Macarons fascinate me. I want to master hard things and I plan to master macarons. They are like magic. My favorite part is putting the little batter rounds in the oven, then hovering anxiously around to see if the feet have appeared.
There is a downside to these little pastries; they are sickeningly sweet. They are best paired with a tangy or bitter filling, like a jam or dark, lightly sweetened chocolate ganache, and imparting flavor to the shells themselves is a huge victory. This is where lavender comes in. It is a highly unique flavor; a boutique seasoning. It pairs well with honey. Together they have a taste like white chocolate that is delightful.
I am heady when it comes to whipping a meringue, so mine was too stiff and my shells were so delicate that only eighteen of two dozen or so survived whole in the freezer. So what else do you do other than a celebratory macaron smash? Once again, my older sister Lauren came to the resume with a amazing camera and skills. The finished images are courtesy of her. What would I do without my sisters? 🙂
You can make your own almond meal at home. I have created a two step method which has very satisfactory results. Whole almonds, blanched or unblanched, will work. Run them through a nut chopper, then transfer to a small coffee grinder. Sift out the sticky bits and large remnants and voila! This makes a very fine flour without turning it into almond butter, a problem I have encountered when using the Cuisinart.
For the shells:
7 oz. powdered sugar
4 oz. almond flour or meal
4 large (4 ounces) egg whites at room temperature
3 1/2 ounces granulated sugar
2 finger pinch of cream of tarter (or salt)
Purple food coloring (optional)
Preheat oven to 325 degrees
Prepare baking sheets with parchment paper over macaron template.
Combine powdered sugar, almond flour or meal, and lavender and pulse together in food processor
Pass this mix through sift one to two times. (note: the finer this mixture is, the smoother the cookie)
To make meringue:
In the stainless steel bowl of a stand mixer fitted with stainless steel whisk, whisk whites and tartar on medium speed until foamy (around speed 4)
Gradually add in granulated sugar, at medium-high speed
Once all sugar is incorporated and the mixture is thick, scrape down the sides of bowl to make sure all sugar is incorporated.
Do not overbeat. I repeat: DO NOT OVERBEAT. This has contributed to technical difficulties both times I have made this recipe, causing undesirable things like fragile shells and overdeveloped feet. Whisk until your mixture is glossy and forms an arc at 11 o’clock. To test this, clean off whisk, dip in mixture, and flip upside-down. an arc should form at 11 o’clock. No more.
Add food coloring and incorporate by hand with a spatula to avoid overwhipping.
To complete the macronnage step:
Sift almond flour or meal mixture 1/3 at a time over the egg white mixture and fold using a large spatula using the technique:
- Slice through the middle
- Lift the mixture while turning the bowl
- Drop the spatula
Repeat this process until the almond mixture is absorbed, add another 1/3, repeat, and add final 1/3 mixture
Once all the almond flour/meal is incorporated, “paint” the sides of the bowl in a flower petal shape with spatula 4-8 times
The correct consistency will be when the batter is nicely firm, has a glossy shine, and drops slowly down the sides of the bowl (like a volcano)
Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a plain round tip and pipe 1 inch rounds onto parchment paper that is over macaron template (do not pipe entire circle, leave some border) You can make your own template by making circles from 1/2 an inch to 1 1/3 inches in a computer program. Be sure to space them at least an inch wide, then place the paper underneath your parchment when you pipe the batter. Mine were too close together, so don’t follow my lead. 😉
Once all macaron mixture is piped, rap (bang) the baking sheet on the counter 4-5 times to release trapped air. Don’t be timid about this. Let stand at room temperature for 15-30 minutes, or until a slight crust forms on macaron.
Bake one sheet at a time, rotating halfway through, until macarons are crisp and firm (about 12-15 minutes) (Remember, do not open oven unless you are rotating pan!) Mine turned brown at 350F, so I suggest 325. If macarons are still soft inside, cover with aluminum foil, and bake for a few more minutes near the bottom of the oven. You can drop the temp as low as 300 in necessary. Let macarons cool on sheets for 2-3 minutes and transfer to wire rack to cool completely.
I don’t have a favorite filling, but my recommendation is dark, dark chocolate. There is a special touch required for filling them, so make sure that your substance is soft. I seem to have a knack for cracking the shells by applying too much pressure when sandwiching them. (The whole process is one enormous learning curve.)
The shells can be frozen, unfilled, and will keep for up to a few months. When you want them, just pull them out of the freezer and open the container so that condensation will not collect and sog out your little beauties.
Source: Sur la Table, adapted from News for Chews