basic macarons

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I have a long and storied relationship with macarons.  Not macaroons, mind you; not the soft, chewy, coconutty cookies of Passover-conscious Jewish grandmothers, but macarons – the finicky French meringue-ish confections that flash the proverbial finger if the kitchen’s humidity is fractions of a percentage point off.

ingredients, measured carefully (thanks, new digital scale)

This was my third time attempting these macarons.  Don’t ask me for a reasonable explanation; all I can offer is a pitiful cocktail of stubbornness, my new red KitchenAid, and the irresistible cuteness of these little buggers.  Plus, I am a huge, ridiculous sucker for anything with a filling or frosting.

a bit under-mixed, perhaps, but damn close. I'll get you next time, macaronage

If you prowl the interwebs enough, you’ll end up wading through thousands of macaron recipes from grapefruit to green tea to cayenne and chocolate; after failing in the art of macarons the first two times, I kept it simple and went with plain vanilla shells and made up for it with chocolate, dulce de leche, and cinnamon cream cheese fillings.

piped and waiting

The verdict?  Not a total failure.  In the words of one of my coworkers, who happens to be of a culinary ilk, “They’re actually pretty good.  Honestly, they’re probably as good as homemade macarons could be.  I don’t understand why you put yourself through that, though – just go to Chocolatine if you want macarons.”  In the words of a friend, “Oh my god.  Ohhh – oh my f***ing god.”

they - sort of - have feet!

I’m going to make these again.  I feel more comfortable with the technique now, especially since I have a real mixer now and can properly whip egg whites.  Next time, I think I’m going to replace the almonds with peanuts and fill with chocolate ganache – I’ve been on a chocolate peanut butter kick recently, and I’d like to get a little more creative with these.  Now I just need an excuse.

front to back: cinnamon cream chese, dulce de leche, dark chocolate ganache

Basic Macarons
adapted from Tartelette and Use Real Butter

The one adaptation I didn’t note below was that I sprinkled some coarse sea salt on about half of the shells (those intended for the chocolate and dulce de leche fillings) before the resting period.  In the future, I might wait until right before they go into the oven, but I think it was still a nice addition.

110g blanched almonds
200g powdered sugar
50 g sugar
3 egg whites (about 100 g), aged a day, room temperature
dulce de leche

Pulse almonds in a food processor until finely ground. Add the powdered sugar and pulse until well blended.

Whip the egg whites until foamy (like bubble bath foam) and gradually add the granulated sugar while whipping until a shiny meringue forms (but not too dry – think shaving cream).

Add the almond mixture to the meringue and give it a quick fold to break some of the air, then continue with more gentle strokes.  In total, the process should not take more than 50 strokes. Test a small amount on a plate: if the top flattens on its own, you’re set.  If there is a small peak, give the batter a couple of folds. You want to achieve a batter that flows and “ribbons” for at least 5 seconds.

Pour the batter into a piping bag fitted with a large plain piping tip [*Alli’s note: I used a Ziploc bag with the tip cut off] and pipe small rounds onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. The rounds should be about 1 ½ inches in diameter and at least an inch apart.  Let the macarons sit out for 30 minutes to an hour to harden their shells a bit [*Alli’s note: I left mine for an hour, just in case].

In the meantime, preheat the oven to 280F. When ready, bake for 15 to 20 minutes, depending on their size. Let cool.

To fill:  Pipe or spoon about 1 big tablespoon of filling in the center of one shell and top with another one.

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