Tuesday, September 23, 2008
The Parisian Macaron
I'm starting to reminisce about my favorite place in the whole wide world...Paris!!! (ooh la la). Six years ago, my husband and I went to Paris on our honeymoon and that's when I officially became a francophile. I fell completely, utterly, head-over-heels in love with the City of Lights. We ate what typical tourists would consider quintessential Parisian foods: baguette and brie, croissants and cafe au lait, crepes with nutella and banana, etc. etc. But the ONE thing I never got to try was a Parisian macaroon. (sigh)
When I went to pastry school a year later, I was REALLY looking forward to learning how to make Parisian macaroons, but we didn't make them (huh?). Well, we did make almond macaroons but they were completely different from what I was expecting. They were crunchy and chewy but they didn't look like the colorful little hamburgers I saw at Laduree.
After doing some research, I found out that there were many versions of almond macaroons and the Parisian macaron was just one of them. The basic ingredients are essentially the same (almonds, sugar and egg whites) but the method used to combine these ingredients as well as the taste and texture of the finished product vary tremendously. Some recipes simply instruct you to combine the ingredients to form a paste, then pipe and bake. Others require whipping the egg whites and sugar to stiff peaks and gently folding in the almonds. Some use almond paste while others prefer finely ground almonds. I realized that the ones we made in school were closer to the traditional french macaroons ("macaron" in French) that originated in Nancy, France. They were very good but they were not the ones I was longing for.
Thankfully, one of my classmates had a recipe for the Parisian version and shared it with me (Thanks Jef from My Food Geek) . Hallelujah! I'm finally gonna sink my teeth into some yummy macarons! I got very lucky on my first attempt at making these. They didn't puff up as much as I thought they would (see above), but nonetheless they tasted divine. They had a crispy shell and a chewy middle and I used chocolate ganache as a filling. The recipe made about 4 dozen so I was feasting on these babies for a couple of weeks (maybe less).
Fast forward to a few weeks ago, I attempted to make these addictive little things for the second time. I read Tartlette's article, Macarons 101 , in Dessert's Magazine and it gave me insight on how to make better macarons. I wanted to see if Tartlette's tips would work on the recipe I was using (which was sort of similar to hers) and I think this time I nailed it. They had nicely domed shells and underneath was chewy chocolatey goodness. I decided to fill them with Nutella hazelnut spread instead of chocolate ganache. Mmmmm...I was in macaron heaven! And to my delight, even my husband (who's very picky when it comes to sweets) couldn't stop eating them. I can't wait to make different flavors, but for now, I'll try to perfect these chocolate macarons.
This recipe was given to me in grams but I converted it for my own use (I like using measuring cups, what can I say?). I know not everyone has a kitchen scale at home (in grams no less), so maybe this will be a user-friendly recipe for anyone who wants to take a crack at making them. In pastry school, it was drilled in our heads that measuring by weight is more accurate than measuring by volume (and yes, this is very true), so if my chef instructors were reading this, they'd probably be rolling their eyes. Just humor me.
Allergy Note: contains eggs and tree nuts
2 1/4 cups finely ground almonds*
2 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1/2 cup cocoa powder
1 cup egg whites, room temperature
3/4 cup granulated sugar
a few drops of red food coloring
*if you can't find ground almonds, get slivered almonds and pulse them in the food processor with the powdered sugar.
- Using a whisk attachment, start whipping the egg whites until foamy. Gradually add the granuated sugar. Increase the speed and continue whipping to stiff peaks. Combine the ground almonds, powdered sugar and cocoa powder and gradually fold in the almond mixture into the egg whites with a rubber spatula. Add a few drops of red food coloring and mix till combined.
- Place parchment paper or silicone baking mat (silpat) on some baking sheets. Attach a round piping tip (about 1/2 inch wide) to a pastry bag and fill it with the macaroon batter. Pipe the macaroons to 1 1/2 inches in diameter and 2 inches apart. Leave them out for one to two hours to let their shells harden.
- Turn on the oven to 300 degrees F. Bake the macaroons for 10 to 12 minutes. Let them cool completely before adding filling. You can try chocolate ganache or Nutella hazelnut spread.
Allergy Note: contains dairy
2 cups semi-sweet chocolate chips
1 cup heavy cream
2 Tbsp. butter
2 Tbsp. corn syrup or honey
- Place the chocolate chips in a bowl and set aside.
- In a saucepan, heat the heavy cream, butter and corn syrup until it starts to simmer. Remove from heat and pour over the chocolate chips. Stir constantly until smooth.
- Allow to cool completely before using.
(You can keep macaroons in an airtight container in the fridge for a few days or keep them in the freezer for a couple of weeks, but I'm sure you'll devour these in a blink of an eye)
Last week, my husband decided to surprise me with a box of macarons from Opera Patisserie Cafe . He and his co-workers ate lunch there and when he saw the macarons, he knew it would make my day. They had chocolate, pecan caramel, pistachio, cappuccino, raspberry and cinnamon. We ate one of each and they were perfect!
I'm sure I'll find my way back to Paris someday and sample all the macarons there, but for now, I've got these little macarons to enjoy while I wait.
My sister recently went on a trip to Paris and my one and only request was to bring me back some macarons. When she called me up and said she got me Laduree macarons, I was absolutely elated! Well, they made it all the way from Paris to New York, then FedExed overnight to San Diego. But these poor little babies had a rough trip. They were bashed around so much, they were a crumbly mess when I got them. That really doesn't matter - in the end, I finally got to try some Parisian macarons and they were so good! Caramel au beurre sale (caramel with salted butter) is my new found favorite! Merci beaucoup ma soeur! Muah!
Here's the original recipe that was given to me (in grams). Just follow the directions above, of course ;-)
250 grams finely ground almonds or almond flour
350 grams powdered sugar
40 grams cocoa powder
215 grams egg whites
150 grams granulated sugar
5 grams red food coloring