French Macarons (Take #1)

And, so, the year of the French Macaron, as outlined here begins.

I’ll say this much: I might have been a little cocky when I first conceived this project. I knew macarons are notoriously difficult to make, but even so, I had my doubts. I mean, they’re basically sugar, meringue, and almonds. How hard could they be?

Very, as it turns out. At least when you’re talking about getting them just right.

And, it’s safe to say that I’m enough of an over achiever that I’ll settle for nothing less.

The thing is, when you’re baking with so few ingredients, everything has to be done well. Really well.

So, there’s that.

Then, there’s the issue of what to do with all of the egg yolks.

Currently, I have five in my freezer. I can’t bring myself to make ice cream quite yet, not when there’s still slush on the ground and mountains of snow on the street. So, there might be some extra rich egg dishes in my future (take that resolutioners!)

At any rate, since this was my first batch, I thought that a basic recipe was the way to go. I’m on my way—a few trial and error lessons later.

Some important things I’ve learned so far:

  • If you, inadvertently, mess up when you’re separating your eggs, start again. With even the smallest bit of yolk, you won’t be able to get the meringue to the right consistency. And, this should go without saying, but: separate your eggs one at a time and add each one to your mixer individually. That way, if you do get yolk in one of the eggs, you won’t have to replace all of them.

  • Normally, I’m not one for sifting—it hardly seems worth the effort. Here, it is. It’ll help the cookies develop a lighter texture.

  • Let your cookies sit for at least 30 minutes before baking. They should develop a sort of skin where they’re no longer tacky. The rest time helps them better develop proper feet. I’m not sure why. Just go with it.

Stay tuned for the next update. New flavors! New and improved methods!

French Macarons with Blackberry Buttercream

Adapted from Martha Stewart’s Baking Handbook

To make the macarons:
1 1/4 cups confectioner’s sugar
1 1/2 cups almond flour
3 egg whites
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp vanilla
Food coloring (optional)
Blackberry Buttercream (recipe follows)

Preheat oven to 300 degrees Farenheit.

Sift confectioners’ sugar into a bowl and whisk in the almond flour. Set aside.

Using a stand mixer, beat the egg whites until they’re foamy. Gradually add the granulated sugar, still whisking, until the whites reach medium soft peaks. Add the vanilla and food coloring, if you’re using it, to the beaten egg whites, combining well.

Sprinkle half of the sugar-almond mixture over the beaten egg whites and fold until just incorporated. Then add the rest of the sugar almond mixture, folding until everything is combined. Tap the bottom of your mixing bowl against the counter to eliminate any air bubbles.

Transfer the batter to a pastry bag and pipe the mixture onto a parchment lined baking sheet. Each cookie should be 1.5″ in diameter and at least 1/2″ apart.

Allow the cookies to rest for at least 30 minutes, until they are no longer tacky when touched.

Bake, rotating halfway through, until macarons are slightly firm to the touch and can be lifted from the parchment, 20-25 minutes. Remove from the baking sheets and allow to cool completely.

To make the Blackberry Buttercream:
2 egg whites
3/4 cup sugar
1 1/2 sticks butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
6 oz blackberries

Puree the blackberries and strain out the seeds. Set aside.

In a heatproof bowl set over simmer water, combine the egg whites and the sugar. Cook, whisking constantly with a handheld electric mixer, until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch.

Remove the egg-white mixture from the heat and beat it on high speed until it holds stiff peaks. Then, continue beating until the mixture has cooled and is fluffy, about 6 minutes.

At this point, add the butter, several tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition. Once all of the butter has been incorporated, add in the vanilla and blackberry puree, mixing for another 2 minutes. Once all elements are well combined, stir with a rubber spatula until the frosting is smooth.

Makes 2 cups

To assemble to macaroons:
Once the cookies have cooled, spread approximately 2 teaspoons of buttercream on the flatsides of half of the cookies. Sandwich with the other halves, keeping flat sides down.

Refrigerate until firm, about 20 minutes.

Makes about 2 1/2 dozen sandwich cookies

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