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Wednesday
Oct052011

French Macarons!

While in culinary school, I attended a training class during which Almondine Bakery owner, Herve Poussot, demonstrated the Art of the French Macaron (not to be confused with its cousin, the Coconut Macaroon).  It was during this session, that I truly understood the technique behind the gorgeous, sweet, melt in your mouth delights.  Not only do these cookies taste great, but they look great.  They make for a beautiful "dessert decoration" and centerpiece.  In fact, I decided to make 300 of them for my own wedding in three flavors (matching the color palette of the day):  Salted Caramel (light brown), Mango (light orange), Vanilla Bean (ivory).  

These take practice.  In fact, I have probably made over 50 batches in the last 2 years- most of which were done in an effort to perfect the recipes for my wedding.  Pay attention to the texture of your batter (should be smooth, wet enough to flow with little effort thorugh the pastry bag although with enough structure to maintain the circle shape on the sheet), your oven temperature (every oven is different), the resting time frame before baking, and the overall time it takes to bake.  DO NOT make these for the first time and expect them to be perfect.

This recipe has been derived from several professional versions:  Thomas Keller, Martha Stewart and even the pastry chef at ON20 (Hartford, CT).  With that said, over time I have learned from my own mistakes and kitchen/tool nuances and have come up with the following basic recipe for a vanilla bean macaron with raspberry buttercream:  

Ingredients:

Macaron:  

  • 1 c confectioners’ sugar
  • ¾ cup almond flour (I like to use Red Mill, you can find it at any gourmet grocer) or very finely ground blanched almonds
  • 2 large egg whites, room temperature
  • Pinch of cream of tartar
  • ¼ cup superfine sugar
  • 1 vanilla bean

Directions:

Pulse confectioners’ sugar and almond flour in a food processor until combined. Sift mixture twice.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Whisk egg whites with an electric mixer on medium speed until foamy. Add cream of tartar, and whisk until soft peaks form. Reduce speed to low; add superfine sugar. Slice vanilla bean length wise and scrap out the inside, add to mixture.  Raise speed to high; whisk until stiff peaks form, 8 to 10 minutes. Sift flour mixture over whites; fold thoroughly until mixture is smooth and shiny.  Do not over fold

Transfer batter to a pastry bag fitted with a ¼-inch plain round tip. Pipe rounds about 1 inch in diameter, 1 inch apart, onto parchment-lined baking sheets (or use a silpat- my favorite method). As you release, sweep pastry tip to sides of rounds rather than forming peaks. Tap bottom of each sheet on work surface to release trapped air. Let stand at room temperature until tops are dry to the touch, about 15 minutes. Place 1 sheet in oven. Reduce oven temperature to 325°.

Bake, rotating halfway through, until crisp and firm, 10 to 12 minutes. After each batch, raise oven temperature to 375°, heat 5 minutes, then reduce to 325° just before next batch.

Let cookies cool completely on sheets, then transfer to a wire rack. Use an offset spatula to release cookies. If any stick, dab a small bit of water on parchment underneath cookie. (Unfilled cookies can be stacked between layers of parchment in an airtight container, and stored at room temperature up to 2 days.)

To fill: Sandwich 1 teaspoon buttercream between 2 same-size cookies. Cookies maybe frozen but are best served the day they are filled.

 

Raspberry Buttercream

NOTE on filling:  This is where the majority of the flavor comes out therefore this is the spot to get creative.  I like jams, caramels, buttercreams or ganache.  Here is a simple Martha Stewart buttercream to start:  

Ingredients:

  • 3/4 c sugar
  • 3 large egg whites, room temperature
  • 1/2 pound (2 sticks) butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 t pure vanilla extract
  • 1/4 pint (3 ounces) fresh or frozen raspberries, pureed and strained (to make 1 cup) 

Directions:

Bring a saucepan with about 2 inches of water to a simmer. Combine sugar and whites in a large heatproof mixer bowl set over (not in) simmering water and whisk until whites are warm to the touch and sugar is dissolved, 2 to 3 minutes.

Place bowl on mixer stand; whisk on low speed until mixture is foamy. Raise speed to medium-high; whisk until stiff, glossy peaks form and mixture is cooled completely, about 10 minutes.

Reduce speed to medium-low; add butter 2 tablespoons at a time, whisking to incorporate fully well after each addition (if buttercream appears curdled, at this point simply beat until smooth). Whisk in vanilla and raspberry puree.  Switch to paddle; beat on low to reduce air bubbles, 3 to 5 minutes.

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