Monday, May 16, 2011

I made French macarons

Never Done: I made French macarons

I love macarons -- have loved them since before the macaron craze, but the craze hasn't put me off one bit -- the more places to buy wonderful French macarons, the better. It didn't occur to me that I could just make them until a little over a year ago, at a community passover seder, when Mich brought a beautiful batch. I had noticed her during the ceremony part of the seder, because she said something that felt wise and integrated -- integrated between her self that had clearly had a traditional Jewish education and her thoughtful community self. I made a mental note to go meet her during the potluck portion of the seder. When we got to the potluck, I took a macaron, not knowing who had made it, and was blown away. So delicious, so perfect, so ... French! I asked around to find out who made them, and it turned out to be Mich. I went over to talk with her, and we've pretty much been friends ever since.

The first plan we ever made together was for her to teach me how to make French macarons. It's also the plan we've made together that's taken the longest to execute (over a year.) But when we finally landed on May 15 as a possibility, I thought it was perfect, because it is my mom's (would have been) 81st birthday, and she would have loved to be here and bake with us. Also, it just happened to land on a day that Abigail could also be with us, as well as Mich's good friend V.

My mom would have adored Mich and Abigail (and my friendship with them) -- which is something I thought about a lot while we were baking. My mom had close cross-generational friendships. It wasn't something she necessarily named as such; it just came naturally to her to want to spend time with the people she liked the best, regardless of their age. She was naturally attuned to Righteousness: What is hateful to you, do not do to others -- and she found age discrimination particularly hateful. As we spent hours together making meringue and french butter cream (make a sugar syrup, blend it with beaten eggs until it cools to room temperature, and then add an entire pound of butter, chunk by chunk, until the whole thing breaks down and looks separated and wrong, and then suddenly it all comes together into a thick butter creamy spread, which we then flavored in five batches: chocolate hazelnut, vanilla, caramel, lingonberry, and coconut) and wandering away from each other to read sections of the New York Times, and wandering back again to assemble macarons, I noticed how much I love these two women, and how I hope and expect I'll be close with them forever, how I rarely think about our 15-20 year age differences. I get it, Mom.

So the macarons came out of the oven, and we let them cool, and we filled one with chocolate hazelnut butter cream, and we shared it, and it tasted so ... Jewish. Not like a French macaron at all, but like a chewy, toothy Jewish meringue macaroon. I was disappointed -- I didn't like how it tasted, and I didn't remember Mich's first batch tasting like this. We passed it around for a second bite, and none of us liked it as much as we like the ones from Bouchon or Madeleine (and we were even using the Bouchon recipe.) As we tried to figure out what went wrong (did we make them too big? Was it the humidity in the air?) someone suggested that perhaps the problem was that we were self-hating, to love the French macaron more than the Jewish macaron. To which I say, "Pas vrai. C'est seulement que les macarons francais sont meilleurs!"

But the French macarons shouldn't get too righteous about it.


  1. I haven't finished reading this post yet, but i had to take a moment to tell you that May 15 would have been my father's 91st birthday. To those who don't know me, this might seem like a small commonality, but Jenny and I share our birthday - same day, same year!

  2. Wow, this is an amazing piece of news. My dad was born July 24, 1918 -- what about your mom?

  3. Mom was born 3/21/1920 so no commonality there, except they were close in age. We'll have to compare notes about your mom and my dad sometime. I have noticed that you seem to appreciate your mom in the way that I do my dad.