Tuesday, 12 May 2015

True French Macarons (with a recipe for those french macarons)

Macarons can be considered the most elegant cookies in town.  They are certainly the trendiest.
What are traditional macarons?  They are not the typical North American concept of the coconut confection.   The French macaron is a pair of smooth, round, nutty meringue disks filled with buttercream, ganache, jam or curd.   But on an emotional scale they are three or four bites of bliss.
The macarons appeal lies in its esthetics.  It is daintier and perhaps more elegant then the cookie or cupcake.  It comes in lovely, feminine pastels. It is small and light and thus almost guilt-free; that is if you can stick to consuming just one.  It comes in flavour and filling combinations that inspire cravings and admiration, from exotic lavender and chocolate to vanilla and cream.
Laduree Patisserie in Paris, is the world wide mecca of macarons.  The venerable 148-year-old patisserie sells over 15,000 macarons per day. There are a few locations throughout Paris, but the original shop, from 1862, is located at16, rue Royale. Just a 5 minute walk from the Metro stop Concorde.
The origin of the macaron can be traced back to Venice during the Renaissance.  However Laduree created the modern macaron at the beginning of the 20th century by sandwiching a ganache filling between two meringue shells.
The current craze for the macron comes from the 2006 film Marie Antoinette when during a scene in the movie Kirsten Dunst satisfies her sweet tooth with macarons supplied by Laduree.
Macarons can seem a little pricey, generally selling in the $2 range, but they are well worth it.  These seemingly simple delights are difficult to master.  A perfect macarons crust should be thin and light and the center soft with a hint of chewiness, a consistency on the whole which takes years to master.
All French Macarons start off with the same basic starting point of the meringue, but by adding very subtle tastes of tea or coffee, nuts and fruits or different spices like lavender, cardamom or cinnamon you are able to create wonderful shells that can be filled with something as simple as jam.  There is no limit as to the different combinations that you are able to make.
The below recipe is what I have found works best, plus it uses up the leftover egg yokes from the meringue!

Chocolate and Vanilla Macarons
Makes 2 and a 1/2 dozen sandwich cookies (or 15 completed macarons)

* 3 oz almond flour (2/3 cup) or blanched sliced almonds (3/4 cup [100g package])
* 1 cups confectioners sugar (icing sugar)
* 3 tablespoons coco powder
* 2 large egg whites
* a pinch of salt
* 3 tablespoons granulated sugar

Vanilla Curd
* 2 egg yokes
* 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
* 2 tablespoons butter
* 2 teaspoons vanilla
* a small pinch of salt

To make macaron batter:
  1. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
  2. Grind almond flour or almonds with confectioners sugar and coco powder in food processor until powdery (approx. 5 to10 min if using sliced almonds).
  3. Beat egg whites with salt in a bowl with an electric mixer at medium speed until they just hold soft peaks. Beat in granulated sugar, a little at a time. Increase speed to high on the beaters and beat until meringue holds stiff peaks, about 1 minute.
  4. Fold meringue into almond mixture with a rubber spatula until completely incorporated.
  5. Spoon 3/4 of a tablespoon of batter onto baking sheet about 1.5 inches apart.  Avoid making peaks (tamp down any peaks with a wet finger). Let macarons stand, uncovered, at room temperature until a light crust forms, 20 to 30 minutes.
  6. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 300°F with racks in upper and lower thirds.
  7. Bake macarons, switching position of sheets halfway through, until crisp and interior does not give easily when a macaron is gently pressed, 22 to 28 minutes total. Cool completely on baking sheets (for residual heat to harden bottoms) on racks, about 30 minutes. Loosen macarons from parchment.  Be careful, as they will be fragile.

To make vanilla curd:
  1. In a small pot whisk eggs, sugar and vanilla together and place on medium low heat on stovetop.
  2. Add butter and whisk constantly until curd is thick, 2 to 3 minutes.
  3. Remove from heat and let it cool completely

Assemble cookies:
Sandwich flat sides of macarons together with a thin layer of curd, approx. 2 teaspoons, and let stand at room temperature at least 2 hours to soften before eating.

For different macaron meringues omit the coco powder, and replace with the zest and juice of an orange or lemon or use half shelled pistachio nuts and half almonds to blend with the egg whites or anything that your heart desires.  For different curds replace the vanilla with Baileys Irish Cream, lemon juice, mashed banana’s or any other fruit.  You do not have to be limited by curds.   For a more simplistic macaron simply fill the meringue sandwich with jams!  The only thing stopping you is your imagination!

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