Oh the macaron – the French meringue based confection with only 4 ingredients that is as decadent as it is beautiful, and naturally gluten-free. The macaron is like a high maintenance woman – you have to handle with the utmost delicacy and follow directions, but the result when you treat it just right is exquisite.
This year Valentine’s Day, my daughter’s 7th birthday, and Mardi Gras all converged at the same time for a trifecta of celebrations. Of course such an occasion calls for the most opulent of desserts. The intricacy of the macaron has long stood the test of time, King Henry VIII actually granted an estate to a Mistress Cornewallies in reward for the fine macarons she would bring him.
Today macaron shops are popping up almost as fast as cupcake shops did 10 years ago. I first set foot inside a macaron shop 7 years ago in New York City when my friend Jennifer invited me for a macaron and tea at Macaron Cafe’s flagship store where you can find flavors like Rose, Honey Lavender, and Cassis. So colorful and so tasty, I discovered a macaron was the perfect size treat for me and they were just so yummy and dazzling to the eye. The thought of actually trying to make them myself, well that was nonexistent until I had a daughter.
Now I love to cook, but baking…well that’s another story. You see I love experimenting with flavors so cooking and I get along great. However, baking doesn’t allow for experimenting, it is more an exact science, get something wrong or ‘try your own thing’ and boom your beaker just exploded all over the kitchen. Then there’s another level of baking – French baking. Anything the French do is exquisite, indulgent, and complicated as hell. Always up for a challenge and wanting to give my daughter a special birthday treat, it was time to get disciplined with this labor of love.
The first run things just did not quite turn out right, instead of really sifting my almond flour and confectioners sugar, I got restless and simply folded the still lumpy mixture into the meringue, the result a tasty but ugly macaroon. The second time, I referenced different macaron recipes and read them THOROUGHLY taking suggestions from each. I also took my time, did not get in a hurry, and focused on each step. The result – absolute indulgence. I also had a great cheerleader, my husband. Now this is his favorite dessert.
Although challenging the reward of this indulgence is beyond pleasing to the palate. The initial slight crunch as you bite into the puffed shell then sink your teeth into the cream filled middle as the sugar crystalizes in each bite, it is pure culinary art. You wonder what French genius came up with this decadent tiny treat and how did they know how to create something so divine?!?!?
Below are links to the recipes I referenced and tips I found helpful. If you are not up to the challenge you may want to stick to cupcakes!
Firstly Martha’s recipe – http://www.marthastewart.com/318387/french-macaroons.
- Almond flour can be lumpy, make sure you sift well and if lumps remain to large to sift just toss them away.
- Make sure to have a piping bag with a 1/2 inch tip ready to go.
- Make sure to have mutliple baking sheets (3 to 4) lined with parchment paper ready.
- For a beautifully peaked meringue Martha adds a pinch of Cream or Tartar, my grandmother used to do the same thing in her meringue, it is a must.
Here is another recipe I referenced – http://allrecipes.com/recipe/macarons/. I found it had several tips that Martha’s did not that helped the second time.
- Place egg whites in metal mixing bowl and refrigerate over night, the next day bring to room temperature.
- Pipe 1 inch rounds 2 inches apart.
- Bake with oven door slightly open for about 15 minutes, this was more like 12 minutes.
Here are also some troubleshooting tips as well – https://www.howtocookthat.net/public_html/macaron-recipe-faq-troubleshooting/.
Good luck! If you are able to achieve beautiful macarons you may just become addicted to making these decadent little confections! What a great party treat because you can make so many just in one batch.