run both hands on and demonstration classes and occasionally run masterclasses with professional chefs (they have run offers in the past for these through rewarding times).
I had a voucher to put towards the cost of a class so I decided I would test my skills with one of the trickier classes - attempting to make macarons definitely pushed me out of my kitchen comfort zone!
The meringue initially got the better of me on this occasion; it is incredibly easy to overwork the mixture and my first set of prettily piped macarons swiftly slumped into one big sheet of meringue goo! My next batch was much better although my hesitance to stir the mixture too much is obvious as the colouring isn't completely stirred in but I think it actually looks quite attractive. You can see how my piping skills progressed from right to left in this photo !
Some of the tips we learnt in the class included:
*Use old egg whites as it's best if the albumen is broken down and as watery as possible (without being off obviously). You can even freeze your egg whites and use them once defrosted.
*Fold your meringue into the sugar / ground almond mixture as lightly as possible, one or two turns is all it takes to overwork the mixture.
*Don't use supermarket liquid food colouring. You will need to use too much to get your desired colour and upset the wet/dry ingredient ratio. Powder or gel based colours from a shop like decobake are better.
*Once piped, leave your macarons to form a skin. When you lightly press them nothing should come away on your finger.
*You are only limited by your imagination when it comes to flavouring the ganache fillings. We made a huge selection of different flavours including orange and rosemary, and lemon and basil which were amazing.
I think making macarons appeals to me for similar reasons that I enjoy making canapes. They are dainty, elegant (when I haven't made a mess of piping them) and they offer limitless possibilities for getting creative with both your decorations and flavours.
I haven't posted the macaron recipe here on purpose as a) it belongs to Cooks Academy and b) I was a dope and left my recipe sheet at the class by accident so I haven't yet had the opportunity to practice my skills and try out my idea for cocktail themed macarons - lime and mint mojito macarons anyone??
If you would like to try this class, or any others at Cooks Academy, details can be found here or you can call them on 01 611 1666. Evening hands-on classes lasting 2.5 hours and including all ingredients cost €70. The next macarons workshop is scheduled for the 2nd September.