All we need is love

All we need is love
All we need is love

Saturday, June 9, 2012

French Macarons

Delicate, light, flaky, chewy, sweet, delectable, and incredibly frustrating! These are all words I would use to describe this one-of-a-kind cookie that I have been trying to master over the past few weeks. It's a love-hate relationship for sure!
I had seen these cookies many times before, on party blogs, recipe books, magazines and on television, but never in a store. I have always been curious about what they must taste like. They MUST be amazing because I see them everywhere!
I have had a macaroon before, pronounced the same as this cookie with one less "o" but it is definitely a totally different confection. The one you might be thinking of is a coconut mound that may or may not be dipped in chocolate and occasionally has a maraschino cherry on top. 
This cookie, on the other hand, has no coconut whatsoever. . . unless you make a filling for it that contains coconut. This French Macaron is a lighter than air meringue and almond cookie with some kind of filling (usually a buttercream of sorts). It is very difficult to make correctly, as I have discovered recently, but worth the effort when you get it right. I made some for my coworkers with a coconut cream filling and  the response I received was a lot of eyes rolling in the back of heads with sighs of delight. Yea- they were that good.
I'm not gonna lie, they are a pain in the spatula to make. . . very time consuming and temperamental. I have probably ruined as many batches as I have made successfully. Even when you follow the directions they don't necessarily turn out right. But on the upside, aside from tasting incredible, they are very versatile. The possibilities for color and flavor combinations seem endless. You can fill them with just about anything and add a huge variety of ingredients to the main cookie to alter it's flavor. 
If you are an accomplished baker and haven't tried these or you like to bake and are a patient soul, I challenge you to make a batch. I guarantee they will be worth your while.

French Macarons

3/4 cup finely ground almonds
1 cup powdered sugar
2 extra large egg whites at room temperature
1/4 cup superfine sugar
Food coloring
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Filling options
Chocolate ganache
Cream cheese frosting
Lemon Curd
Coconut cream pie filling

Put your powdered sugar and ground almonds in a food processor and process for a minute or so, then place this powder into a fine sieve and sift it into a bowl; set this aside. 
Next, beat your egg whites on high until stiff and glossy and they hold soft peaks. While the mixer is still on, add the superfine sugar and any food coloring if you want it. Now, fold the dry ingredients into the meringue mixture 1/4 at a time. Continue to fold until the batter reaches a ribbon-like consistency. At this point, place the batter in a pastry bag fitted with a coupler and no tip. Pipe round mounds about 1 1/4 inches in diameter that are 2 inches apart onto a cookie sheet covered with a piece of parchment paper. They will flatten out and run into each other if there isn't enough space between them. Now you must let them rest and develop a hard surface for about 30 minutes. Here's what they should look like at this point.
Once this time is up, preheat your oven to 325 degrees F. Bake them in the preheated oven for 10-12 minutes. They should be barely golden brown. 
If you have done them correctly, they will have this little ruffled bottom edge to them. This is referred to as a "pied". 
When they have cooled completely, you can carefully peel them from the parchment paper and place about a teaspoon of the filling in between them and sandwich them together. 
 Fair warning though, this batch only makes about 16 complete cookies, so if you plan to share- they will go fast.

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