A good macaron is not easy to make. Unlike say, a chocolate chip cookie, the techniques used to combine ingredients are complicated and time-sensitive. Mixing the ingredients together into a bowl and throwing the mess onto a sheet pan and into the oven won't create a dependably delicious nor attractive product. The ideal macaron has a paper-thin crisp outer crust that easily gives way without shattering to a tender, moist interior, and there are literally dozens of things that can go wrong on the way to that final elusive texture. So I was excited when pastry chef Thomas Raquel agreed to show me exactly how he makes macarons. Though he has only been at Acadia for eight months, word has gotten out about his exceptional macarons, and I wanted to learn his secrets.
As I expected from someone who worked with macaron perfectionists like Pierre Hermé and Laurent Gras, Thomas has worked extensively on perfecting the macaron and so had a lot to say about the petite French confection. They are one of his favorite things to make because "a perfect macaron is a beautiful thing." It shows a chef's finesse, technique, and deep level of thought. The merits of a great macaron are much more objective than the merits of a plated dessert, which can seem genius to some and overdone to others. But with a macaron, "when it's great, it's great. You can't take that away from a chef," he said.
What makes Thomas' even greater is that the macarons are presented as part of the mignardises at the end of your meal at Acadia (read: they're free!). Since they form the last impression of the entire dining experience, Thomas takes great pains to make sure they are last-bite worthy. Click through the slideshow to learn some of the secrets behind his banana bread macaron.