Macarons are funny things. They look lovely and vibrant and very homemade. So homemade, in fact, you are tricked into thinking they must be easy - or at least doable - to make in the comfort of your own home. Alas, baking macarons is a very scientific process and you need to measure the temperatures very carefully to get that lovely, slightly chewy yet airy texture.
Unfortunately I do not own a thermometer (besides the one you use to determine if you have a fever) so I have not yet tried to make these myself. If you feel more adventurous and courageous: here you find a recipe to try making them yourself: (Note: I have not tried this recipe, as far as I know, making macarons is a hit and miss type of thing. They will work out brilliantly one time and the exact same recipe will fail completely another time. So try at your own risk ;-))
225 grams icing sugar 125 grams ground almonds 110 grams egg whites (about 4), aged overnight at room temperature 30 grams granulated sugar
1. On three pieces of parchment, use a pencil to draw 1-inch (2.5 cm) circles about 2 inches apart. Flip each sheet over and place each sheet on a baking sheet. [Note: You only have to draw circles on the parchment paper if you want absolutely even-sized macarons. If you’re skilled with piping and don’t mind eyeballing the amount of batter per cookie, skip this step.]
2. Push almond flour through a tamis or sieve, and sift icing sugar. Mix the almonds and icing sugar in a bowl and set aside. If the mixture is not dry, spread on a baking sheet, and heat in oven at the lowest setting until dry.
3. In a large clean, dry bowl whip egg whites with salt on medium speed until foamy. Increase the speed to high and gradually add granulated sugar. Continue to whip to stiff peaks—the whites should be firm and shiny.
4. With a flexible spatula, gently fold in icing sugar mixture into egg whites until completely incorporated. The mixture should be shiny and ‘flow like magma.’ When small peaks dissolve to a flat surface, stop mixing.
5. Fit a piping bag with a 3/8-inch (1 cm) round tip. Pipe the batter onto the baking sheets, in the previously drawn circles. Tap the underside of the baking sheet to remove air bubbles. Let dry at room temperature for 1 or 2 hours to allow skins to form.
6. Bake, in a 160C/325F oven for 10 to 11 minutes. Use a wooden spoon to keep the oven door slightly ajar, and rotate the baking sheet after 5 minutes for even baking.
7. Remove macarons from oven and transfer parchment to a cooling rack. When cool, slide a metal offset spatula or pairing knife underneath the macaron to remove from parchment.
8. Pair macarons of similar size, and pipe about 1/2 tsp of the filling onto one of the macarons. Sandwich macarons, and refrigerate to allow flavors to blend together. Bring back to room temperature before serving.
Bitter Sweet Chocolate Cream Ganache
- makes about 2 cups (550 grams) -
8 ounces (230 grams) bittersweet chocolate, preferably Valrhona Guanaja, finely chopped
1 cup (250 grams) heavy cream
4 tablespoons (2 ounces; 60 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1. Place the chocolate in a bowl that’s large enough to hold the ingredients and keep it close at hand. Bring the cream to a full boil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. While the cream is coming to the boil, work the butter with a rubber spatula until it is very soft and creamy. Keep the butter aside for the moment.
2. While the cream is at the boil, remove the pan from the heat and, working with the rubber spatula, gently stir the cream into the chocolate. Start stirring in the center of the mixture and work your way out in widening concentric circles. Continue to stir—without creating bubbles—until the chocolate is completely melted and the mixture is smooth. Leave the bowl on the counter for a minute or two to cool the mixture down a little before adding the butter.
3. Add the butter to the mixture in two additions, mixing with the spatula from the center of the mixture out in widening concentric circles. When the butter is fully incorporated, the ganache should be smooth and glossy. depending on what you’re making with the ganache, you can use it now, leave it on the counter to set to a spreadable or pipeable consistency (a process that could take over an hour, depending on your room’s temperature) or chill it in the refrigerator, stirring now and then. (If the ganache chills too much and becomes too firm, you can give it a very quick zap in the microwave to bring it back to the desired consistency, or just let it stand at room temperature.)
In Paris they are immensely popular. In the Netherlands they are steadily starting to pop up in different pâtisseries and even in some regular shops.I first got interested in them after reading Lucy Knisley’s French Milk and Paris Journal - look for a wonderful collection of macarons drawn here and some more in detail here. According to Wikipedia:
A macaron is a confectionery whose name is derived from an Italian word “maccarone” or “maccherone”. This word is itself derived from ammaccare, meaning crush or beat, used here in reference to the almond paste which is the principal ingredient. It is meringue-based: made from a mixture of egg whites, almond flour, and both granulated and confectionery sugar. The macaron as it is known today was called the “Gerbet” or the “Paris macaron” and is the creation of Pierre Desfontaines of the French pâtisserie Ladurée, it is composed of two almond meringue disks filled with a layer of buttercream, jam, or ganache filling.