It wasn’t until 2010 that I had my first “interaction” with the French macaron. The hotel I stayed at on my last trip to Paris (Hotel du Cadran) actually had a macaron shop in the lobby. Sadly, I was not nearly as obsessed with them as I am now so I didn’t really take advantage of this terrific set up. On our last day at the hotel, D did buy a couple of them but as macarons are incredibly delicate, they had gotten slightly crushed and so on our plane ride back to the United States, we essentially enjoyed macaron crumbs.
Sometime in the next year or so, macarons started gaining immense popularity in the United States and even in Pittsburgh as well (the Steel City is usually behind the times with this stuff compared to other major American cities). Later on, a French patisserie opened up (Gaby et Jules) in one of my favorite neighborhoods, Squirrel Hill, and just about every time I’m in the area, I always stop by and pick up a macaron assortment. (There’s also Jean-Marc Chatellier’s French Bakery which sells copious amounts of macarons in nearby Millvale.)
Unlike many foods I’m willing to try my hand at making, macarons were never one of them. As they truly are such a lovely thing to behold (i.e. culinary arts), I considered them to be one of those items that are more enjoyable eating than actually making. But then I heard multiple people mention the Lékué Macaron Kit. While you certainly don’t need a kit to make the macarons yourself, the idea of working with a specially designed macaron baking sheet and a Decomax pen seemed like a better and more successful venture in terms of the end results. My assumptions proved right.
Last Christmas I had asked for what some would describe as “food porn literature”-Ladurée Macarons by Vincent Lemains. It’s a beautiful hardcover book that were it not so small, would be an excellent coffee table book with the never ending supply of stunning photographs by Antonin Bonnet. Page after page show macarons in shoots that would be befitting of any supermodel. However, it is one of those books that does not contain simple or quick recipes (as is often the case with French cooking). Although my Lékué kit came with some recipes to try out, for my first time making macarons I wanted it to be from the Ladurée book (in case you’re not familiar, Ladurée is a French luxury bakery and sweets maker house created in 1862, so they’re essentially macaron royalty).
I settled on the recipe for Chocolate-Raspberry Macarons as it was one of the simplest and least complicated. Unfortunately, my local supermarket didn’t have raspberry jam so I used strawberry jam instead and I was also remiss in forgetting to check my food coloring supply (my only options were yellow, blue, or green). So, chocolate-raspberry macarons became chocolate-strawberry yellow colored macarons. Slightly silly but mon dieu, they were decadent.
While I was incredibly nervous about making the cookies (I’ve never had the greatest luck with meringue desserts), they came out super. The baking sheet definitely helped significantly in terms of letting you know exactly how much to fill each shell with, hence the perfect shape that emerged at the end. While I don’t think I would want to make these every week, I definitely look forward to making some more in the future since they are truly one of the prettiest things you could ever make yourself.
The following is a recipe for a basic macaron shell that was from the Lékué kit.
Preparation time: 45 minutes
Ingredients (for 30 macarons):
1 1/4 cup icing sugar (confectioner’s sugar)
3/4 cup ground almonds (A food processor is a must. While normally I eschew extra kitchen appliances this was key in the griding of the almonds. I got a relatively inexpensive one from Williams and Sonoma online. Just make sure your almonds are peeled.)
3 egg whites
1 pinch salt
1/4 cup of sugar
1/2 tsp vanilla sugar (I omitted this)
-Mix the icing sugar well with the ground almonds. In a bowl, whip the egg whites with an electric mixer, add the salt and gradually add the plain sugar until obtaining a thick meringue.
-Add half of the icing sugar and the almond mixture and stir gently with a spatula from top to bottom. Add the vanilla sugar and the remaining icing sugar with the almonds and continue stirring gently until blended.
-Pour part of the mix into the Decomax fitted with the large round tip and make circles in the size indicated by the marks on the macaron baking sheet. When the batter expands, it won’t spill over and each macaron will be the perfect size and shape.
-Allow to rest between 30-35 minutes at room temperature. Cook in a preheated oven at 300 degrees F for 20-25 minutes until firm to touch. Repeat the process with the rest of the batter. Make sure the macarons are completely cool before adding the filling.
Would you be willing to try making your own macarons? Or do you prefer to just buy them and enjoy them that way?