The past two years have seen the, formerly, simple cupcake rise to heights simply unimaginable for a little cake that was shrugged off and utilized as merely a kiddie party sugar delivery system. But as all good trends go…that meteoric rise must some day come to an end (just ask the pet rock, Rubik’s cube or Macaulay Culkin – if you can find any of them). If the word on the street (or internet) is to be believed, the heir apparent to the crystal pedestal cake plate is the French macaron.
There’s no definitive answer as to why this precious little pillow of a confection has begun to strike a chord in people outside of Paris in the past couple of years. Maybe it has to do with all of those obsessive food blogger types who are always looking for something bigger, better and more of a challenge than the last thing that they made. I can’t say that I have been one to add to the macarons obsession. Don’t get me wrong, I ate more than my fair share when I was in Paris this past Spring and if someone makes them available to me, I’m certainly not going to turn them down (unless they’re liver flavored). But to make any one of the hundreds of macarons recipes that are floating around out there and then to obsess over them? Not for me. Give me a good bottle of red wine and some dark chocolate and I’m happy.
There are those who obsess over making the perfect Parisian macaron. Please notice that I am typing m-a-c-a-r-o-n and not macaroon. Yes, I’ve seen it spelled both ways but in my world a macaroon is a large (yummy) blob of coconut…definitely not something that people freak out about whether or not it has feet (more on that in a bit).
A macaron is two meringue like domes sandwiched together with ganache, jam or buttercream frosting. The two halves are meringue like and made from 4 simple ingredients: almond flour, confectioner’s sugar, egg whites and granulated sugar. Of course, it’s not quite as simple as mixing it all together and baking it. No, this is no chocolate chip cookie recipe. The perfect consistency of meringue must be made from these ingredients and to make the perfect consistency, things need to be folded together to form the perfect batter. Too much or too little folding will result in cracked, mushy or footless domes. UGH! Who has time for this bs? Oh, the foot thing….I prefer that the only feet on my plate belong to pig’s (when I’m eating trotters), except when it comes to the French macarons. Leave it to the French to make something as simple as a cookie, to require an appendage which can be found on an anatomy chart (get your minds out of the gutter people – I’m talking about a cookie, not a French tickler). This “foot,” as it is called, is the ruffled edges you see at the bottom of the meringue dome. Yes, that’s really all there is to “the foot.” But sometimes, when making the domes, they come out sans feet. This would make Jets coach Rex Ryan very sad, as it would you.
I received the January issue of Bon Appetit and found that it too was debating the demise of the cupcake. They weren’t waxing poetic about the emerging trend of French macarons so much as they were trying to determine if a macaron or a whoopie pie was going to dethrone the majestic cupcake. It was from this article, and subsequent recipe, that I decided to try my hand at the temperamental macaron recipe. I figured it couldn’t be as bitchy as I am (I’m a redhead for crying out loud). And if it was, touché my little pastry nemesis. Then I’ll just stick to making things like Pop-Tarts.
This was my first try at making macarons and I either had beginner’s luck or this recipe is pretty much foolproof. I’m not sure which it is, at this point, but I’m going to give props to Bon Appetit on this one. I know this is highly unusual that I am using a recipe as is, but hey – it worked and I thought I would pass along my experience. At some point I may try and play with it some more or I may just take my victory and go along my merry way.
I realize that talking about a fetish isn’t exactly holiday table talk, but since I brought it up in today’s post (Coach Rex Ryan has a foot fetish – see link), I thought that I would give you a short list of what seem to be odd fetishes, but really are some things that turn others on. So if you encounter someone who has one, or you have one, realize that you are in the company of others. I’ll talk about my encounter with a fetishist at a later time.
Rest assured there are lots more than I’m going to list here and this list is going to be clean. You can imagine all of the “other” fetishes out there.
- Women holding swords
- Wearing Latex
- Balloon Popping
- Foot Worship
- Food – Watching people eat
- Uniforms – both for men and women
French Macarons Recipe
Recipe from Bon Appetit
Makes 3 dozen sandwich cookies
- 2 Cups Powdered Sugar
- 1 Cup, lightly packed, Sifted Almond Flour (sift first, then measure. use large pieces for something else)
- 1/2 Cup Egg Whites (from 3 large eggs – it’s ok if measurement is a bit over or under)
- 2 Tablespoons plus 1/2 Teaspoon Granulated Sugar
Preheat oven to 375 degrees Farenheit. Position one rack in the top 1/3 of the oven and one rack in the bottom 1/3 of the oven.
Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper.
Sift powdered sugar and almond flour into large bowl.
Using a mixer (not by hand or you won’t get the correct consitency), beat egg whites, sugar, and pinch of salt in medium bowl until medium peaks form. Medium peaks are when you lift the beater and a peak is formed that then has the tip bend over. The tip should not stand straight up (or you’ve over mixed).
Fold in egg white mixture to almond flour mixture.
Working in 2 batches, fill pastry bag fitted with 1/4″ diameter plain pastry tip with batter (batter will be thin and will drip from bag). I did this step in 1 batch using a disposable pastry bag (nothing to clean up, and this batter is really sticky) and no tip. I just snipped a 1/4″ opening in the pastry bag.
Pipe batter in 1 1/4″ rounds on baking sheets, spacing 1″ apart (cookies will spread slightly). I used the “blob” method and a swirl method. I found that making 4 rotations made a nicely shaped cookie (they were slightly larger than 1 1/4″).
Let rest on sheets at room temperature 20 minutes.
Bake cookies 5 minutes at 375 degrees Farenheit. Switch the position of the baking sheets (top to bottom, bottom to top) and reduce the oven temperature to 325 degrees Farenheit.
Bake cookies until puffed and golden on top, approximately 10 minutes.
Cool cookies on sheets placed on a cooling rack. Carefully peel cookies from parchment paper.
These can be made a day in advance. Store them in an airtight container at room temperature.