|Perfect French Macarons ... just out of the oven|
The French Macaron (mack-a-ROHN) is one of the most delicate petits fours both to make and eat. They are characterized by a shiny and smooth top, a ruffled circumference (referred to as a 'foot') and a flat base. Once baked and cooled they are 'filled' with ganache, buttercream, jam or curd for an endless array of flavor combinations. Above all a French Macaron is very moist in the center and easily melts in your mouth. Don't be daunted by the list of steps. Although they can be finicky and delicate to prepare they can be made at home.
The related Macaroon (mack-a-ROON) is often confused with the Macaron. The Coconut Macaroon is a mounded cookie made of shredded coconut and condensed milk and is often dipped in chocolate.
FRENCH MACARONS Yield: about 45 cookies
French Macarons are a light, airy, meringue based sandwich cookie that is gluten free, elegant and delicious. When packed in an airtight container, they freeze very well.
|'AmeriColor' -soft gel paste food color|
1 3/4 cups confectioners' (icing) sugar
1 cup almond flour
3 large egg whites, at room temperature
Pinch of cream of tartar
1/4 cup berry sugar (superfine)
2-3 drops soft gel paste food coloring ~ see below
1/2 tsp. pure vanilla, almond or mint extract ~ see below
*Assorted Fillings ~ see below
**for Chocolate Macarons ~ see the special note below
|Three flavors of delicate, elegant French Macarons|
*Chocolate Mint ~Tint the batter with 2 drops mint green gel food coloring, flavor with mint extract. For the dark chocolate mint ganache filling; in a bowl set over warm water; melt 4 oz. finely chopped high quality dark chocolate, stir in 2 tablespoons whipping cream and 1 tablespoon butter, stir until smooth. Stir in 1/4 tsp mint extract. Cool slightly, until it is thick but not hard, before filling.
*Lemon ~Tint the batter with 2 drops lemon yellow gel food coloring, flavor with lemon extract. Fill with lemon curd (you'll need about 3/4 cup), you can add 1 drop of lemon yellow gel food coloring to the curd if you wish.
*Blackberry Cheesecake ~Tint the batter with 2 drops royal blue plus 2 drops violet gel food coloring, flavor with pure vanilla extract. For the filling; mix 3/4 cup Mascarpone cheese with 3 tablespoons seedless blackberry jam.
*Coconut ~Do not tint the batter, flavor with pure vanilla extract. For the white chocolate/coconut ganache filling; in a bowl set over warm water; melt 4 oz. finely chopped high quality white chocolate, stir in 2 tablespoons whipping cream, 1 tablespoon coconut powder and 1 tablespoon butter, stir until smooth. Stir in 2-3 teaspoons of medium shredded coconut. Cool slightly, until it is thick but not hard, before filling.
**Chocolate Macarons ~Add 3 tablespoons of sifted cocoa powder to the icing sugar and almond flour mixture, proceed with the recipe. Fill with dark chocolate ganache; in a bowl set over warm water; melt 4 oz. finely chopped high quality dark chocolate, stir in 2 tablespoons whipping cream and 1 tablespoon butter, stir until smooth. Cool slightly, until it is thick but not hard, before filling.
Preheat oven to 300°F using the convection setting. Line 3 bake sheets with parchment paper. In the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade, add almond flour and confectioners' sugar (add cocoa if using). Run until you have a fine powder. Sift this mixture at least two times. The more you sift, the smoother the tops. Press through with a rubber spatula to pass through as much as possible. Discard any lumps between sifting then set sifted mixture aside.
Using a stand mixer with a whisk attachment, whip the egg whites and cream of tartar on medium speed until frothy. With the machine running, add the berry sugar one tablespoon at a time. Turn off and scrape the sides. Increase speed to high, beat until stiff and shiny, about 1-2 more minutes. To test the mixture; turn off the mixer and lift the whisk attachment. The mixture should hold its form at the tip of the whisk and not drip.
Remove bowl from mixer and set on the counter. Add 1/3 of the sifted almond flour mixture. Draw a rubber spatula halfway through the mixture and fold gently to combine, giving the bowl a quarter turn with each fold. Add another third of the almond flour mixture, fold again. Add the final third and fold until incorporated. The batter should now be firm with a glossy shine. Add the desired food coloring and extract. Continue folding and turning, scraping down the bowl until the batter is smooth and falls off the spatula in a thin, flat ribbon, 2 to 3 minutes.
|Hold the piping bag vertically and close to the bakesheet|
|Allow cookies to 'dry' before baking|
Let the cookies sit at room temperature until a dry shell forms on the tops. Touch the batter with your fingertip. When they are no longer sticky to the touch they are ready for the oven. The resting time can take 15 minutes to an hour depending on the humidity. It's important that the tops dry out, otherwise they will crack while baking.
When the tops are dry, slip another baking sheet under the first batch, a double baking sheet protects the cookies from the heat. Bake one sheet at a time in the lower third of the oven. If you don't have a convection setting, rotate the bake sheet half way through baking. Bake until the cookies are shiny and rise 1/8 inch to form a 'foot', 15-20 minutes. When done, the tops will be firm to the touch and the center won't 'jiggle'. Remove from the oven and let cool at least 10 minutes. If the macarons are too hot, they will come apart. Gently peel cookies off the parchment paper and transfer to a cooling rack.
|Pipe filling and gently press sandwich together|
When all are baked and completely cooled; arrange the cookies by twos top side down, matching sizes. Pipe a dime to a nickel size of filling onto the bottom cookie. Alternately, you can use a palette knife to smear on the filling before sticking them together. Lay the second macaron on top. Gently press together so the filling expands but does not come out of the sides. Repeat for all remaining macarons.
Store in an airtight container in the fridge. When packed in an airtight container, they also freeze very well.
Photos by Sally Rae
Recipe adapted by Sally Rae