Today I attempted a challenge of mythic proportions. This Herculean feat was not one for the light-hearted. It demanded courage, strength, determination, and the ultimate devotion to one’s craft.
Or so these guys would have me think:
Laduree, official snobbe de paris and Pierre Herme, author of this book:
They would have us believe that Macarons are such a delicate, problematic endeavour that they somehow managed to trick the entire world into paying upwards of $3.00 for a mouthful of almond meringue and butter cream.
The truth is:
Macarons are not that difficult to make. They look complicated, they taste complicated, but at the end of the day, in my humble opinion, it is easier to make delicious macarons than a perfect cheesecake (especially when you accidentally omit the sugar).
Also, this coming from the guy who came up with the idea of a ketchup and relish macarons. Jeez.
Despite the fact that the world of confisserie successfully managed to pull a fast one on us, let’s be honest. These teeny tiny almond meringue cookies are so good that you’d happily shell out a few bucks for sweet flavoured jam or butter cream sandwiched between a crisp, flaky exterior and a smooth, chewy interior.
Don’t even bother denying it.
But like I said, these things are not terribly complex. You need icing sugar, almond meal (ground almonds), egg whites at room temperature and caster sugar. Boom. Done. The basic cookie recipe I used was taken from Anneka Manning’s “Mastering the Art of Baking”, which is a brilliant compilation of instructables and delectable-looking desserts and other baked goods.
First things first, separate your egg whites from your egg yolks, discard the yolks unless you like your red-eye in the middle of the afternoon, and let the egg whites sit for a while until they come to room temperature. Sift 125 g of almond meal and 215 g of icing sugar together in a bowl. Set aside.
In another bowl, on medium speed, mix your egg whites and 1/4 cup of caster sugar until “smooth and glossy”.
I didn’t really know what that meant either, except that I’d made meringue before so I knew that egg whites eventually reach that stage. Basically, your egg whites should look something like this:
Sift the almond meal/icing sugar mixture over the egg whites and fold it into the egg white/caster sugar mixture with a spatula.
Note: this is not a spatula:
This is a spatula:
The mixture is going to be kind of dry and weird at first, but keep folding. That is FOLDING, not MIXING. If you mix, the air that you just spent five minutes beating into those eggs will disappear and you’ll be left with something inedible. After a while, the mixture will loosen up and be off-white and crumbly looking but very consistant. So like, thick and just falling off the spatula. Put this mixture into a piping bag fitted with a 1/2 inch plain nozzle or, if like me you don’t own a single pastry bag, put it into a large freezer bag, snip the corner and get cracking.
Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and pipe one-inch diameter rounds (they can be bigger if you want but a) they’re going to spread out a little bit and b) macarons are usually fairly small). Put them someplace cool and dry and let the trays sit until the macarons have developed a film (they should be dry when you touch them). In my kitchen, this took about 10 minutes but if you’re making these in humid conditions it could take up to 25 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 140 C or 275 F. Bake the trays, one at a time, for 12-15 minutes. Time varies depending on your oven, but I put mine in for 13.5 minutes and they came out perfectly.
Bear in mind that a couple cookies may end up looking confused and misshapen. Don’t fret. Simply put them in the fridge and eat them later.
At this juncture in time, think about what kind of butter cream or jam filling you want sandwiched between the chewy goodness.
Before you judge me, bear in mind that I am a fully functioning adult, capable of making decisions, even if that includes making Baileys flavoured buttercream. I’m not putting my butter cream recipe here because I’m 100% positive that you can make better butter cream than me, and also because there are a million recipes for it online. Just add two tablespoons of Baileys to whatever butter cream recipe you choose and enjoy the creamy, irish whiskey flavour…
Put the butter cream into another piping bag (I used a plastic bag and I somehow managed to find a star-shaped nozzle that worked just about fine) and pipe icing onto half of the cookies. Try to organize your cookies so that you have them paired up with like-sized cookies. Gently press two cookies together and twist slightly.
I know you want to eat them right away but don’t. Let them sit in the fridge for a bit before digging in.
Cover photo taken from: http://recipes.wikia.com/wiki/Macaron