Friday, March 25, 2011

Friday Foodie - French Almond Macarons

Seems we haven’t had a Friday Foodie in quite a while, so I wanted to make something a little special today. Actually, I’ve been trying to make these little, French delicacies for months now and something always manages to move them further down on the list of things to do.

But hold onto your chapeaus, mesdames et messieurs, today is the day for…. French Almond Macarons! No, not macaroons, the American cookie with coconut in them. These are macarons, a light and airy meringue-type cookie sandwiched with Swiss Meringue Buttercream. All together now….mmmmm…

I’ve seen them made in almost every flavor combination, from chocolate to strawberry to pistachio and even sandwiched with tiny discs of crème brulee.

Today I’ve made a basic almond macaron recipe, though, and from there you can change the color or flavor of the cookie by adding 4 drops of food coloring to the egg whites, or a couple of tablespoons of cocoa powder with the confectioner’s sugar. Or you can change the buttercream flavor by adding 1/3 cup strained preserves after the butter has been incorporated.

French Almond Macarons

1 ¾ cup confectioner’s sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla
All-purpose flour, for dipping
1 ½ cups (4 oz.) sliced almonds, finely ground, or almond flour (preferable)
3 large egg whites
Pinch of salt
¼ cup granulated sugar

Swiss Meringue Buttercream
2 large egg whites
1 ½ sticks unsalted butter, room temperature, cut into tablespoons
½ cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
2 ½ teaspoons vanilla

To Make Macarons:

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Sift confectioner’s sugar into a bowl, whisk in grounds almonds (or almond flour); set aside. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment or wax paper and mark circles using a 1 ½-in. cookie cutter dipped in flour.

2. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment beat egg white on medium speed until foamy; add salt. Gradually add granulated sugar, 1 teaspoon at a time until the whites reach medium-soft peaks. Transfer to a large bowl.

3. Sprinkle half of the sugar-almond mixture, folding just until incorporated. Firmly tap bottom of bowl on counter to eliminate any air pockets.

4. Transfer mixture to a large pastry bag fitted with a ½-in plain tip (Walmart has a decent selection of baking supplies.) Pipe mixture onto marked circles on prepared baking sheet.

5. Bake, rotating halfway through, until macarons feel slightly firm to the touch and can be gently lifted off the parchment (the bottoms will be dry), 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool 5 minutes, then transfer parchment to wire rack to cool completely.

6. Spread buttercream on flat side of one macaron and top with another. Refrigerate until firm, about 20 minutes….if you can wait. Filled cookies can keep for about 2 days in the refrigerator.

To Make Buttercream:

1. In the heatproof bowl of an electric mixer set over a saucepan of simmering water, combine egg whites and sugar. Cook, whisking constantly, until the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is warm to the touch (about 5 minutes).

2. Attach the bowl to the mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Beat the egg white mixture on high speed until it holds stiff (but not dry) peaks. Continue beating until the mixture is fluffy and cool, about 6 minutes.

3. Switch to the paddle attachment. With the mixture on medium-low speed, add the butter several tablespoons at a time, beating well after each addition. (If the frosting appears to separate after all the butter has been added, beat on medium-high speed until smooth again, 3 to 5 minutes more.) Beat in vanilla. Beat on lowest speed to eliminate any air bubbles, about 2 minutes. Stir with a rubber spatula until frosting is smooth.

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Thanks for sharing!