The Macaron Challenge of 2012
Me and my bright ideas.
I’m getting married next year in June, and we’re in the planning phase – booking a venue, arranging vendors and the like. One thing we have to consider are “guest favours”, because it is not, apparently, good enough to offer guests 5 hours of open bar service, entertainment and a great meal – you also have to give them a take-away trinket worth a few percent of the cost of the rest of the evening. Why? I do not know, but you do.
Early in the Spring, we did a small tour of Toronto-made macarons, and blogged about it here. I’ve had a growing fascination with the cookies since I first tried them in Paris last summer. Lemon macarons in particular. I love them. Anuja enjoys them enough to suggest we offer them as our “guest favour”. We canvassed our favourite bakeries and got some price estimates and had it in our mind to go ahead with this plan, at a cost of about 4-5 dollars per favour. Total: approx. $1,600. Sheesh. That would provide 2 cookies in plastic packaging, with a tag attached (that we would make ourselves), for about 300-350 people. Pricey, yeah? Yeah.
So, one day I’m surfing the internet looking at food things, as usual, and I start looking at recipes for macarons. I’ve always wanted to have a go at making them because they’re pretty, and I rarely make anything that has a specific aesthetic appeal (curries don’t always look so great or have high presentation value) but after studying the recipes and doing some rough calculations in my head, it definitely seemed like you can make macarons for much cheaper than the stores sell them. This is the case for most store/restaurant foods, of course, but macarons have a special distinction for being over-priced simply because they have a reputation for being hard to make (a reputation that is only partially justified). I assume, then, that we are paying for the baker’s skill, but if I could produce a homemade macaron of even satisfactory quality, the cost would be about 20% of the professionals’ cost.
I ran the numbers, and sourced out costs for printing labels (virtually free since I have access to printers and paper cutters at my job), plastic sleeves, and bulk baking supplies and I figure I can produce 700 cookies, wrapped in plastic and labeled with custom tags for under $350. Depending on how cheaply I can find almond flour (the most expensive ingredient, by far) that number could drop dramatically. The real costs, as usual, are time and effort, and required skills. Well, we have a wedding planner to handle most things, so we have plenty of time, and I have a year to learn the macaron inside and out.
I can do it. I can do this.
In fact, I have already started. I’ve baked macarons 3 times now (the photo is the second attempt – looks great, but I baked it for far too long and it was hard… but pretty enough for a photo!), and I’m very close to achieving a cookie consistency that is quite good. I have to devise two flavours of ganache/cream filling, and perfect the colourings. I would like to have a final product that features two cookies: one coloured with one of Anuja’s wedding theme colours (there are 4, and each of her 4 bridesmaids will wear a sari in one of these) and the other a chocolate macaron with a shell encrusted with edible gold glitter. Anuja loves gold glitter, what can I say?
But I need supplies. And a kitchen scale. And new baking sheets. Maybe a mixer (there’s only so much meringue I can beat in one day, after all). I need to make a spreadsheet and create a master ratio. I need volunteers to help. And a cake decorating kit.
But I can do this. I am doing this.