Dec 8, 2009

Sweet Victory

I am magnificent! I am invincible! I am… exhausted.

I read the article about French Almond Macarons in this month’s Food & Wine magazine and thought to myself, “if that fashion designer & his supermodel friends can do it, then surely I can too!”. What I neglected to take note of was the master French pastry chef standing next to those bozos in the pictures. That was my first mistake.

I almost let the macarons beat me. It was a close battle, but after four rounds I emerged from the kitchen victorious. Just barely, but hey - a win is a win.

That’s right, it took me four tries to get these macarons to turn out right. Well, to turn out edible if we’re really being honest… so for those of you keeping score, that means I blew through a dozen eggs to end up with about a dozen cookies. It was a long day.

At last!

After my first three attempts were abysmal failures it occurred to me that maybe I had a bum recipe (particularly since it was becoming painfully obvious I’m no master pastry chef) so I switched over to this recipe by Martha Stewart and immediately turned my fortune around. It’ll still take some practice to get the meringues looking perfect - but the taste & texture are divine… maybe I’ll tackle piping skills next weekend.

I ended up with bright pink meringue cookies and I tried out two filling flavors – seedless raspberry jam & lemon curd. The lemon was so tasty – I’m calling them Pink Lemonade Macarons!

How to: Pink Lemonade Macarons

What you need:
1 1/4 cups confectioners' sugar
1 1/2 cups (4 ounces) sliced almonds, finely ground, or almond flour
All-purpose flour, for dipping
3 large egg whites
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
4-5 drops red food coloring
Lemon curd for filling

How you make them:
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Sift confectioners' sugar into a bowl. Whisk in almonds; set aside. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper or nonstick baking mats, and mark circles using a 1 1/2-inch cutter dipped in flour.

Put egg whites in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat on medium speed until foamy, then beat in salt. Beat in granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon at a time, until medium-soft peaks form. Transfer mixture to a large bowl.

Using a rubber spatula, fold half the almond mixture into the egg white mixture until just incorporated. Fold in vanilla, food coloring and remaining almond mixture until just incorporated. Firmly tap bottom of bowl on counter to eliminate air pockets.

Transfer mixture to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/2-inch plain tip (I used a heavy duty plastic zip lock bag & snipped a corner off). Pipe mixture into marked circles on prepared baking sheets. Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until macaroons are slightly firm and can be gently lifted off parchment (bottoms will be dry), 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool on sheets 5 minutes. Transfer macaroons on parchment to a wire rack; let cool completely.

Spread 2 teaspoons filling on flat sides of half the macaroons, then sandwich with remaining halves, keeping flat sides together. Refrigerate until firm, about 20 minutes, before serving. Store in an air-tight container in the fridge for 2-3 days or in the freezer for a week or more.

Chocolate: Substitute 3 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder for 1/4 cup of the almond flour.
Coconut: Substitute 2 tablespoons desiccated unsweetened coconut for 2 tablespoons of the almond flour, and add 1/2 teaspoon rum; sprinkle with additional coconut before baking.
Peanut: Substitute an equal amount finely ground unsalted peanuts (peanut flour) for the almond flour.
Pistachio: Substitute 1/2 cup finely ground unsalted pistachios (pistachio flour) for 1/2 cup of the almond flour, and add 2 to 3 drops green food coloring.
Raspberry: Add 1 tablespoon fresh raspberry puree, strained, plus 3 to 4 drops dusty- rose gel-paste food coloring.
Vanilla Bean: Add 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or seeds from 1/2 vanilla bean, split and scraped, pod reserved for another use.

How the pros do it...

Looking to really knock one out of the park? Make your own lemon curd! I made the Barefoot Contessa recipe below this weekend and it was easy, tart & tasty...

Ina Garten's Lemon Curd
Zest from 3 lemons
1 1/2 cups sugar
1/4 pound unsalted butter, room temperature
4 extra-large eggs
1/2 cup lemon juice (3 to 4 lemons)
1/8 teaspoon kosher salt

Using a carrot peeler, remove the zest of 3 lemons, being careful to avoid the white pith. Put the zest in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add the sugar and pulse until the zest is very finely minced into the sugar. Alternately, use a rasp to zest the lemons and mix the fine zest with the sugar by hand.

Cream the butter and beat in the sugar and lemon mixture. Add the eggs, 1 at a time, and then add the lemon juice and salt. Mix until combined.

Pour the mixture into a 2 quart saucepan and cook over low heat until thickened (about 10 minutes), stirring constantly. The lemon curd will thicken at about 170 degrees F, or just below simmer. Remove from the heat and cool.


T.Ro. said...

These look incredible! Congratulations!

I told Jim that I had to give these a shot. His response was, "OK, but you need to be patient and not be disappointed if it doesn't work on the first shot..." ;-)

Great job! And thanks for sharing the secrets of your success!

Lisa said...

Ooh, I love macarons too! These look adorable. You did a really nice job.

Happy holidays!