Anyone who has spent time in the kitchen has an item or a dish that intimidates them. A lot of times, I hear that people are afraid to make yeast breads. Personally, I'm comfortable making yeast bread; I am intimidated by French macarons.
These little sandwich cookies have become very popular lately. I wouldn't call them difficult to make but they are easy to screw up. Macarons are meringue cookies and require a slow bake at a low temperature. The end result should be crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside. And the baked cookies should have "feet" on the bottom. See the very thin scraggly part at the bottom of each cookie in the picture? Those are feet and should be a little bigger.
Other members of a cooking board on which I post have also mentioned wanting to attempt French macarons, so we decided to challenge each other to make them. We researched recipes, posted tips, and talked about our successes and failures. My macarons were not a complete failure, nor would I call them a success. I believe my oven runs hot (the cookies darkened too much, and the macarons on a sheet pan in the bottom of my oven scorched and cracked). I may have folded in the almond flour too vigorously and deflated the egg whites too much (causing small feet). However, the cookies came out crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside.
In researching macaron recipes, I came across several links to the blog Brave Tart, so I gave her recipe a try, using her Strawberries and Cream variation.
Strawberry Macarons with White Chocolate Ganache Filling
Recipe by Brave Tart
For the cookies:
- 4 ounces almond flour* (I used Bob's Red Mill Almond Flour)
- 8 ounces powdered sugar
- ¾ ounce freeze-dried strawberries (I found mine at Trader Joe's)
- 5 ounces egg whites (it's better to have slightly more than 5 ounces than slightly less)
- 2 ½ ounces granulated sugar
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- ½ tsp rose flower water (found at Williams Sonoma)
- ½ tsp salt
- 1 drop pink gel food coloring
For the filling:
- 6 ounces heavy cream
- 1 vanilla bean
- 10 ounces good quality white chocolate
- ½ tsp salt
- Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Fit an 18-inch piping bag with a round tip (I used Wilton's #802). Line two sheet pans with parchment paper. Take a 1 ½-inch round cutter, and using a permanent marker, trace an outline of the cutter onto the parchment. Repeat, keeping at least one inch between circles, on both sheets of parchment. When finished, flip parchment ink-side-down.
- Sift the almond flour with the powdered sugar and set aside.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, pour in egg whites, granulated sugar, and salt. Beat at speed 4 for three minutes, then speed 7 for three minutes, then speed 8 for three minutes.
- Add in vanilla extract and one drop of pink food coloring, then beat for one more minute at highest speed. You should have a very stiff meringue.
- Pour the dry ingredients on top of the meringue and begin to fold (see this page for directions on how to fold). You want to release some of the air in the meringue, but not all of it. As you fold, the mixture will look hopelessly gloppy. Then suddenly, it will come together.
- Before spooning your batter into the piping bag, take a spoonful and drop it back into the batter. It should sit on top of the batter for about twenty seconds before melting back into the rest of the batter.
- Fill your piping bag no more than halfway full. Pipe batter into each circle, stopping just shy of the border of each circle (batter will continue to spread).
- When all circles have been filled in, rap the baking sheet hard on the counter to remove air bubbles. Rotate pan 90 degrees, rap again, rotate 90 degrees, rap again, rotate 90 degrees and rap once more. Repeat with other sheet pan.
- Bake for 18 minutes, then check a cookie. If it peels easily off of the parchment, it's done. If it doesn't, don't force it. Continue baking until a cookie peels easily off the paper. This could take as long as 40 minutes.
- While cookies are baking and cooling, scald the heavy cream. Split the vanilla bean and scrape the seeds into the cream, then add the bean. Remove from heat, and let sit for at least ten minutes and up to one hour. Remove the bean and discard. Reheat the cream to scalding, then pour over chopped white chocolate. Let sit for one minute then stir until smooth and all chocolate has melted. Let cool to room temperature, then whip until lightened.
- When done, remove pans from oven and cool the cookies to room temperature while still on the baking sheet.
- Once cookies are fully cooled, pipe some of the ganache onto the bottom of a macaron, then sandwich with a second cookie.
* See Brave Tart's blog for directions on making your own almond flour.