Pastry Chef Stephane Treand’s hands moved effortlessly as he piped small mounds of macaron batter onto large baking sheets. One hand guided the bag, while the other applied gentle pressure, the piping dance so ingrained in memory that his movements required little concentration. Nine rows of nine, each little macaron shell looking like the next. (Pastry Chef Stephane Treand at The Pastry School in Costa Mesa’s SOCO Collection. – Thanks to Paul Rodriguez for this photo.)
A group of food writers watched knowing that they would soon be trying to replicate Treand’s macaron moves. The scribes gathered to take a baking class at The Pastry School, Treand’s new teaching area located next to his pastry shop, ST Patisserie Chocolat.
(You can buy them next door at ST Patisserie Chocolat, but what fun to make them!)
The shop feels Parisian, but not in an old-school sense. The pastries seem traditional yet re-imagined; innovative. French-born Treand is a recognized master craftsman. In 2004 he received the highest honor that there is in the French pastry industry when he was awarded the Meilleur Ouvrier de France certification by the President of France.
Step by step he showed the participants every nuance, from how to “glue down” two layers of parchment paper on the baking sheets with dabs of batter (the bottom sheet was lined with boldface circles that showed through the top sheet – stencils to guide the baker with sizing and shaping), to how to fill and sandwich shells with ganache.
Anita Lau (l), Diary of a Mad Hungry Woman blogger, teamed up with Anne Marie Panoringan (r), a food writer for OC Weekly. After seeing her lovely baked macaron shells, Lau said that she was quite pleased with herself because she never considered herself a baker.
Priscilla Willis (l), She’s Cookin blogger, brought her baking-enthusiast daughter, Chloe Willis (r).
They also turned out lush macarons, reveling in the fun they had in the process.
Piping macaron batter into Valentine’s Day heart shapes, Treand told me that he was leaving to work in Japan for a few days. He serves as executive chef-consultant for Occitanial Pastry Shop in Tokyo.
The perfect macaron, he said, is shiny on the top and the crust is crisp; yet inside it shouldn’t be hard, the center should be a little chewy. There should be a rough-textured “foot” or “crown” at the base of each shell, a ring that forms during baking when the batter slightly rises.
He had high praises for the class as they packed up their bounty in take-home bakery boxes. Sweet words for sweet treats. Valentine’s Day treasure.
Cathy’s Notes: Chefs use scales to measure ingredients. It is the most accurate method to measure, which is especially important with fine baking. For years I’ve owned a small glass digital scale that has served me well. There are several models priced at about $50. Days after the class, I went back to The Pastry School to measure in the ingredients with measuring cups and spoons, but a pastry chef would never rely on those loosey-goosey implements.
Chef Stephane Treand’s Macarons
Yield: to make 50 to 60 macarons
3 3/4 cups almond powder (335 grams), see cook’s notes
3 1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons powdered sugar (440 grams)
1 1/4 cups egg whites, room temperature (270 grams)
1 tablespoon egg white powder (5 grams), see cook’s notes
3/4 cup granulated sugar (150 grams)
Optional: purple food coloring gel
Filling of choice, recipes follow
Cook’s notes: To make almond powder, finely grind blanched (skinned) almonds in a food processor (slivered almonds work well for this); strain (sift) two times through a sieve. Measure the nuts after sifting. If they seem moist, spread on rimmed baking sheet and place in a 250-degree oven until dry but not browned; cool before use. Egg white powder is different from meringue powder because it doesn’t contain cornstarch. It is sold at Surfas Culinary District in Costa Mesa and some baking supply stores. Instead of parchment paper, nonstick reusable Silpat macaron mats that have circles on them to help form macarons are sold at amazon.com. Or use a 1 1/2-inch ring cutter to trace circles with dark ink (such as a Sharpie), 1 1/2-inches apart on parchment paper. Place this reusable parchment upside down on baking sheet and top with another sheet of parchment.
1. Sift almond powder with powdered sugar; set aside. Preheat oven to 325 degrees (or 300 degrees for a convection oven).
2. Place egg white in the large bowl of a stand mixer; beat on medium speed for 30 seconds using the whisk attachment. Combine egg white powder and granulated sugar. Add about a tablespoon of the sugar mixture to the egg whites and continue to beat about 45 seconds. Keep adding the sugar mixture to the egg whites in small amounts, beating about 45 seconds between additions. Beat until egg whites are firm and glossy, being careful not to overbeat them. They should be stiff enough that when bowl is turned upside down the mixture (meringue) stays in place.
3. Using a sturdy spatula, mix almond powder-powdered sugar mixture into egg whites; mix rigorously enough to combine well (mixture will end up a little runny). Remove half of mixture to a separate bowl and stir in just enough food coloring to tint the mixture light lavender.
4. Line large baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpat (see cook’s notes), securing corners of paper by placing a small dab of the batter beneath each corner (this will “glue” the paper in place). Fit two large pastry bags with plain 3/8-inch tips. Using a rubber spatula, place two large scoops of the macaron batter into each bag, one with the lavender batter, one plain. You want the bags about half full. Place bag on its side on work surface and push batter down toward to tip and twist to close open end. Holding bag at a 60-degree angle, pipe small mounds of mixture (about 1 inch in diameter), spacing them about 1 1/2 inches apart. Tap baking sheets by lifting sheet about 3 inches from work surface and dropping flat on the work surface. This will spread the batter slightly and reduce air bubbles. Bake in preheated convection oven for 12 minutes or in the center of a conventional oven for about 15 minutes, or until firm to a light touch. If they are baking unevenly, rotate the baking sheet 180 degrees half way through baking. Cool on parchment set on cooling rack; peel them from parchment.
5. Match macaron shells that are the same size. You can use two that are the same color, or one cream-colored and the other lavender. Pipe ganache on flat side of one shell and place second shell on top – sandwich style. Press lightly until ganache is visible all the way around but not oozing out. For best results, place completed macarons on sheet pan, cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight. Bring to room temperature before serving. Or freeze up to 1 week (once thawed they should not be refrozen). Because they are small, they defrost quickly.
Source: Chef Stephane Treand, The Pastry School, The SoCo Collection, Costa Mesa
Yield: about 3 1/2 cups
Scant 1/4 cup cocoa butter, small disks, (25 g)
1 1/4 cups heavy whipping cream (250 grams)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla paste
2 1/3 cups white chocolate, small disks such as Valrhona or Callebaut (375 grams)
5 tablespoons butter, cut into 10 pieces (60 grams)
Cook’s notes: Vanilla paste, small disks of Valrhona or Callebaut white chocolate and cocoa butter are sold at Surfas Culinary District in Costa Mesa and online at amazon.com.
1. Place cocoa butter in a microwave safe container; microwave just until melted.
2. In a medium saucepan, combine whipping cream and vanilla paste. Bring to a boil on medium-high heat. Remove from heat and stir in one third of the white chocolate disks; stir until melted. Add half of the remaining white chocolate and stir until melted. Add remaining white chocolate and stir until melted. Stir in melted cocoa butter. Add butter and stir until melted. Line a rimmed baking sheet with plastic wrap. Spread ganache on plastic and cool.
Source: Chef Stephane Treand, The Pastry School, The SoCo Collection, Costa Mesa
Some of the ingredients for this Cassis Ganache (that are shown in the photos) are difficult to find. There are a wide variety of purees (coulis) at Surfas Culinary District in Costa Mesa, but they don’t stock the cassis flavor. Cassis puree is sold on amazon.com. The recipe can be found on the Orange County Register’s Website at http://www.ocregister.com/articles/treand-650154-pastry-chef.html
For information about upcoming classes at The Pastry School, go to http://www.stephanetreand.com/the-enthusiast-series.