French pastries course day 1: Macarons and canelés


You’ve heard me say it a kajabillion times so I won’t draw this out for too long. I love macarons. But try as I might, I was unable to reproduce these heavenly confections in my own oven.

So when Toronto’s Bonnie Gordon’s School of Confectionary Arts offered a two-day French pastries course teaching how to make macarons, among other things, I leapt at the opportunity. Well, maybe that’s an exaggeration, I cleared it with my husband and mother to see if they could cover watching my son for the two days before registering. And then I leapt.

I had taken a one-day course at the school previously, if you may remember, but last time it was a cupcake workshop. Though I was comfortable in the setting, this two-day course seemed more intimidating.

It was led by chef Charmaine Baan, formerly of Susur, Splendido and Prego Della Piazza, who also taught the French bistro cooking class I attended at Dish Cooking Studio. So I knew we were in good hands.

The first day was dedicated mainly to making Italian-meringue and Swiss-meringue macarons. And despite my decidedly miserable attempts at piping out the delicate batter, I prevailed and ended up with dozens of my very own hazelnut macarons, filled with espresso chocolate ganache and raspberry-chocolate buttercream, and almond macarons with strawberry buttercream and chocolate ganache. And they were divine.

While I won’t post the recipes here as it wouldn’t be fair to the school or my fellow classmates who shelled out mucho bucks to learn under a pro, I will offer you some tips that will help you make your own.

My top tips to making macarons:
*Macarons start their lives as meringues, and so all your equipment must be perfectly clean otherwise your meringue may not peak as it should; this means checking that your whisks are dust- and oil-free

*Swiss-meringue macarons are easier to make than Italian-meringue macarons because they don’t involve making a sugar syrup first, thus they are easier to control; this is why you will find fewer Italian-meringue macarons recipes

*Use the liquid egg whites that come in cartons because they are already the liquid consistency that will make for a better meringue

*You will know your batter is ready to pipe once it looks like molten lava

*Once you have piped the macarons rounds onto your baking sheet, tap the bottom of the pan a few times to flatten the tops and even out the surface

*If it is a humid day, you may need to adjust your recipes by decreasing the liquid content

*Let the macarons cool, completely, before trying to peel the parchment off them; or risk deflating the centres if you are too impatient, like some of us (ahem)


Not to give them any less airtime, but we also spent some time during our first day on learning to make canelés. I have to admit I was a bit impatient when we did so, because I was all about macarons, macarons, macarons.

And I had never heard about these cylinder-shaped confections so I was dismissive, I admit. But thank heavens we did, cause they ended up being my favourite treat of the weekend. Canelés, which hail from Bordeaux, are vanilla and rum-based treats but we made chocolate ones.

The batter is similar to a crepe batter but you let it sit in the fridge for at least 24 hours. Once it is ready, you fill specialized moulds and bake it at a very high heat for up to an hour. This results in a crispy shell and creamy centre that is unexpectedly decadent and intensely flavoured. We filled a bowl with some of these straight out of the oven, and I probably ate more than anyone else. (Um, sorry about that).

I’m told you can only find this in Toronto at Nadege Patisserie, which I have never had the pleasure of visiting as it is a little out of my way with a precocious near-toddler. But I will make these myself. You can be sure of that. Stay tuned for my next installment on day two of my French pastries class, during which we made passionfruit guimauves, honey cashew caramels, and madeleines. You won’t want to miss it.



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2 responses to “French pastries course day 1: Macarons and canelés”

  1. Cara Avatar

    Totally fascinating! The course sounds like a good time.

  2. Margot Avatar

    You can also get these caneles at Chabichou on Harbord St. Yum