In spite of my love of all things culinary, I somehow managed to get through my first thirty years or so of life without ever hearing of French macarons. I have never been to France, and certainly not to Laudree. So of course, culinary snob that I am, I had to learn to make them. I take it as a personal affront if someone else knows how to make something better than I do. I realize this makes me just a tiny bit insane. I am quite proud to say that the pictures in this post are of my very first attempt.
Also, more than a tiny bit insane since I decided that I should blanch, peel, and grind 150 g of whole almonds, even though I had a perfectly lovely bag of Trader Joe's Almond Meal sitting right there in my kitchen. I'm not entirely sure why, except that I'd never done it before, and I'd had some whole almonds in my freezer for a while.
After hours of searching online for recipes and techniques, I was determined to come up with a flavor combination that hadn't already been done to death, so I decided on cardamom with rosewater buttercream filling.
3 egg whites (should be around 100 g)
50 grams granulated sugar
200 grams confectioners sugar
110 grams blanched, ground almonds
1/2 tsp ground cardamom
Your egg whites need to be aged, so the night before, separate your whites and leave them sitting out. Aging for a full 24 hours would probably be even better, but I didn't plan that far ahead.
First, whip your egg whites to a glossy, stiff meringue, adding sugar slowly after the whites have turned foamy.
In a food processor, pulse the ground almonds and cardamom with the confectioners sugar until the almond meal is very fine and everything is evenly incorporated with no lumps of almond or sugar.
Next, add the almond mixture to the meringue and begin to stir it in. Since you whipped your meringue into nice, stiff peaks earlier, you've given yourself some extra wiggle room and you can start out stirring rather vigorously to get all the dry ingredients incorporated into the eggs. Once the meringue has begun to deflate, begin folding more gently. Making proper macarons with that lovely little ruffle is all about technique. Not enough folding, and you won't get the nice, smooth top. Too much and you'd just wind up with thin little puddles of batter. You're looking for your batter to fall from a spoon in a thick ribbon, and for the top to flatten on its own when you drop a bit onto a plate. Once you get there, transfer the batter into a pastry bag fitted with a large, round tip and pipe onto a parchment lined cookie sheet.
I'm afraid mine got one or two extra turns, and flattened a bit more than I would have liked. I was a bit afraid of it being too thick and not smoothing out, and I wound up a tad too far to the other side. I suspect that's why they turned out more flat that domed. None of the recipes I read could seem to agree on whether you can just pop them directly in the oven or let them sit out to form a skin first. I let mine sit for two hours. Either way, 300 F for 10-12 minutes.
I got the ruffle on the first try! I was so proud.
Here's what they look like when they come out of the oven if you've done it right (or right enough):
Let them cool completely before you fill them. There are any number of things that will make a lovely filling. In this case, rosewater buttercream.
1/3 cup shortening
1/3 cup butter
2-2/3 cups confectioners' sugar
1/8 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon rosewater
1/4 cup heavy cream
Cream butter and shortening until blended and fluffy. Beat in sugar, then add salt and rosewater. Beat in heavy cream in increments until you get the proper consistency.
After the buttercream is ready, all that's left is matching up shells of the same size and making little sandwiches.
Definitely something to go into the regular rotation. This batch went to an Independence Day barbeque, and they were gone before the steaks came off the grill. I've already got a dozen ideas for flavor combinations and improvements.