We turn now to Aristotle (384-322 B.C.), thus finishing the trinity of these three most famous Greek philosophers. Aristotle was a student of Plato, but he differed from his teacher in that, unlike Plato, who didn’t care a whit about concrete facts because all worldly things were just copies of Ideas, Aristotle thought that facts themselves were highly significant – definite knowledge is what mattered.
Aristotle’s contributions to French baking philosophy can be grouped under five categories:
- Logic. It is possible for people to make macarons. I am a person. Therefore, it is possible for me to make macarons.
- Metaphysics. There is no immutable, Ideal macaron separate from actual macarons. Macarons are concrete things which arise from material causes, i.e., egg whites, almond flour, sugar in various forms, etc.; efficient causes, i.e., beating the whites into a meringue, stirring in the dry ingredients, piping, baking; formal causes, i.e., the concept of the macaron itself, including its recipe; and final causes, i.e., the desire to eat macarons.
- Physics. Macaron ingredients – the matter of macarons – exist in order to form macarons. Almond flour, for example, neither exists without purpose nor is used to build houses. More importantly, however,
In the process of nature, it is always form which impels, matter which retards and obstructs. The entire world-movement is the effort of form to mould matter, but, just because matter has in itself a power of resistance, this effort does not always succeed.
As we have seen.
- Ethics. The good macaron is the achievable macaron. By good, Aristotle means “not some ideal good impossible of attainment upon this earth, but rather that good which, in all circumstances in which men find themselves, ought to be achievable.” In other words, once my macarons are good enough to serve their purpose, they are good.
- Aesthetics. To know what a macaron is, we must know what a macaron is not. I think I have that one down.
I’m leaving out some details here, but detailed discussions of philosophy are actually kind of boring. Who knew?
So, the first attempt for the New Year was the chocolate macaron. Again, I turned to Martha Stewart, with these ingredients:
Everything gets put together in the usual way.
|Everything looks right …|
|… and comes out horribly wrong.|
And, unsurprisingly, my shells come out with the classic hallmarks of under-mixed, overly moist batter. Victory: the meringue. However, I refuse to be daunted. I have devoted a full 5 minutes to the study of Aristotle; I know I can do this.
Before embarking on the new batch, however, I watch a few videos on how to make French macarons, and I finally see what “flowing like lava” means. My batter has not flowed like that! By George, I think I’ve got it!
Back to an earlier recipe, one that balances out the sugar and almond flour more equally, because these failures (which I’ve had to eat) are overly sweet.
• 100 grams almond flour
• 85 grams powdered sugar
• 15 grams dried strawberries
• 70 grams egg whites
• 50 grams granulated sugar
• ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
• 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Everything gets put together in the usual way, except that I mix the batter until it falls off the spatula in ribbons, not globs, which it has been doing. And the result is …
…all the hallmarks of over-mixed batter. Perhaps if I combined the two, I’d get the perfect macaron. Victory: the meringue.