Every month or so my friend, Maria Nelson, posts a picture on Facebook of glorious looking pastry she’s just created. And usually I drool all over my computer. I loved these darling little sweets so much that I asked Maria to write a Guest Post. I know you’ll love them as much as I do. Thanks Maria!
Written by Maria Nelson
Macarons, Macaroons however you choose to spell it, this delightful little treat is quickly on its way to becoming the next big thing. For the French of course they have been a big thing for a very long time. Considered by many to be the national cookie of France, they can be found there in any patisserie in a variety of flavor combinations. On a trip to France recently my mother told me that the price of macarons is exorbitant. Expect to pay the equivalent of $30 US dollars per dozen. Given their macaron mania the French gladly pay it.
The ubiquitous coconut macaroon has really nothing in common with these lovely almond meringue cookies. Finely ground almonds with skins or blanched, combined with icing sugar and whipped egg whites create a delicate, moist crumb. Filling options abound, flavored Swiss meringues or buttercream fillings are usually preferred for their taste and ability to withstand storage and refrigeration.
I will admit for years I would only admire these beauties from the confines of the pastry case as fear of failure prevented me from attempting to make them. Recently I stumbled on the Miette Bakery Cookbook and became emboldened to give them a try. While a bit fiddly, the intermediate baker can make these with ease. The Miette cookbook does a fantastic job of demystifying the process and making it approachable for the home baker. While the cookie recipe belongs to Miette, the buttercream filling is mine and quite easy to prepare. Vive la macaron! Happy Baking!!
Makes 18 1-inch cookies
1 ½ cups, (7 ½ ounces) whole almonds with skins or blanched
2 ¼ cups (10 ounces) powdered sugar
3 large egg whites at room temperature
1 ½ tsp. Cream of Tartar
1 ½ cups vanilla butter cream icing
Butter Cream Icing
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temperature
2 cups, powdered sugar
1 tsp. vanilla or almond extract
Dash of salt
Gel food coloring of choice
In the bowl of a mixer whip butter until fluffy and pale yellow, slowly add powdered sugar and extract and salt. Tint with color if desired. Combine thoroughly.
Using a 1 inch circle (a bottle cap works great) as a template, trace circles on parchment in rows 1 inch apart on the paper. Repeat on second sheet of parchment. You should have room for 18 circles on each paper. Flip paper over and place on baking sheets.
Place half of the almonds and half of the powdered sugar in the bowl of a food processor and process for 30 seconds or until almonds are finely ground. Repeat with the other half of almonds and sugar. Mixture should have flour like consistency. Sieve out any large pieces for additional processing if necessary. Set mixture aside.
In the bowl of a stand mixer using a whisk attachment combine egg whites and cream of tartar. Be sure to use only room temperature egg whites. This ensures a beautiful fluffy meringue and prevents macarons from collapsing. Whisk on high speed until stiff peaks form.
Gently fold about 1/3 of the almond mixture into the egg whites. Fold the remaining mixture in two more additions, just until ingredients are combined, no longer.
Fit a pastry bag or large Ziploc bag with a ½ or 5/8 inch round pastry tip and fill the bag with the meringue. Using the template as a guide, pipe the circles ½ inch high onto the sheets and set the cookies aside at room temperature for 2 hours. This step is critical for the development of the crisp outer shell of the cookie and its distinctive base often times called the “foot”.
Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Bake macarons until set and the foot develops a light tan color 10-12 minutes. Let cool on baking sheets completely. Once cool carefully remove from the paper and turn them upside down. Fit an additional pastry or Ziploc bag with a ½ inch round pastry tip and squeeze a nickel sized amount of icing onto the bottom half of each cookie. Cap with the remaining un-iced macarons.
Store in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 2 weeks. Can also be refrigerated or frozen.