Little drops of heaven 

Little drops of heaven 

They are dainty, they are refined, they are designer! If there was ever an award for the most elegant dessert, a macaron would probably be the strongest contender, writes Deepa Natarajan Lobo

Chewy yet crunchy, these sophisticated little darlings are surely an indulgence, but one that you don’t mind. Not to be confused with macaroons, which are ‘coconutty,’ crunchy and usually dipped in chocolate, macarons are sandwiches made from egg whites, almond flour and sugar with a dollop of icing, jam, buttercream or ganache in between. Light and airy, a macaron is not just the perfect dessert after a heavy meal but also an ideal quick bite with a cup of tea or coffee. 

From the pages of history

While many think macarons originated in France, they were first made in the Venetian monasteries of Italy as early as the 8th Century AD. But back then, they were a far cry from the exotic art form that they have become today. They were small, simple cookies without fillings made from almonds, sugar and egg whites and known as ‘priests’ belly button’ due to their shape. 

The French connection came about in 1533 when Catherine de Medici married the French prince Henry II and left Italy. She took the recipe along with her to France and under her orders, the French pastry chefs refined the dessert further and further. In 1792 during the French Revolution, two nuns (known as the Macaron Sisters) baked and sold the confection to make ends meet. However, it was only in the 19th century that macarons turned into two colourful little discs sandwiched together with a splash of ganache or cream in between. A lot of its popularity has been attributed to the now world-famous French patisserie Laduree, which was created in 1862. Interestingly, Laduree is all set to open its first outlet in India (in New Delhi) soon. 

Hitting a high note

Today, macarons are a best-selling affair in most parts of the world and a hit on high tea menus everywhere because they are bite-sized and oh-so-elegant. A reason why they are a huge favourite according to Payal Ghatnekar, a passionate baker who lives in the UK, is that they are more diverse than a cake. “You can fill just about anything inside a macaron. Each part of the world uses different fillings. For instance, Asians use more black sesame seeds while Indians use more cardamom and saffron flavours,” she says. The macarons have even found an Indian cousin in the form of the white Thoothukudi macaroons, which are made from cashews instead of almonds.

Pooja Dhingra, undoubtedly the biggest name in India when it comes to macarons, tried her first macaron 12 years ago in Paris as a culinary student and has been addicted ever since. “It was a passionfruit macaron from Pierre Herme and I still remember how it tasted. My goal and aim then became to bring macarons to India,” she recalls. Pooja, who is also known as the ‘Macaron Queen of India’, then went on to create the famed Le15 Patisserie in Mumbai, which makes a range of sweet and savoury macarons. Her personal favourites on the menu are the flavours inspired from Japan such as Cherry Blossom, Yuzu and Miso Sesame.

The eggless expedition

With vegetarianism and veganism gaining popularity all over the world, eggless and vegan macarons are flying off the shelves pretty fast too. While aquafaba, the water in which chickpeas have been cooked, replaces egg whites in the recipe, the rest of the cooking technique remains pretty much the same. “We introduced vegan macarons three years ago and they are incredibly popular,” says Pooja. 

Delhi-based food blogger and influencer Shivesh Bhatia also has the recipe of eggless macarons on his blog Bake with Shivesh. “I work on a lot of eggless recipes since a major part of my audience needs vegetarian options. So the eggless macarons recipe on my channel is quite popular and in fact, I’ve seen people make some really great macarons after picking up tips and tricks from that video,” he informs.  

Tricky affair

Making a pillowy macaron is a technical and challenging affair. Many things can go wrong. Sometimes they turn out too dry or brittle, sometimes burnt, sometimes just not the right colour. But as they say, practice makes perfect. “Macarons are complex to make and take some time to master. Some mistakes that people make are not weighing their ingredients correctly and not letting the macarons dry before baking,” says Pooja.   

But once you learn the ‘tricks of the trade’, you can have your own piece of macaron and eat it too! “If you have the right recipe and the right knowledge about the techniques involved, you can make them quite easily. I would suggest reading about them as much as possible as well as watching detailed videos to get as many tips and tricks up your sleeve before you go into the kitchen. Gather knowledge about folding, temperature control and humidity which are the three important factors to consider while making macarons. It takes a number of trials but you will surely get it right after a bit of practice,” sums up Shivesh.

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