Sunday, August 2, 2009

French Macaron

Macaroons are my favorite cookie of all time. Growing up, I only knew the Sicilian kind, made with almond paste for specially occasions (weddings) and holidays (mainly Christmas). Round and covered in pine nuts (which to the displeasure of all my Italian relatives, I would unabashedly pick off) or made in a rosette and topped with half or a quarter of a maraschino cherry, macaroons were something I gladly signed up to help our neighbors make.

It wasn't until my sister made coconut macaroons that I realized the word could have more than one cookie result. (I enjoy a good coconut macaroon now and then, but its not my default macaroon.)

In 2006, while working at a gourmet food shop in Cambridge, MA I first experienced a French macaron. A Frenchman name Craig was creating these 3-bite, brightly hued and intensely flavored cookies that blew me away. Sadly, he is no longer making the cookies and fillings from scratch, but the simultaniously crunchy, chewy and creamy textures with birsts of raspberry, coffee, pisatchio, vanilla and even blueberry flavors have been scered into my memory.

So when the subject of macaron making came up this evening, the thought that crossed minds was whether or not Trader Joe's Almond Meal could work in a traditional recipe that calls for blanched almond meal/flour -- the Trader Joe's kind is ground with the almond peels on. Deciding the only way to know for sure was to try, here is my first attempt at macaron.

Working off of Syrup and Tang's La Macaronicite, I made the following:

Almond Meal - 130gm
Powdered Sugar - 160gm
Egg Whites - 100gm
Granulated Sugar - 80gm
1/2 tsp vanilla paste

Oven Info:
Preheat the oven to 360F
After two minutes, prop the oven door open with a wooden spoon

Prep ahead:
3-4 cookie sheets lined with parchment paper or a silpat.
Pastry bag or ziptop bag fitted with a round tip for piping.

1. Whisk together the almond meal and powdered sugar. Set aside.
2. In a clean bowl, whip the egg whites until they form soft peaks.
3. Slowly add the granulated sugar into the egg whites, and then whip until still peaks.
4. Fold in half of the almond meal mixture into the egg whites. Then fold in the vanilla and remaining almond meal mixture. Work quickly but DO NOT OVER MIX.
5. Load the mixture into a piping bag and pipe out circles that are as even as possible (you can pre-mark the underside of your parchment as a guide). The cookies are not going to spread that much, but do leave a centimeter or so between each. If you have little tips or peaks, tap the cookie sheet on the counter.
6. Place cookies into 365F oven. (I misread here and lowered the oven temp, whoops)
7. After 2 minutes, prop the door open with a wooden spoon to let some air escape.
8. At the 5 minute mark, rotate the pans.
9. The cookies are done when the outter cookies just barely begin to take on color and the cookie will lift away from the paper with a little resistance when lifted/pushed. GO GENTLE HERE
10. Remove the cookies from the oven and allow to cool on the pans for 1-2 minutes.
11. Lift the cookies from the parchment and place on a cooling rack to further cool. If cookies stick to paper, dab the back of the paper with a bit of water and then try removing.
12. Once cool, fill with jam or buttercream.

Piped dough:

Baked shells (I think the heat was not hot enough = cracking):

Filled with coffee buttercream:

I was intimidated by macarons, but even though the buttercream broke and the shells cracked, they were still delicious and I will try making them again - once I can get my hands on some finer almond meal.

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