I finally gave them a try—macarons.
I would venture to guess that 99.9% of Utahns have never heard of these cookies, and I only learned of them about a year ago when I discovered a fun food blog, Not So Humble Pie. After long experimenting and perfecting, Ms. Humble has written multiple blog entries about macarons with amazing sounding recipes and photographs. I think it was her exhaustive troubleshooting post that made me most apprehensive about attempting to make the cookies. If so many things could possibly go wrong, they must be difficult, right?
I then discovered that macarons have been the trendy thing among food bloggers for a while now. When I googled "macaron recipe," it came up with 75 pages. So many different colors and flavor combinations, so many wonderful photographs, so many detailed descriptions of these little confectionery delights—I knew I must try one for myself.
I began my hunt. And, it wasn't easy. Utah tends to usually be a few years behind when it comes to trends. I first looked in all the grocery stores. Nothing. I moved on to the bakeries. Nada. I even went to a French bakery. Absolument rien. Finally after six months, I found a box of macarons at Trader Joes while on vacation in California. And even though some of the shells were cracked, the family and I thought they were pretty darn fantastic.
The ideal macaron is perfectly round. The shells are characterized by smooth, domed tops with ruffled bottoms. This bottoms are called the feet, but I find that kind of gross because it reminds me of dissecting a clam in junior high biology. The shells should have an egg shell-like crust with a moist and airy interior. They should practically melt in your mouth. Macarons are commonly filled with a frosting, ganache, or jam filling which is sandwiched between two shells. The Mecca of Macarons seems to be the Pierre Herme bakery in Paris. Someday, I hope to check it out.
So, for this first attempt at making macarons, I decided to go with the easiest looking recipe I could find. I decided to set my expectations very low. I would consider the venture a success if my cookies turned out somewhat round, and it would be OK if they didn't have the all-important
Since it's the Christmas season, I decided to go with a recipe from Gourmet or Gourmand for peppermint macarons with chocolate ganache filling. I modified it slightly after reading tips from Ms. Humble and others.
And the result? Total perfection! I don't have a clue how I did it, but I've got pictures to prove it. The kids absolutely love them. We could have easily devoured all of them. However, I managed to box up some for coworkers, who also gave them rave reviews. These may even surpass sour cream cookies as my all-time favorite cookie. I'm now excited to try more.
I think I'll even add a kitchen scale to my Christmas wish list. Actually, it's probably too late for that; I'll just go buy one at an after-Christmas sale.
I'm nervous about one thing. Was this beginners luck?
|Not bad for my first try. I'd be willing to put them up against Pierre's.|
|Perfectly smooth, domed shells. And feet!|
Christmas Macarons—Peppermint with Chocolate Ganache Filling
adapted from Gourmet or Gourmand
- ¼ water
- ¾ cup sugar
- Food coloring
- ½ cup egg whites at room temperature, divided
- 3 Tbsps. sugar
- 1 ¼ cups powdered sugar
- 1 cup almond flour (Locally, I found this at Good Earth and Harmons.)
- 2 tsps. peppermint flavoring
Bring ¼ cup water, ¾ cup sugar, and food coloring to a boil in a small pan. Once the sugar syrup reaches 170° on a candy thermometer, begin to whip ¼ cup of the egg whites in a stand mixer. Once the eggs begin to froth, slowly add 3 Tbsps. sugar. Continue to beat until soft peaks form. This should be enough time for the sugar syrup to reach 230°. At this point, very slowly add the syrup to the eggs while continuing to beat on low. After syrup is added, whip the mixture on high for 10-15 minutes. They should be fluffy and cool.
While the eggs are whipping, place almond flour in a food processor and blend to create a finer texture. Add in 1 ¼ cups powdered sugar, ¼ cup egg whites, and 2 tsps. peppermint flavoring. Blend until well combined. Fold this mixture gently into the meringue mixture.
Fill a pastry bag fitted with a ¼-in. up with the mixture. Pipe 1 ½ to 2-in. circles onto cookie sheets lined with parchment paper or Silpat. Bang on counter to get out bubbles. Let rest for about 15 minutes. Bake for 12 minutes.
- 4-oz. chocolate
- ½ cup cream
- 2 Tbsps. corn syrup
- 1 Tbsp. unsalted butter
Place cookies in an airtight container and store in the refrigerator. If you can wait, save the cookies at least 24 hours before serving; they get even better.