Les Macarons & The Cookies

Speaking of food trends....macarons.

Les macs hit their popularity peak around 2010-2012. Before living in Paris i had actually never seen a macaron before., never even heard of them. My first glimpse of the macaron was through the window of ladurée....I never went in though. Student's budget. But I could tell they were something special. During my senior year of college my muse food bloggers (Aran of Canelle et Vanille and Helene of Tartelette) were the pioneers of actaully making them at home. Before they started posting them almost weekly, I'm not sure I even knew what name to call them...Because I tried to emulate these bloggers to a T, I decided to overcome my  fear and make them myself. I remember the day. I was on assignment from the student newspaper to photograph an ROTC shooting range ceremony in Idaho. It was a long drive. The entire time all I could think about was getting back to make my macarons. Earlier that week I had gone to my local Spokane Safeway to make my ingredient purchase.....almonds. Wow almonds are expensive....I ended up buying the mixed nuts that for whatever reason were half the price. Powdered sugar and almonds. Was there anything else? When I got back to my shared college home i set my stage. How on earth did i not have a baking sheet. Well there was a pizza tray....still with the left over pizza bits from the neighbors next door. My food processor? My roommates magic bullet. My pastry bag? A ziploc. That's how I made my first batch of macarons. All the fear accumulated from horror stories about exact temperatures and perfect hand strokes---whaaaaat. If a college kid can make macarons with a magic bullet and a pizza tray in a thirty year old oven then I'm positive that you can too. 

Want to read the full flashback? Find it here.

Shortly after the macaron took off! Boutiques sprung up around the country, even here in Rochester! You can find processed macs at TJ Maax, frozen macs at Trader Joes and many stores in between. The majority of Americans these days are familiar with macs today. Though their novelty has since worn down a little, they still represent ..... something special. One of the most visually pleasing cookies, if for only that --- but for me, personally, they represent a little more. I love these cookies. Whether they are last week or not. Nostalgia. 

Well. Six years later I still happen to like these little biscuits. Old news? Oh well. They'll always be my thing, my reminder of the beginning. But why am I even bringing them up? I made around two hundred of them the other day as part of a cookie bar at a wedding and i realized perhaps it was time to post a new recipe. An easy to follow recipe without the urban legends that seem to follow this cookie like a ghost. here it is.

Ingredients: 
4 egg whites
1 1/3 cups almond flour*
2 cups powdered sugar (confectioner's sugar)
1/2 sugar
1 tsp extract
Powder coloring (optional)
Parchment paper
Pastry piping bag (no tip needed)

*I recommend almond flour rather than grinding your own. 
Your egg whites can be any temperature -- day old, hour old. fresh from the fridge. I personally find no difference between the results. 

Method:
1) Start beating your egg whites in an electric mixer. Slowly add the granulated sugar. Whip until stiff peaks form (about 5 minutes slowly increasing the speed) and then add your coloring (if using). You know you're finished beating when you can turn the bowl of whipped whites upside down and it doesnt fall out.
2) Line baking sheets with parchment papers. 
3) Sift (don't skip this step) the almond flour and the powdered sugar together. This removes clumps that cause lumpy macarons. 
4) Remove the bowl from the mixer and dump in the almond/sugar mixture. yes all at once. Using a rubber spatula, start "folding" the batter in on itself. You are going to fold it over and over around 50 times. There is no magit number of strokes. The number requires on how stiff our eggwhites are. You need to keep folding until the mixture becomes viscous enough to fall back in on itself. Some people refer to this state as "lava"...... how many of you have ever seen lava in person? A better analogy is thickish caramel. You do NOT want it to seem fluffy. If it resemble mousse or soufle in any way, keep beating it. 
5) Spoon the batter into a pastry bag, you do not need to use  a tip, the opening on most pastry bags is sufficient enough (if your bag requires you to cut off the end, cut it so that the opening is abut the width of a finger.
6) Pipe small rounds onto the parchment paper. Pipe the rounds to be slightly smaller than a quarter. 
7) Let the batter dry. This step is crucial. Your macaron should be gummy before you bake it. Depending on the temperature and humidity, it might take 15 minutes or it might take an hour. Check by lightly pressing your finger into the side of one of one of the shells, if it is sticky it needs to dry more. If it is gummy and your finger causes an indentation, it's ready to bake. 
8) Bake macarons for about 10 minutes at 325 degrees F.  You need to keep an eye on them while they are in the oven. All ovens are different, if yours is too hot it might cause your shells to brown a little on the outside. It's better to turn the temperature down a little than have to pull them out early. If you undercook your macarons they WILL stick to the parchement. Don't take them out before 10 minutes even if they start to brown. 
9) Remove shells from the oven and let them cool completley on the parchment. Once cool, remove and fill with buttercream, chocolate cream, jelly or whatever other filling comes to mind. 


What are your macaron rituals? Did this recipe work for you?