Ever since I have owned a credit card, I have been very conscious about accumulating points. I used to like seeing them rack up more than I actually liked using them. In my head, they were all going towards some massive around the world retirement trip one day. Mike is someone who accesses his points quite regularly and when we were planning our wedding, he showed me how we could use a few points to upgrade our honeymoon.
Since then, I put points towards travel-related rewards quite frequently, but this season, through a collaboration with American Express’ Membership Rewards 25th Anniversary Collection, they have encouraged me to try using points for holiday gifts.
Looking through their gift offerings, I really don’t know why I never thought to use points for things like electronics (they have pretty much every Apple product) or jewelry— I’ll take the princess-cut diamond earrings please! In addition to tangible items, American Express Membership Rewards also offers experiences which is where I found an In-Home Macaron Lesson led by a French Pastry Chef.
Now, this is really not something I would ever have thought about getting, but it seemed like the perfect opportunity to have a little holiday gathering for the Mommy Shorts Team. What could be more holiday-appropriate than a fun activity which ends with everyone taking home freshly made pastries?
If you need formal introductions to the Mommy Shorts Team, there’s me…
There’s Allie, my assistant.
Pam, my camera-shy producer. (That’s her arm below.)
And Cara, who manages my brand partnerships. (Cara offered up her apartment for the lesson, because she’s got a much prettier countertop than I do.)
And this is Simon, our French pastry chef du jour. He does not work with us normally but I’m thinking about bringing him on as permanent staff. Oh what’s that, Simon? He says, I can’t afford him.
After checking with Cara the night beforehand to take inventory of her kitchen, Simon arrived with all the necessary ingredients and tools we needed. He set up and then we gathered around the kitchen to learn a thing or two about the very precise process of baking Macarons.
Simon says that macarons must be made slowly and gently without skipping any steps. They are not for the impatient. Especially since you have a wait a full day to eat them. (Wait. WHAT?!)
He also said that pastry chefs are smarter than regular chefs, lefties are better than righties and French Canadians are not really French. Cara happens to be from Quebec and Simon was not impressed with her butchering of the word “macaron” which if you do not know, is a totally different animal than a “macaroon” (the coconut cookie people like to serve on Hanukah.) We had a lot of fun with Simon, I have to say.
We made two Macaron flavors— hazelnut (my favorite) and strawberry.
Here is Simon’s recipe:
SHELLS (recipe makes approximately 7 of each flavor, meaning you would need 38 shells)
15.17oz Confectionary Sugar
15.17oz Almond Flour
4.95oz Raw Egg White
2.11oz Regular Sugar
4.95oz Raw Egg White (second batch)
Step #1: Sift together Confection Sugar and Almond Flour in a bowl and then add the first batch of raw egg white (add colorings depending on desired color.)
Step #2: In a saucepan, cook regular sugar and water at 250F.
Step #3: In a metallic bowl, whip the second amount of egg white and then pour in the previous cooked sugar to create a meringue.
Step #4: Add the meringue to the almond mix (a little at a time), folding in the meringue until it is shiny and fluffy.
Step # 5: Add mixture to piping bags and then pipe the shells on a tray with parchment paper. We used paper templates so we would know exactly how big to make them. Keep piping bag straight up and pump at the top, while holding the nozzle from the bottom.
If you are feeling advanced and want to make a dual-colored shell, do not mix colors in one bag! Take a piping bag of each color and put inside a third piping bag.
Add edible glitter if desired.
Step #6: Admire your work and then leave them to set for 30 minutes to one hour at room temperature.
Step #7: Bake the shells at 300F for 12 minutes.
1.94oz of Cream (40% fat)
2.75oz milk chocolate
0.42oz of hazelnut paste
Step #1: Boil cream in a sauce pan
Step #2: Once cream is boiling, add milk chocolate and hazelnut paste.
Step #3: Stir until fully blended
Step #4: Leave in fridge to set for approximately 15 minutes.
This one is easy— just use any strawberry jam.
Step #1: Take your shells out of the oven and pair them up so that they look as close as possible as the same size.
Step #2: Fill your piping bags with ganache or jam and pipe in between cooled shells.
Step #3: Gently twist together to make sandwiches.
Step #4: Leave Macarons in the fridge overnight to set.
Of course, we could not wait until the next day and we each ate a few just for fun. And for photo-taking purposes. I’ve never had a just-cooked macaron before and I thought they were delicious! Wait a day, my ass.
All in all, it was a stellar experience that I would never have thought to do if I hadn’t been tasked to find experiences on the American Express Membership Rewards 25th Anniversay Collection site. And now, thanks to this collaboration, I’m eyeing a few more things as well. Like an archery lesson for two! Or helicopter flight training! Or maybe I’ll just be practical and upgrade my luggage.
All photos were taken by Coverd Photo.