Monday, July 14, 2014


Happy Bastille Day!  Here's a French recipe to make the day special.

A macaroon - with two Os - is ground up almonds, sugar, and an egg white which may or may not be whipped.  A macaron  is the complicated version.  It's a meringue cookie that is stabilized by a base of very finely ground almonds.  Macaroons are easy and quick-to-make drop cookies; macarons are a process.

I hate to admit it, but I'm going with Martha Stewart's recipe on this one.  A large part of the choice was the idiot-proof directions and American measurements by volume.  I'm not weighing egg whites.  I'm using helpful tips from various sites.  It is also very easy to make half a recipe, if you only want a dozen or so cookies, and that's the version I'm posting here.

A huge, unfortunate problem with all macaron recipes is that you can't use boxed egg whites.  You have to separate an egg, then figure out what to do with the yolks.  I found this masterful post about how to use up extra egg yolks, listing it by how many you have.

As for flavoring, you technically don't have to use any.  They already taste like almond, which can be heightened by a drop of almond extract.  I chose to make this batch lavender, to test my homemade lavender extract.  Future batches may include coconut, chocolate, lemon, peanut butter, grenadine, or pretty much anything else I can think of.  Coloring can be achieved by gel food coloring if the ingredient doesn't have enough color of its own.

As for the filling, I totally cheated and used plain buttercream out of the tub with a bit of lavender extract and food coloring.  I'm not making my own and creating an even bigger egg-yolk discrepancy.

1/2 C powdered sugar
6 Tb almond flour (also called almond meal)
1 egg white
pinch cream of tartar
2 Tb sugar (superfine if you have it)
flavorings and filling of choice

1.  In a food processor, combine powdered sugar and almond flour until blended, but don't overdo it or the oils in the almond will start to make a paste.  Sift mixture twice and remove any large flakes.

2.  Preheat the oven to 375º.  Beat the egg whites until foamy.  Add pinch of cream of tartar and whip to soft peaks.  At a low speed, beat in sugar until incorporated, then turn it up to high until the whites are shiny and stiff.  Martha says it takes 8 minutes, but my mixer did it in about 3.  Sift the flour mixture over the whites and fold until smooth and shiny.  If dividing batter for several flavors or colors, do that now.  In each bowl, add flavoring and/or color and fold until fully incorporated.

3.  Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silpat.  Fit a pastry bag with a 1/2" plain round tip and fill with batter.  Pipe into 3/4" rounds about an inch apart, lifting the tip on an edge so the point disappears.  Don't worry if you end up with an uneven number; one will inevitably break or you'll have an odd man out that doesn't match any of the others in size.  Tap the pan to release air bubbles and let sit for 15 minutes for the bubbles to work their way to the surface.  It's like watching pancakes cook.  When the bubbles stop coming up, the cookies are ready to bake.  This is a good time to do the dishes or mix up your filling.

4.  Before putting the pan in the oven, turn it down to 325º.  I forgot that part for the first couple of minutes, and a lot of the cookies got crackly.  They do that because the outside cooked before the inside was finished rising, and it broke the shell apart.  Bake for 5 minutes, turn the pan around, and bake for another 5 minutes or until the cookies are crisp.  If you need to bake more than one tray, turn the oven back up to 375º for five minutes, turn it back down, then put in the other tray.

5.  Cool the cookies on the baking sheet for 2 or 3 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.  This is when you find out how many have air pockets from unreleased bubbles.  Don't worry, the icing will fill it in and no one will know the difference.  If you have trouble removing them from the parchment, place it on a damp towel for a few seconds and they will come off.  Silpats won't have that problem.

6.  To fill, find two cookies about the same size.  Smear the icing, peanut butter, chocolate mousse, jam, or whatever on one and sandwich it with the other.  Serve immediately or store in the freezer between sheets of parchment or wax paper.

makes roughly 15 sandwiched cookies, depending on size

Difficulty rating :)

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