Inverness cook Debby Keelan shares facts about macarons vs. macaroons and perfects recipe for the former

 
By Sally Eyre
Daily Herald correspondent
Updated 9/4/2018 11:12 AM
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  • Debby Keelan, of Inverness has perfected a recipe for French macarons.

      Debby Keelan, of Inverness has perfected a recipe for French macarons. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • After trial-and-error batches, Debby Keelan of Inverness now creates colorful and sweet macarons with ease.

      After trial-and-error batches, Debby Keelan of Inverness now creates colorful and sweet macarons with ease. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Gluten-free muffins baked by Debby Keelan of Inverness.

      Gluten-free muffins baked by Debby Keelan of Inverness. John Starks | Staff Photographer

  • Debby Keelan, of Inverness, shares her recipe for the meringue-based French pastry: macarons.

      Debby Keelan, of Inverness, shares her recipe for the meringue-based French pastry: macarons. John Starks | Staff Photographer

So, here's a question: what's the difference between a macaron and a macaroon? According to our Cook of the week, Debby Keelan, from Inverness, a macaroon is a chewy French cookie with coconut, a macaron is French, too, but it is colorful cookie made from a meringue base.

She should know. Motivated by two showers she was hosting, Debbie recently test-baked 12 batches of macarons until she had them just right. Our photographer, who sampled one as he took the photo, said they were better than the ones he had in Paris.

"The first batch came out all dry and puffy. After that, they tasted good, but looked bad!" she says. Finally, she learned the trick -- using jumbo eggs. Having perfected the cookie, she went on to experiment flavoring the cookies with pistachios, raspberries or Nutella. The result? The shower treats were both delicious and beautiful. We are lucky that Debby shares the recipe for her macarons today, and we get to benefit from her trial and error. She's smoothed the way.

Though Debby loves indulging in French baking, she is actually of Danish heritage. Her parents both emigrated from Denmark and Debby has a half-sister who still lives there. Debby grew up speaking English, but kind of wishes her parents had taught the family more Danish.

"My parents thought it was important to adopt the language of the country they had immigrated to -- they felt it was a weakness to speak in the old language," Debby says with some regret. Still, she has visited Denmark several times and loved the country.

"The pastries are phenomenal. I haven't ventured into the pastry dough arena yet, but I do make a Danish seed bread out of sunflowers and sesame seeds -- it's really healthy and gluten-free." Of course, Debby doesn't just bake.

"I love cooking and baking. I think baking is easier because you're only making one thing at a time, whereas when you cook, you are usually making an entire dinner with multiple dishes." As the mother of three boys (they have all flown the coop) Debby spent many years preparing meals for the family until her husband caught the cooking bug and took over in the kitchen (he has been featured here as a Cook of the Week as well.) The couple often cooks together. They cook with a lot of vegetables, fish on the grill and an occasional huge pot of sauce to go with meatballs.

Debby likes the challenge of entertaining and has discovered ways to help her manage it successfully.

"It's all in how people do tasks. I like to do all the 'step ones' first. Like at Christmas, I make all the cookie doughs one day, that way the mess is done and all I have to do is pull them out of the freezer, scoop and bake. It's the same thing with entertaining. Anything that is possible to do ahead of time I do. I even prep by precooking, or partially cooking if I can. It is really helpful if you know about food and how long it needs to cook to turn out well. That's something that comes with experience -- you should get something out of 30 years of marriage!" she laughs.

• To suggest someone to be profiled here, send the cook's name, address and phone number to food@dailyherald.com.

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