Thursday, March 17, 2011

French Macrons for an Irish Holiday

My friend & coworker, Adam, found a free copy of Cecile Cannone's Macarons cookbook for me recently, so I promised I'd make something and bring it in.

Rumor has it that French macarons are the new pie (which was the new cupcake for a hot-second). I'd never had one, but the technique seemed straightforward enough and the cookies themselves are so interesting looking that I was eager to bake and taste one. The versatility of them (you can fill them with ganache or buttercream or any number of creamy things) reminded me of profiteroles, for which I have a special place in my heart.

Not to be confused with Macaroons (the coconut & egg white cookie that I believe was an American adaptation of the French original), these are sandwich cookies made of almond meal, confectioner's sugar and egg whites, which are then filled. They tend to be tinted in a pyschadelic array of colors.

I ended up with free time this past weekend, and time in the evenings the early part of the week, so that gave me the opportunity to make a batch of macarons over the course of a few days - making the cookies first, then the ganache, then filling them, then dipping them. Since this week was St. Patrick's Day, Dan suggested I tint the cookies green. They ended up looking a little sci-fi, which I don't mind.

Having not had one before, I wasn't sure if I cooked them long enough. I think I actually made most of them a little too big, which resulted in them being a little chewier and more fragile than ideal. I filled them with dark chocolate ganache mixed with peanut butter, then dipped them in melted milk chocolate. The ganache actually broke on me, but I was able to get it to come back together. Despite my concerns, when I took them in to work my coworkers didn't seem to mind at all. My director even came back for seconds! And Adam said they were great, so I did my job.

French Macarons
250 grams almond flour
350 grams confectioner's sugar
1 cup egg white at room temperature
pinch of salt
2 tspn powdered egg whites (if humid)
150 grams superfine granulated sugar
5-7 drops gel paste food coloring (optional)

Line your baking sheets with parchment paper. Blend the almond flour with powdered sugar in a food processor to make a fine powder. Then sift the mixture through a strainer until it's as fine as you can get it. This keeps crumbs from forming on the macaron as they bake.

Using a wire whisk attachment on an electric mixer, beat the egg whites with the salt and the powdered egg whites (if using them). Start slowly and then increase the speed as the whites start to rise. Add the granulated sugar and the food coloring. Beat until the egg whites form stiff peaks and your meringue is firm and shiny.

Pour the beaten egg whites onto your almond flour mixture and gently fold them in using a rubber spatula. Move the spatula from the bottom of the bowl to the edges with one hand, using the other hand to rotate the bowl. Now hit the spatula against the rim of the bowl until the batter falls in a wide ribbon when you raise the spatula. When you can't see any crumbs of almond flour and the mixture is shiny and flowing, you're ready to start piping.

Fit the pastry bag with a number 8 tip and fill with batter. Start by squeezing a small amount of mix onto a parchment lined baking sheet to form a 2.5 inch diameter circle. Be sure to leave an inch of space between macarons so they won't touch when they bake. If the peaks that form on the top of the macarons don't disappear after piping, you could have beaten the mixture a bit more - but a tap of the baking sheet on the counter should remedy the problem.

Let the piped macarons rest for 15 minutes. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Bake for 14 minutes. After the first 5 minutes, open the oven door briefly to let the steam out.

Let the macarons cool completely on a rack before taking them off the parchment paper and filling.


Ingrid said...

They look pretty!! Yummm.

Ingy said...

Very pretty, and tasty-looking, too. Yummm.