Laduree are the masters of macarons

I have always been a fan of macarons and even in the face of tough competition from the cupcake world, I can honestly say I would rather indulge in a mouthful of macaron, especially if it is the salted caramel or liquorice flavour from Laduree.

So I jumped at the chance of joining my school teaching friends, Caroline & Andy, at a macaron making class this weekend on offer from Living Social. These online deals are a fascinating addition to new media marketing and I have been somewhat cynical about their value up until now.

Our voucher was for a morning class at On Cafe in Clapham, home of Loretta Liu a patisserie chef who has worked with a class line up of Michelin starred chefs and now sells her macaroons in Harvey Nicols and at the Southbank Real Food Festival. Loretta claims that teaching is her passion now, and set up the cookery school to share the secrets of perfect macaroon making.

I arrived just before the 10 am starting time to be told the class was delayed and I should have received an e mail to that effect, which clearly I didn’t. We waited for half an hour and the removal of some old refrigeration equipment before getting stuck in. Loretta herself really didn’t seem to be emanating the serene happy energy that I felt it would take to host this session. If her passion was for teaching she was hiding it well! She may not be a morning person but when you are fronting a session like this, you really do need to be on your game. It just all felt pretty negative: no taking photos of the demo, no questions during the demo, no specific answers, just guidelines for you to take home! And some very dirty aprons.

Generally I am an advocate of pushing the brand experience into this added value zone, but there were some lessons to be learnt here. It is imperative to think about who the customer is interacting with. Done well, you walk away with a great connection with the brand and a sense that you have had a special insight into the workings of the place, but the alternative will put you off for life.

I really must get a Kenwood mixer

So, back to the class. As with most bakery, there are some top tips to follow and once the demo started we were let into a few of the secrets. Who knew the egg white had to be 3 days old? or the art of knowing just when the meringue is at the right stage of whisking (3 minutes, peaks and very white whites)…oh! and don’t mix the ground almonds with the sugar. Add flavouring to the ganache or buttercream, not the macaron. All good stuff.

Loretta made it look so easy and in true Generation Game style, we were left to get on with our turns.

Piping perfect sizes is harder than it looks

It really did seem like we were open to some insight but that other secrets were not going to be revealed. We were shown how to pipe properly…after all the piping had been done! We were told that this method is not the one that chefs use. We were given a recipe with elements that we did not use that day as it might affect the success. This was all rather disconcerting.

Success!

Nevertheless, we did turn out pretty good first attempts and I am sure I will feel inclined to try again at my leisure. In fact, it would be great for the three of us to go into Caroline’s kitchen and try again. She is a wonderful baker in her own right running a cake making and catering business for many years and I reckon we could make good use of her facilities, having much more fun with the experimentation.

Now I have to figure out who to serve mine to and resist the temptation to eat them before the requisite 3-5 days in the fridge or 2 weeks in the freezer.

It’s a good job I am away for a few days.

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