Friday, April 20, 2012

I heart Spring Macarons!

This Easter, I was asked to make some treats. I love making sweets for friends, but my family doesn't always get to sample my eats. 

Mom requested sugar-free cupcakes... preferably lime.

My Aunt wanted something gluten-free.

I wanted to make something colorful.

I'll post some other day about the lime cupcakes. Today is all about these delicious macarons!

Now, macarons are not to be confused with macaroons. I'm talking about the delicious french pastry, not those coconuty weird things that everyone hates. These are crispy on the outside, cake-like on the inside and just sweet enough to make you want more.

I researched for ages before finally making a macaron. Every recipe I found used weights to keep the liquid to dry ratio consistent. I bake. A lot. But I do not own a scale. I know, they aren't super expensive. I'm just too lazy to buy one.

I finally found one recipe that was by volume. I also found quite a few troubleshooting guides online that help with any questions that come up. This one is my favorite. I'm not going to try to help with all of the problems that come up while making macarons-- I'm just not qualified. I will let you know my problems as I go though the recipe.

To begin, I doubled the basic recipe, then divided it in thirds. I couldn't decide how much to make, but a full batch seemed like too much and this is where I ended up. I used a store bought lemon curd and raspberry jam. I used my vanilla bean buttercream that I had stored in the freezer.

These things are so tasty, it won't matter if they're pretty or not. To help make them as pretty as possible, use a pencil and an inch circle to mark the back of the parchment paper. It will give you something to aim for while piping those cookies. Make sure to set up a large piping bag with a 1/2 inch (1 cm) tip.

Basic Macarons
adapted from A La Cuisine 

1 ¼ cups powdered sugar
4 oz (1 cup) almond flour or finely ground almonds (blanched, slivered - skinless)
¼ cup plus 2 tbsps egg whites at room temperature
pinch of salt
¼ cup granulated sugar

1. Use a pencil to draw 1-inch circles about 2 inches apart on parchment paper. Flip each sheet over and place each sheet on a baking sheet.
2. Mix the almonds and icing powdered sugar in a food processor. Sifting it after this step makes for smoother cookies, but won't alter the taste.
3. In a large clean, dry bowl whip egg whites with salt on medium speed until foamy. Increase the speed to high and gradually add granulated sugar. Continue to whip to stiff peaks – the whites should be firm and shiny.
4. With a flexible spatula, gently fold in almond/sugar mixture into egg whites until completely incorporated. The mixture should be shiny and ‘flow like magma.’ (thick, gooey and as few strokes as possible) When small peaks dissolve to a flat surface, stop mixing. Folding in the almonds is the weirdest part. Too much folding and the cookies run and loose shape (or turn out hollow), but they still puff and make delicious cookies.
5. Fit a piping bag with a 1/2-inch (1 cm) round tip. Pipe the batter onto the baking sheets, in the previously drawn circles. Tap the underside of the baking sheet to remove air bubbles. Let dry at room temperature for half an hour or so to allow skins to form. The cookies should lose most of their shine, but it might not happen if it is too humid.
6. Bake in a 325F oven for 10 to 11 minutes, rotating pan halfway through baking. Some days take longer to bake than others, so test a cookie by trying to move it on the parchment. If it sticks, smears, or squishes, keep baking checking every 2 minutes.
7. Remove macarons from oven and transfer parchment to a cooling rack. When cool, slide a metal offset spatula or pairing knife underneath the macaron to remove from parchment.

Orange Macarons

I added the zest of an orange to the almonds in the food processor. I also added a couple of drops of orange extract to increase the orange scent and a ton of orange food gel.

The filling is a chocolate ganache (equal parts chocolate and heavy cream) that I whipped in the mixer. I added some extra cream to make it the right consistency for piping.

Raspberry Macarons

These cookies actually have no flavor. I just added a few drops of red food color.

The filling is raspberry jam. I used 1/4 cup of jelly and heated it with a package of gelatin and chilled it to firm it up. I wanted it to stay in the middle of the cookies. Using a small star tip pipe a ring of frosting then fill the center with raspberry.
Lemon Macarons

I added the zest of 3 lemons to these cookies. And a lot of yellow food gel. I piped and filled them the same way as the raspberry, just using lemon curd straight from the jar. 

Macarons are best when allowed to rest (or cure) for 24 hours. Stick 'em in the fridge, but bring them to room temp before eating. If they last that long, store for them an airtight container.

These cookies will make your week. So, hurry up and go make some. And enjoy them tomorrow. ;-)

we heart macarons,