If ever there was a dessert that opens itself up to eye popping color, it’s the macaron. Cafe windows this April are no doubt displaying plates full of the cute little cookies, usually stacked in towers. They’ve been popular ever since Catherine de Medici became Queen of France in 1547.
The Italian noblewoman brought all of her Italian chefs to court, and the petite pastry was born. It’s meant to be no more than 2 bites per macaron – gobbled in an instant, yet each batch takes many hours to make.
Not to be confused with macaroons, which are small coconut biscuit cookies, the macaron is a gluten-free/almond flour based recipe. You make it by folding pre-sifted confectioners’ sugar and almond flour with a painstakingly beaten meringue. And COLOR ALERT, it’s to the meringue that cooks add any shade of food coloring they wish.
Many pastry chefs use almond paste as a shortcut, rather than “tant pour tant”, a primary step in making macarons, illustrated in this video. The blending of almond flour and sugar is tant pour taunt, which translates into “so much for so much”. Getting your tant pour tant just right is an art known as macaronage. Do it just right, and pied, or “feet” form at the bottom of each macaron once baked.
If your macaronage is over zealous or not enough, the cookies suffer. It’s a delicate art that probably burns a lot of calories, and takes a million practice batches before you’re an old hand.
Is it worth it? I think so. Although, most people prefer to simply buy macarons at 2 to 4 dollars each. For spring, you can do yellow, robin’s egg blue and pastel pink macarons. It’s a 3 layer affair, with a ganache or butter cream frosting constituting the middle layer.
The sandwich top and bottom of the cookie are really just sugar in a more pleasing form. Here’s a stand by recipe for macarons that beginners can start with – but before you roll up your sleeves and begin speaking French, make sure you have plenty of pastry (piping) bags to handle the job. Oh…and parchment paper & Siplat liners.
Jorj’s Simple Springtime Macarons
For Macaron shells
3 egg whites
1/3 cup white sugar
2 cups confectioners’ sugar
1 cup almond flour
1 teaspoon salt
Green food coloring, 4 to 5 drops (use toothpicks to transfer food dye to meringue mixture)
For Chocolate ganache filling:
1 cup bittersweet chocolate chips
2/3 cup heavy whipping cream
Preheat oven to 275 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper OR Silplat liner.
Beat egg whites in bowl or mixer, until foamy. Add sugar and continue to beat until peaks are stiff, about 5 minutes. In between pulses of your mixer, use a toothpick to add green coloring to the meringue. You can do this by withdrawing the toothpick when the food coloring comes off it. It should take 3 to 4 applications for a nice green color.
Sift 2 cups confectioners’ sugar, almond flour, and salt together. Repeat process once more. Fold into the egg whites until batter is creamy and falls slowly off the lifted spatula, about 50 turns with a spatula. Transfer batter to a piping bag.
Pipe macaron batter onto the Silpat liner, using a circular motion to make macarons approximately 1-inch in diameter. Tap the baking sheet against the counter about 8 times to release air bubbles.
Bake in the preheated oven for 9 to 10 minutes. Rotate baking sheet and continue baking until macarons are shiny and rise slightly to form pieds, about 10 minutes more.
Use a spatula to lift macarons from Silpat liner and let them cool for about half an hour before adding the filling.
For an easy filling, simply microwave chocolate chips and whipping cream for about 2 minutes or until melted enough to spread between macaron layers with a knife. You can fit the macarons you have just backed together like a sandwich when one side is spread with chocolate.