Over the weekend, Hrishikesh and I made salted caramel butter ice cream. Well- we almost made it- we made the caramel, and added the salted butter, and the cream and milk and egg yolks, thickened the mixture to a custard, strained it into another batch of ice milk, chilled everything overnight and the next morning put it in my brand new ice cream machine, which I brought back from America- only to have it stop running after five minutes. We were using a converter, because American electronics run on 110 v and Indian run on 220 v- but it didn’t help. After letting the machine cool down, we gave it another go and again, after five minutes, it stopped churning. I didn’t want to break my ice cream maker, which Hrishikesh says we can get rewired to the correct voltage (?) so I put the custard back into the fridge and tonight I’m going to churn it in my grandmother’s old machine.
Anyway, I had five egg whites leftover from the ice cream so today, feeling particularly ambitious, I attempted to make macarons. Before I met Hrishikesh’s family, I had a hazy concept of macarons- all I knew is that they were an eggy cookie. But Hrishikesh’s family is obsessed with them. Whenever his parents go abroad, they bring back a box of beautiful Sprungli macarons, little almond cookies filled with rich ganache, and the lazy time after dinner suddenly becomes an anticipated event of passing the pastel cookies from person to person and relishing the flowery almond bites.
Then, on our way back from America, we stopped in Paris and visited Laduree, which, I learned, is the macaron shop, the first to popularize sandwiching the cookies with a layer of cream or ganache, making what we recognize today as the macaron. Hrishikesh and I walked to the left bank shop from our apartment and spent a handful of minutes once we arrived admiring the sage green and violet window display outside the store before ducking inside and drooling over the gorgeous pastries and assortment of macarons. We got a box of six – orange blossom, lemon, lime-basil, chocolate, raspberry and salted caramel, the last one my favorite- and Laduree’s macarons are exquisite, the flavors developed to a delicate perfection.
Now that I’ve tried to make my own, I am in awe of Laduree’s and Sprungli’s macaron makers. These are tough to make, both in terms of technique and flavor. All of mine cracked in the oven, none of them have the glossy top and line of knubbly crust, and about half of them burned. It’s of course difficult to achieve the delicate intensity of flavor of Laduree’s macarons. And handling a pastry bag? Well, it was my first time, and I definitely am not a natural. After both my (plastic, disposable) pastry bags tore, I ended up scooping spoonfuls of batter onto my baking sheet to make some large chocolate chip cookie size circles (most of which ended up burning). But a few- maybe 15 or so- turned out just fine. I made the prune-Armangnac filling, substituting bittersweet chocolate for the milk chocolate, spread it on the cooled cookies, and put them in the refrigerator for a bit (it’s too humid here to leave them out). The result: fragile but chewy cocoa almond cookies, sandwiching a vibrant layer of chocolate.