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Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Baroque Bistro Patisserie, The Rocks - Macaron Masterclass


Macarons. The last frontier.

For such a tiny mouthful, these delicate meringue-based biscuits have been known to strike fear in the boots of home cookers, food bloggers, and MasterChef contestants.

I'd been so paranoid by the prospect of collapsed meringues, of footless travesties, of effort and soul crushed repeatedly by failure, that I'd never been game to attempt them. Until now.

It's a mac-a-RON

I smile as soon I open the instruction booklet handed out to us at the Baroque Bistro Macaron Masterclass. It's a macaron, not a macaroon. Take heed, offenders.

Our class today is being led by Jean-Michel Raynaud, chief patissier and Production and Business Development Manager at Baroque. Trained in Marseille under a master Patissier, Jean-Michel became a head pastry chef at age 20. Since then he has worked at the Michelin-starred Le Petit Nice (three stars) in France, and Sweet Art and Planet Cake in Australia. His impressive portfolio includes an MBA in Business Administration and many tv appearances.

Each week Baroque makes 8,000 macarons. The kitchen is used to make pastry in the morning, but from 2pm until midnight production is devoted exclusively to macarons.

trolleys of macarons
Trolleys of macarons

I always feel a sense of excitement whenever I step over the boundary between customer and behind-the-scenes. Our class of ten files past the display counter of sweets and into the commercial kitchen. Huge industrial-sized mixing equipment and machines line the walls. Here is a blast freezer, over there is a two-metre tall oven. Pushed into the corners are trolleys laden with tray upon tray of macaron shells.

macaron shells
Macaron shells

There is no shortage of macaron recipes online, many of which detail initial tales of woe. What is common amongst all of them is their use of the French meringue method. Of the five types of meringue methods (French, Italian, Swiss, reduced sugar and ordinary), only the French and Italian methods are used to make macarons.

The French method uses beaten egg white with caster sugar folded in at the end. This, Jean-Michel explains, creates a highly fragile mixture that is notoriously unstable mixture. This is why so many macaron-makers face such difficulty.

The Italian meringue method is a little trickier to begin with, but results in a stronger, more stable and robust mixture. The difference is the incorporation of cooked sugar into the meringue.

Interestingly we learn that macaron shells are never flavoured, only coloured. The only flavouring comes from the filling, which often permeates the shell. Just like Baroque, it is recommended that shells are made in advance - they will keep for 2-3 weeks - and the filling made the next day to alleviate stress and make the process more manageable. Drying out the shell also means more flavour will be absorbed.

Mixing the Tant pour Tant with egg whites
Mixing the Tant pour Tant with egg whites

The Italian method uses a Tant pour Tant, which Jean-Michel pronounces as tohn-pohr-tohnt. This translates to "that much for that much" and refers to the equal ratio of almond meal to icing sugar. This is combined with a precise measurement of egg whites and beaten by hand (not beater) until the mixture is well-incorporated and quite stiff. The almond mixture is covered with cling film (make sure the plastic wrap touches the surface so no skin forms) and set aside whilst the sugar is cooked.

We weigh water into a saucepan and then add the correct amount of caster sugar and any food colourings. The sugar must be taken to the soft boil stage, or about 118C. When the sugar reaches 115C, you must start beating your egg whites until they reach the soft peak stage. Both need to be ready at the same time. If the sugar is going too fast, add a little water to slow it down. It is imperative that the sugar is not boiled past 125C as it will cook your egg whites when it is added.

As soon as the sugar reaches 118C, we turn the KitchenAid on high and pour it into the soft peak egg whites. Pour the sugar down the side of the bowl, not directly onto the egg whites.

Adding the Italian meringue to the almond meal mixture
Adding the Italian meringue to the almond meal mixture

The meringue should be allowed to cool down to 50C before being incorporated gradually into the almond meal mixture. It is important to check the enough air has been taken out of the mixture. The mixture should be glossy, and a trail of mixture should sink back into itself within thirty seconds - this will ensure a smooth clean surface on your meringue shells.

piping macarons
Macaron piping technique

Our first batch is deliberately incorrect, allowing us to sense the stiffer texture of the mixture as we practice our macaron piping technique. Jean-Michel uses French baking paper saying that Australian baking paper is too dry and results in rectuangular meringues. The baking paper is placed over a macaron outline template and held down with magnets.

The best way to pipe a macaron is to
  • only fill the piping bag to one-third
  • keep the tip stationary at 1-2cm above the tray (use your other hand as a brace against the tray and keep it still)
  • pipe directly over the tray, not at an angle from the side
  • squeeze gently until the mixture has filled the circle
  • stop piping and then quickly flick the piping tip to "cut off" the flow.

macarons into the oven
Putting the test batch of macarons into the oven

Whilst the macarons are baking, we learn how to make chocolate ganache as well as salted caramel.

chocolate callets
Chocolate callets

Unsalted New Zealand butter

Jean-Michel always recommends using unsalted butter as he says salted butter in Australia is much higher than those sold in Europe. The New Zealand butter they use is sold in flattened blocks which is ideal for making crossiants.

Jean-Michel Raynaud
Jean-Michel at the glorious induction stove
(so fast and efficient!)

Pouring the boiled cream into the caramel
Pouring the boiled cream into the caramel


The caramel must be chilled in the fridge then gently warmed and beaten again by hand. This emulsifies the butter and creates a creaminess without any lingering aftertaste. The caramel will change from a dark brown to a sandy honey colour.

steak with fries
Steak with fries and buerre maitre d'hotel $29

We break for lunch at 11.30am. It's hard to believe that two-and-a-half-hours have passed. We're generously allowed to order anything off the menu. Pig Flyin has the steak with fries and buerre matire d'hotel, the beef is perfectly juicy and well-rested, the fries are crisp and addictive.

croque madame
Croque Madame $14
Ham, gruyere cheese and soft egg
French-style toast served with a mini mixed leaf salad and chips

I choose the Croque Madame which is simply superb. The flavour of the ham shines through the oozing layer of molten gruyere cheese, and the pan-fried bread is crunchy without any residual oiliness.

A fried egg, sunny side up, has a soft-yet yolk that runs lazily across the sandwich when released.

croque madame
Melted gruyere on ham

Macarons for dessert

A plate of macarons is delivered to our table for dessert.

After lunch we get stuck into the real deal, making the batches of macarons that we will sandwich with ganache and take home. We work in teams of two, half of the group making chocolate ganache, the other making salted caramel.

Our shells are tinted in different colours and we take great delight in using silver dust, gold feuilletine and chocolate cookie crumbs to decorate the shells.

macarons ready for baking
Our second lot of macarons ready for baking

The macarons should be baked at 160C (150C if fan-forced) for about 25-30 minutes. Jean-Michel recommends leaving the door open a crack to allow the steam to escape. If you do not allow the steam to escape, a skin will not form, the meringues will rise too much, and then it will collapse when cooled. If the oven door is open too wide, the skin will form too quickly and harden, and the meringue will not be able to force its way up into a "foot".

macarons in the blast freezer
Putting our baked macaron shells into the blast freezer

It is recommended to slide your macaron shells free from the tray once cooked, and allow them to cool on a wire tray. We used a blast freezer (just like on MasterChef, someone exclaimed!) to expedite ours.

Pair up similar sized macaron shells and leave one half exposed ready for piping on the ganache. It's important to pipe enough filling in an even mound. When the shells are ready to be sandwiched, gently twist one shell clockwise, wiggling the ganache so the filling is spread evenly.

my first macaron
My first handmade macaron, sandwiched with salted caramel

And look, my first handmade macaron! Isn't she beautiful!

I found the class very detailed and hands-on, with plenty of time for questions or one-on-one instruction. It's suggested that students should be able to take home a box of twenty macarons but we had such a glut (and Jean-Michel generously donated more trays) so that most students took home 40.

The bistro is very inviting, with windows onto the street that allow passersby to look into the kitchen. Everything looked so beautiful, I'll leave you with a few more photos...

Grab Your Fork and Pig Flyin attended the Macaron Masterclass as guests of Baroque Bistro.

baguette and pastry window
The pastry and baguette station by the window


shredding pork belly
Shredding a whole Berkshire pork belly

Chefs in the kitche
In the kitchen

salmon quiche
Salmon quiche

big mac
The Big Mac macaron (about the size of five normal macarons)

raspberry and passion fruit mousse
Raspberry and passion fruit mousse
with pine nut nougatine and almond sponge

chocolate mousse
Fleur de Lys
Valrhona "Guanaja 70%" chocolate mousse with crunchy praline

mango and mandarin mousse
Le Roi Soleil
Mango and mandarine mousse
with jasmine, pine nut nougatine and almond sponge

passionfruit macarons
Passionfruit macarons
Valrhona "Jivara" milk chocolate and passionfruit

Extra virgin olive oil macarons
Extra virgin olive oil macarons

Baroque | Bistro Bar Patisserie on Urbanspoon

The Baroque Macaron Masterclass costs $220 per person and will be held every Sunday until November 14, 2010. The class runs from 9am - 2.30pm (or thereabouts).

88 George Street, The Rocks, Sydney
Tel: +61 (02) 9241 4811

Open 7 days 8am - midnight
40 comments - Add some comment love

posted by Helen (Grab Your Fork) on 8/03/2010 01:49:00 am


  • At 8/03/2010 3:25 am, Anonymous Chris G said…

    We love this place. My wife even went back a couple days later to get some to go for our ride back home. Needless to say, we'll be returning again when next in Sydney.

  • At 8/03/2010 6:14 am, Anonymous Maria said…

    Looks fantastic! Love the different colours of macarons :)

  • At 8/03/2010 7:33 am, Anonymous Fiona said…

    Very cute!

  • At 8/03/2010 7:40 am, Anonymous Min Ai said…

    Ooh! Thanks for posting about this! I'm going to their 22nd August class and can't wait! I've been dying to learn how to make macarons for the longest time. Btw, the bonus of ordering anything off the menu is something I'm also looking forward to now!

  • At 8/03/2010 8:25 am, Anonymous Rhonda (thedaintybaker) said…

    The class looks like soo much fun!!! hahaha an awesome first attempt at the dreaded maca-RON looks beautiful!

  • At 8/03/2010 8:54 am, Anonymous chocolatesuze said…

    teehee i want the giant big mac macaron!

  • At 8/03/2010 10:03 am, Blogger Stephcookie said…

    Such pretty macarons! Congrats on your first batch ;) LOL I love that they have a booklet confirming what we've always been going on about. It's macaRON!

  • At 8/03/2010 10:34 am, Blogger Unknown said…

    THANK YOU. I know it's been said a bajillion times but macaron = ONE 'O' PEOPLE!! The French have spoken.

    I adore Baroque Bistro. Their pastries and cheesecakes make me so envious of the craft. Glad to see you got your first macaron batch perfected :D

  • At 8/03/2010 10:41 am, Anonymous crunchytiger said…

    Whoah whoah whoah! This looks amazing! Love the macarons at Baroque!

    I must find convince some friends to do this with me!

  • At 8/03/2010 12:05 pm, Blogger Angie Lives to Eat (and Cook)! said…

    Lovely macarons Helen! ;) So will we see you making a batch of these lovely things yourself soon? =D

  • At 8/03/2010 12:36 pm, Blogger Sara @ Belly Rumbles said…

    I may need to take myself off to one of their classes, I still haven't attempted the macaron.

  • At 8/03/2010 12:43 pm, Anonymous bowb said…

    mmm... i love those baroque macarons. so consistently plump and moist. is it heresy to say they are better than zumbo's? ;P

  • At 8/03/2010 1:04 pm, Anonymous Hannah said…

    I felt like the most special girl in the world reading this, knowing that I have a box of exactly these macarons, made by your magical fabulous hands, in my fridge right now :) Honestly, I'm lucky that I'm in my office, because if I had access to the box while I was reading this... they'd all be gone.

    Whereas I'm determined to make them last. I am so so grateful and honoured and overwhelmed, Helen, and I can't wait to try them :) And simply look at them - the gold dust and feuilletine and oh... why can't I write my PhD on how ecstatic your gift makes me? Did I mention how honoured I am? :D

  • At 8/03/2010 1:10 pm, Blogger Karen | Citrus and Candy said…

    It's almost depressing to read this cos I tried making them for the first time in 9 mths and they were a failure :(

    Maybe I should give the Italian method a try... and this class while I'm at it! Awesome photos Helen!

  • At 8/03/2010 1:43 pm, Blogger Kimberly Peterson said…

    Omgggg those macarons look divine!!! And it sounds like just the masterclass I would love to go to.. lucky you!! :)

  • At 8/03/2010 2:16 pm, Anonymous Miss Dissent said…

    So after this experience do you see yourself making macarons at home?

  • At 8/03/2010 3:52 pm, Anonymous Virginia said…

    I made the mistake of reading your post just as three thirty-itis hit me.

    With no macarons nearby and in desperate need of a sugar fix, I went straight the biccie jar and had a scotch finger instead :(

    Your first macaron turned out great!

    Very cool piccies Helen!

  • At 8/03/2010 4:10 pm, Blogger Taufulou said…

    wowh!!!! the macarons looks so tempting, with a bit crips on the skin and soft in the inside.. feels like licking my screen!

  • At 8/03/2010 4:27 pm, Blogger OohLookBel said…

    Your photos are brilliant, like being there! And your mac is pretty good, too. I think I'd get my all macarons from Baroque, if they were a bit closer (I feel like a Zumbo traitor).

  • At 8/03/2010 4:28 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    oh i would love to do this class but it is so expensive!

  • At 8/03/2010 4:29 pm, Anonymous kewpie said…

    hey helen, tres colourful, tres pretty! thanks for the delightful post...reminds me of why it's the holy grail of pastries.... so rewarding when u get it right, so aggravating when it doesn't come together!

  • At 8/03/2010 4:51 pm, Anonymous john@heneedsfood said…

    While I don't share the same enthusiasm as many people do about macarons, it would have been a fun exercise making them. Love ya work

  • At 8/03/2010 4:55 pm, Anonymous Jacq said…

    Yay for Baroque getting the spelling of 'macaron' correct! Your first macaron looks so perfect, and the salted caramel filling sounds awesome... I think I might try it next time I make macarons :)

  • At 8/03/2010 5:39 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Great! I am very happy that you posted such a detailed account of the class. I had wanted to sign up my mum, sister and sister-in-law for this a few weeks ago, but my mother wazs worried it would not be very hands-on.Alex

  • At 8/03/2010 8:10 pm, Anonymous Tina said…

    They are some sexy macaron pics! I'm a little scarred from my first attempt at them, and have never been back. Plus, Lindt is so close by... :S

  • At 8/03/2010 8:12 pm, Blogger chelle said…

    OMG I could eat those pastries from off the computer screen! Thanks for sharing this awesome masterclass - it looks amazing!

  • At 8/03/2010 9:27 pm, Blogger YaYa said…

    Oh yum, can we expect a batch of bacon and maple macarons any time soon? I've just had dinner and my mouth is drooling at the photos!

  • At 8/03/2010 9:31 pm, Anonymous Honey @ honeyandsoy said…

    Awesome!! I was so scarred by my first macaron attempt that I didn't dare try again until after I attended Baroque's macaron class (I blogged abt it too) and since then, I've managed to make them at home!! I have been macaron un-scarred, thankfully!

  • At 8/03/2010 11:27 pm, Anonymous penny aka jeroxie said…

    Ok.. my partner is in Syd. Will get him to bring home some macarons!

  • At 8/04/2010 8:02 am, Blogger Unknown said…

    Well done you Helen they look great. Macarons are notoriously hard to master. A pastry chef in Paris told me that her macarons often don't work out because of the outside temperature and other weird things like that!

  • At 8/04/2010 4:33 pm, Anonymous Obesebaby said…

    Thanks to this post, I went down to the rocks at lunch time check out the dessert hehe..then cross the street to La Renaissance too

  • At 8/05/2010 7:27 pm, Anonymous Dolly said…

    holy smokes

    a trip to the dentist i see..

    love the pink, im envious HELEN!

  • At 8/06/2010 12:34 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    You are such a natural! Look at those sexy feet!

  • At 8/06/2010 10:56 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hey fabulous blog! What a bliss to read these! Keep on with the good work! Greetings from a Chinese foodie!

  • At 8/06/2010 10:57 am, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    Hey fabulous blog! What a bliss to read these! Keep on with the good work! Greetings from a Chinese foodie!

  • At 8/09/2010 5:03 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Chris - A great idea. I always like to get travel treats, especially when you're visiting an area and find a gem like this!

    Hi Maria - Yes the macarons are so magical looking with their colours.

    Hi Fiona - And tasty too!

    Hi Min Ai - I am sure you will have so much fun. It's made me less nervous about making macarons although they do require a fair investment of time and effort!

    Hi Rhonda - It was a fantastic day, and yes it always help to have some tutelage when attempting something for the first time!

    Hi chocolatesuze - It was burger-sized!

    Hi Stephcookie - I had to laugh when I read the first line. And then I took a photo. lol

    Hi Margaret Tran - Ha, it's the crusade of one O!

    Hi crunchytiger - It's a fun class to do. I'm sure you could get a friend to treat you an vice versa!

    Hi Angie - Ha, but then I might be tempted to eat them all!

    Hi Sara - I hadn't attempted either, but I feel much less wary of them now. I think the Italian method is the way to go.

    Hi bowb - Heh, coming from you, of course not! You know only what pleases you. lol.

    Hi Hannah - They pale in real life compared to the soft focus photos but lol, glad you've been enjoying them. I went a little crazy with the feuilletine only because I could. lol. It was so awesome to meet you finally :)

  • At 8/09/2010 5:11 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Karen - I'm not quite game to try the French method, so I remain in awe that you've ever managed to pull those off. I think the Italian method is much more stabile, and yes, you should get to the class if only for the macaron snackage!

    Hi Kimberly - Thanks. It helps when you have a great teacher!

    Hi Miss Dissent - Maybe when my oven gets fixed, but yes the Italian method isn't as tricky as I thought.

    Hi Virgina - A scotch finger is a pretty adequate replacement. And thanks, it was a fab day.

    Hi taufulou - Heh, I hope you didn't! The macarons were perfect, but only because the creator is always biased!

    Hi OohLookBel - I guess the queues are shorter at Baroque these days!

    Hi Anonymous - The class does seem pricy but it's a small group of only ten and includes lunch and as many macarons as you can eat during the day. We also came home with about 50 macarons that day so it wasn't a bad investment especially when you realise you can make your own from now on!

    Hi Kewpie - I think that is exactly why macarons are so revered - they're so fragile and precious!

    Hi John - Remind me to sit next to you the next time macarons appear on a dessert menu. lol

    Hi Jacq - The salted caramel fillings are fantastic. Oddly enough, some people really didn't like it. Salt and caramel is bliss imho.

  • At 8/09/2010 5:16 pm, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Alex - I'm sure your mum will have a great time. Enjoy the class. You will all have a ball!

    Hi Tina - Heh, thanks. Desserts are always sexy :)

    Hi 'chelle - Glad you enjoyed the post :)

    Hi YaYa - That's a great idea! The flavour combinations are always half the fun.

    Hi Honey - Wow that's awesome to hear that you've been making macarons since. The class was so much fun. Good to see you putting the lessons into good use!

    Hi penny - lol. Hope he came home with a big enough stash for you!

    Hi Gourmet Chick - Aww thanks but really it was all a group effort. Yes humidity does play a factor but I think the Italian method does offer better reliability than the French method.

    Hi Obesebaby - I'm so glad you were inspired. La Renaissance is amazing - I think it's perhaps a good thing I don't work so close to it!

    Hi Dolly - I do have a trip to the dentist outstanding actually. Eek.

    Hi FFichiban - You foot fetishist you. lol

    Hi Anon - Thanks so much. Glad you've been enjoying the blog :)

  • At 8/30/2010 10:38 pm, Anonymous Anonymous said…

    can i ask what type of chocolate goes into the chocolate macaron? its supposed to be a 70% guanaja chocolate macaron, but in the ganache i've seen that they use around 50% chocolate. does the guanaja choc go into the actual shell?

  • At 9/02/2010 12:20 am, Blogger Helen (Grab Your Fork) said…

    Hi Anon - It was mentioned that high cocoa percentage chocolates are less stable when heated. We used a 53% chocolate.

    The chocolate only goes into the ganache. As stated above, the shells are only coloured, not flavoured. The ganache flavour will gradually seep into the shell over a couple of days.


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