Everybody loves macarons. These French desserts are petite and bite-sized and leave no crumbs behind. They come in a range of fun colors and flavors and even bizarre ones like Earl Grey, lime-basil and balsamic vinegar. Their inexplicable crunchy-moist texture is like no other. The initial crunch of the outer egg shell crust is followed by a dense, chewy inside and then a victorious inner filling, usually ganache, buttercream, or jam. Macarons have become extremely popular recently, especially in Europe, where bakeries have rows and rows of them ready to be devoured by eager macaron-lovers.
Because of their complex texture that has to be the perfect density, macarons are not an easy pastry to make. If the batter is too runny or too thick, it may not come out ideally. Also, the crust-like “feet” at the bottom of each cookie half is part of what makes macarons so special and is coveted by every macaron-maker. These little cookies have always enchanted me so I decided I’d give it a whirl.
My first challenge was finding almond flour. Another reason why macarons are so unique is because they require almond flour, an ingredient that is so rarely used that it cannot be found in Shaw’s or even Whole Foods. Alas, I had to take the homemade route by grinding up blanched, slivered almonds in a blender until it turned into a fine almond flour. Then after combining the flour with sugar, cocoa powder, and salt, the mixture had to be sifted until it was all very fine and blended.
Next, I whipped some egg whites and sugar into a beautiful meringue using a stand mixer. It is highly advised that the meringue has to be mixed until stiff peaks form in order to yield optimal results. The meringue must be nice and fluffy, but it cannot be over-whipped.
After mixing the flour mixture into the meringue, the batter is made. Next, is the pipetting part. As an amateur, I struggled with getting all the shells the same size, and in general, they turned out a little bit wider than I would have liked. A good way to ensure all the drops are identical in size is just to count 3 seconds for each drop.
The consistency of the batter seemed correct because the drops were smooth so I crossed my fingers and threw them into the oven.
After baking for about 14 minutes, I checked the macarons and jumped for joy when I saw the little feet on them. I was thrilled because I had heard that most beginners struggled with getting the feet. So I took pleasure in knowing that I must have done something right! I let them cool and then glued two of the cookie shells together with raspberry jam. I was disappointed to find that some of the cookies were slightly undercooked so they were gooier than normal, but I still pieced them together and they tasted delicious nonetheless.
Voila! Beautiful chocolate macarons with raspberry jam filling, dusted with cocoa powder. Basically like the ones in the bakeries. These macarons tasted wonderful! Sweet and chewy just like the ones from the bakery, but since the shells were a little underbaked they were softer so when I bit into them, my teeth sank into them like they were clouds. How can I not describe them as heavenly?
The black forest combination of chocolate and raspberry is absolutely divine. Since I didn’t have any heavy cream to make a chocolate ganache filling, I simply used jam instead. Very sweet! The flavors magically intertwine and dance on the tongue beautifully.
When I described how I made the macarons and their ingredients to my mom, she was amazed that there was no butter involved! It seems like almost all desserts these days require at least some butter, but not this one! Macarons are light and not greasy.
So have a macaron! Or better yet, make some yourself and eat them fresh! They are not difficult to make as long as you follow all the directions. I know I will certainly be making more in the future in all sorts of crazy colors and flavors
CHOCOLATE RASPBERRY MACARONS
2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup almond flour (or make by blending blanched, slivered almonds in food processor)
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3 large egg whites
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside. Prepare a large pastry bag with 1/2-inch plain tip and set aside.
Mix together powdered sugar, almond flour, cocoa powder and salt. Use a flour sifter to sift mixture into a large bowl.
To make the meringue, beat egg whites in a stand mixer with a whisk attachment. Beat for 30 seconds on medium and then increase to medium high until white. Continue to beat while slowly adding granulated sugar until peaks are stiff (about 1 minute). Make sure you do not overwhip.
Fold half of the dry mixture into the meringue and then the other half until just combined.
Transfer batter into pastry bag. Pipe 1-inch circles about 1 inch apart onto the baking sheets. Gently tap the baking sheets against the table to even out any bumps. Let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes so the tops are dry.
Bake macarons, one sheet at a time, at 350 degrees F for 7 minutes. Rotate the sheet and cook for another 7 minutes. Transfer to cooling rack and cool completely.
Pair macarons of similar size. Use a spoon to place about a teaspoon of jam in the center of a cookie shell and then press the other half on top. The end result should look like a mini hamburger.
For a nice finishing touch, put cocoa flour in the flour sifter and sprinkle on the tops of the macarons.
adapted from Chow