This week my project was French Macarons. These are not to be confused with Coconut Macaroons, those delicious haystack style cookies you get at Jewish Delis. These are French Meringue cookies and they are light as air, and sinfully addicting;
You have been warned.
When I lived in LA, my friend Andrea and I would go to the cutest little bakery near my house in Mar Vista called Hotcakes. It was always a treat to go there and get the delicious French Macarons, in fact this is where I first had them and fell in love. After we moved to Atlanta, and I would come back to visit LA for work, friends and family, I would still visit local bakeries and bring home treats. Andrea showed me a new bakery in Beverly Hills called Paulette's, and asked me to bring her some Macarons home, as they have all those fancy flavors like Rose and Lavender like she loves.
The only problem I have ever had with French Macarons is the price. I've seen them anywhere from $1.60-2.50 EACH people! EACH! For a tiny deliciously amazing cookie! Never, until I attemped making them did I ever realize the amount of work that went into them. Making macarons isn't DIFFICULT, they just aren't easy. It takes harder to find ingredients and a slow steady, patient, mind. I promise you, it's cheaper to make them yourself.
Essentially, French Macarons are a meringue cookie, made by folding almond flour and confectioners sugar (fancy name for *powdered*) into an egg white meringue, transferring it to a piping bag and slowly baking them in a hot oven.
Anyway, I made a video about how to make them, and you can find it here. It might be easier to watch after you read the recipe to get a good idea about what goes into them. Over the course of the week, I made 4 different types of Macarons; Vanilla, Chocolate, Pistachio, and Coconut. I made a ton of them, so I took them down to Starbucks to pawn them off on my friends and the manager of Starbucks, Josh, told me they were so good they could be "Pepperidge Farm cookies". I think I'll take that as a compliment.
Below you will find pictures and recipes. Happy baking!
The recipes I used were from the January 2009 issue of Martha Stewart Living, and can be found in the article "Light as Air" as well.
Basic French Macarons;
1 cup confectioners sugar
3/4 cup Almond Flour
2 large egg whites, room temp
Pinch of cream of tartar
1/4 cup superfine bakers sugar
1. Pulse confectioners' sugar and almond flour in a food processor until combined. Sift mixture 2 times.
2. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Whisk whites with a mixer on medium speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar, and whisk until soft peaks form. Reduce speed to low, then add superfine sugar. Increase speed to high, and whisk until stiff peaks form, about 8 minutes. Sift flour mixture over whites, and fold until mixture is smooth and shiny.
3. Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain round tip, and pipe 3/4-inch rounds 1 inch apart on parchment-lined baking sheets, dragging pastry tip to the side of rounds rather than forming peaks. Tap bottom of each sheet on work surface to release trapped air. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Bake 1 sheet at a time, rotating halfway through, until macaroons are crisp and firm, about 10 minutes. After each batch, increase oven temperature to 375 degrees, heat for 5 minutes, then reduce to 325 degrees.
4. Let macaroons cool on sheets for 2 to 3 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack. (If macaroons stick, spray water underneath parchment on hot sheet. The steam will help release macaroons.)
5. Sandwich 2 same-size macaroons with filling. Serve immediately, or stack between layers of parchment, wrap in plastic, and freeze for up to 3 months. (they won't last long enough to make it to the freezer. I promise.)
The variations I did are below;
Chocolate: Substitute 3 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder for 1/4 cup of the almond flour.
Vanilla Bean: Add 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped, pod reserved for another use.
Pistachio: Substitute 1/2 cup finely ground unsalted pistachios (pistachio flour) for 1/2 cup of the almond flour, and add 2 to 3 drops forest-green gel-paste food coloring.
Coconut: Substitute 2 tablespoons desiccated unsweetened coconut for 2 tablespoons of the almond flour, and add 1/2 teaspoon rum; sprinkle with additional coconut before baking.
For the centers I used Chocolate Ganache, and a Swiss Meringue Buttercream.
Links to videos above, recipes below.
1/2 cup heavy cream
3 1/2 ounces dark chocolate, finely chopped (preferably 70 percent cacao)
1/2 ounce (1 tablespoon) unsalted butter, softened
Pour cream over chocolate in a heatproof bowl. Let stand for 2 minutes. Add butter, then whisk mixture until smooth. Let cool, stirring often. Use immediately.
swiss meringue buttercream:
(makes 6 cups. I halved this and had more than enough for both the pistachio and coconut macarons)
6 large egg whites
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds (5 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
Whisk until sugar dissolves and mixture registers 160 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat, and whisk on high speed until mixture is cool and stiff peaks form, about 6 minutes. Beat in vanilla. Add butter, 2 tablespoons at a time, on low speed, mixing after each addition. Beat until smooth, about 3 minutes. (Buttercream will keep, covered and refrigerated, for up to 3 days. Bring to room temperature, then beat on low speed before using.)