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Belly button gazing: Part I

Thursday, April 8, 2010

I love crafting with papier mache and baking and this olde worlde signboard I made demonstrates both these passions.
One of my ultimate quests in the realm of baking is to make a perfect macaron (pronounced /ma-kah-ron/, a distant cousin of the macaroon), those French almond meringue cookie layers that come in so many colours and with a variety of fillings.

A while ago, I was at a press event to promote the World Instant Noodle Association's summit in Kuala Lumpur that's scheduled for later this month. Besides being served instant noodle dishes that had been elevated to haute cuisine status (unnecessary, I think, since instant noodles are the ultimate in instant gratification; but to each his own), there was also an array of lovely little macarons in various colours, all just slightly bigger than a 50 sen coin. The chef who had created the noodle dishes was Nathalie Arbefeuille, a Frenchwoman who runs Nathalie's Gourmet Studio in Kuala Lumpur. I presume she and her team had made the macarons as well since they're featured on her website. They were very good ­­– I've only had French-style macarons once before so this was a real treat. Silly me, I only tried a couple of purple ones with a chewy berry filling and I regret that I didn't try the other flavours, but I didn't want to look like a glutton – that's only for when I'm alone.

I don't know anything about I Love Macarons by Hisako Ogita, but I had to mention the book so that I could put a picture of its cover here. Aren't the cookies cute? See, this is why I have to make them.

I have attempted it before but have never been successful. Sure, the taste is correct but good macaron cookies have smooth rounded tops and something called "feet" on them, which I've never been able to achieve. But armed with information from David Lebovitz (and links from his blog) and Joe Pastry (who has step-by-step pictures to go with his instructions), as well as tips and recipes from Serious Eats, I will attempt to make these cuties again.

* * *
According to many sources, the best egg whites for macarons are those that have been aged as they whip better. Not actually knowing when I would try to make macarons, I went ahead and separated some eggs anyway and now have a bowl of whites that have been sitting in the fridge for three days. This has forced me to get down to the task soon so the next instalment in the tale of the belly buttons should be up in the not too distant future. By the way, the reference to navels is explained in this Wall Street Journal article. There's also a video where the WSJ reporter stopped passers-by on the streets of Paris, and asked them to taste macarons from the famous French patisserie Ladurée and a fast food chain (in France, macarons are sold at that American burger joint; quelle horreur!) to see if they could tell the difference.

1 comment:

  1. I love those colourful looking macaroons. Have always wanted to try one...but have yet too. The colours are enticing.


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