The Macaron – Too Good For a Punny Title

I think I’ve found the perfect dessert.

That’s saying a lot, because I love sweet treats.

It’s funny, though. The basis for baking is science, and I hate science. I was lucky to get by with a C in chemistry in high school.

Of all the goodies I’ve made, the macaron has to be my favorite.

That’s not a typo. I meant macaron, not macaroon. And no, this isn’t a tah-may-toe/tah-mah-toe thing.

A macaroon is an American creation made with coconut.

A macaron is an Italian/French gift that’s like a cookie sandwich. Say it with me… ma-cah-raaaaah. The “n” is silent. But, don’t be surprised if you hear it pronounced macaroooooon.

I think I got my first macaron at Whole Foods.

When you see them, you can’t ignore them. They’re bright, and come in assorted colors. They’re usually all lined up like a rainbow.

I’ve also gotten them at Earth Fare and the French bakery in Cowpens.

I’ll admit it. My favorite one came from Whole Foods. It was emerald green. The flavor was pistachio.

The magic is in the texture and construction.

The cookie itself has a paper-thin shell that’s protecting a decadent center that manages to be chewy and light at the same time. It’s made with meringue (whipped egg whites/sugar), ground almonds (provides the chewiness and a subtle almond flavor), and powdered sugar.

The filling is creamy. It’s where you’ll find the most flavor. It can be a buttercream, a ganache, a jam, or a even a curd. I’ve seen lemon, pistachio, vanilla, and lavender.

Here’s the thing. They can run at least a buck a piece, and I have to drive at least 30 minutes to get them. So guess what. I tried to make them. I mean, why not? If I can save money and time, and have them whenever I want, wouldn’t I be a macaron moron for not giving them a whirl in my own kitchen?

I looked at many recipes, and settled on Martha Stewart’s.

You can grind your own almonds, but if you have a Trader Joe’s nearby I suggest you use their “Just Almond Meal”. I think was $3.99 for a whole bag.

I’m not going to pretend that making macarons is easy. If it was, they wouldn’t run you at least a dollar each, and you’d find them in all major grocery chains.

Set aside plenty of time, patience, and counter space.

Its journey begins with egg whites. Some chefs will tell you to age your egg whites, meaning let them sit in the fridge for days. I don’t think it’s necessary.

You do, however, have to let your whites reach room temperature. Don’t rush this. Let them sit on the counter for at least an hour. At least. You can save the yolks for another use.

I went through the pain of waiting for the chill to wear off, but I rushed the rest of the recipe, and it showed. For my first go ’round, I followed Martha’s Parisian macaron recipe.

The whites go into a stand mixer (you can do this by hand), and let ’em whip on medium high. Add your sugar in spurts.

You want them to get bright white, glossy, and some what stiff. In my rush, I over-whipped them. The looked like styrofoam. But I didn’t realize that was a bad thing.

Though I took the time to go buy gel food dye (the liquid kind can mess with the consistency of the batter), I forgot to add it to the whites while they whipped. I dropped in the gel, got frustrated that it wouldn’t mix in. I added liquid food coloring. I mixed, and mixed. And mixed. Ultimately, I think I deflated this airiness of the batter.

The next milestone in this process is the drying of the cookies.

I used a big Ziploc bag (you can be fancy and use a piping bag/tip) to drop the batter onto a prepared baking sheet. You’re supposed to let them sit for 20-30 minutes to dry. This is key. Drying creates a skin on the top of the cookie. When they bake, air escapes out the bottom, creating what’s know as “feet,” the signature air pockets at the bottom of the dome.

I tossed ’em in the oven after they sat for about 10 minutes. The weren’t dry. And, I didn’t let them cook the whole time with the oven door cracked, as directed. The cookies didn’t rise, and they were bumpy. The flavor was there, though.

Then came round two.

I opted for Martha’s less complicated macaron recipe. This one is a keeper.

The steps are slightly more involved.

You have to blend your powdered sugar and almond flour in a food processor, then sift the mix twice. This process gets rid of any large pieces of almond, ensuring a smooth cookie.

This recipe also calls for a pinch of cream of tartar in the egg whites. I’m not a fan of the “pinch,” but I did it anyway. It’s supposed to help stabilize the egg whites.

For my first batch I made my favorite, pistachio.

To preserve the almondy airiness of the cookie, it doesn’t really get any flavor additives. You’re supposed to put it in the filling.

For the pistachio theme, I added just a bit of green dye.

In this recipe, you just pop the cookies (after rapping the pan on a table to release air & letting them dry) in the oven and let ’em go. You do have to set the oven to 375, then lower it to 325 before you bake.

Typically, the pistachio filling is made with pistachio paste. It’s hard to find, and can run you about $10 a can on the Internet. So, I stared at the baking aisle in the grocery store hoping I’d have an ingredient epiphany, and I did!

Jell-O was on sale, 10 for $10. I grabbed a box of pistachio, the instant kind.

I whipped it with butter, almond extract and some heavy cream. To. Die. For. I could eat it with a spoon.

For my second batch, I went for chocolate macarons.

Martha suggests subbing some of the powdered sugar for cocoa powder. Super easy.

For my filling, I made a ganache. I didn’t want to commit suicide by chocolate, so I went for a white chocolate ganache.

To kick it up a notch, and pay respect to the fanciness of the macaron, I infused the ganache with chai tea.

The spices (cinnamon, ginger, cardamom) in the chai really tame the decadence of the chocolate cookie.

It’s practically impossible to not eat the macarons as soon as they’re assembled, but try to resist. They’re better chilled for just a bit. This gives the flavor in the filling a chance to solidify and seep into the cookie.

While the chocolate chai was interesting and different, the pistachio was my favorite.

You can find Martha’s macaron recipe here.

Here are my filing recipes:

Pistachio Buttercream
1 box pistachio flavored instant Jell-O
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
2-3 splashes of pure almond extract
1-2 good drizzles of heavy cream

In a bowl, whip together the Jell-O and butter.
Splash in the extract. Scrape down the sides of the bowl, then whip.
With the mixer running on low, drizzle in some heavy cream. Add just enough to make the mixture creamy and spreadable. You don’t want it to be like a lump of clay.

Chai White Chocolate Ganache
2 chai tea bags
1/2 cup of heavy cream
3/4 cup white chocolate chips
1 Tbsp. unsalted butter

In a small pan, combine the cream and tea bags. Bring to a boil and remove from heat. Let the mixture steep for about a minute, then strain it.
Pour the hot cream onto the chocolate chips and add the butter, whisk together until smooth.
Store in the fridge for about 30 minutes to let it cool and solidify.

When you’re filling the macarons, just put a dollop in the center of one cookie. When you complete the sandwich the filling will spread out.

I need you to promise me something. Please tell me you’ll have a macaron soon. I’d be fine with you trying one from the stores I listed. You are seriously missing out if you don’t eat one of these colorful, chewy, and oh so special cookies.

I’d be really happy if you take my lead and make your own.

When it comes to cookie sandwiches, the macaron is Cinderella. The Oreo is its snarly-nosed, buck-toothed, big-butted step sister.

Go. Mack on a macaron.

Tip: When filling a Ziploc or piping bag, use a tall cup for a filling station. Put the point inside the cup, then wrap the bag around the rim. You can scoop in the filling without making a mess of the bag.



4 Comments Add yours

  1. Mary Lu Saylor says:

    Oh Kitchen Wizard, you never cease to amaze. I am highly impressed! You totally got me with the spelling too. šŸ™‚

  2. I like the idea of YOU making us some macarons!! They look fabulous!!

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