SnackLab: Macaron Madness (+ a giveaway)

After Natalie appeared on WTTW’s Chicago Tonight one thing was abundantly clear to us: most Chicagoans hear “macaron” and think of those coconut things. Now, don’t start hating, those coconut things are good too. In fact, Cakespy covered the lowly coconut macaron so well on her site we almost wanted to make those instead of these fussy, chewy little French jobbers. But there’s no denying it – French macarons are worth the trouble. Sweet, but not cloyingly so, a crispy shell with a chewy center… and all those colors!

So, Natalie and Lisa tried their hands at these sweet little burgers while Shannon was off making Chicago more beautiful one head of hair at a time. Of course there’s video evidence, along with some helpful scenes that should make your first crack at macaron-making a breeze.

Before you begin, separate your egg whites from the yolks and let them age in your fridge for 2 days. Yep. Two days. We don’t know why, just do it. Also, you want to use 2/3 pasteurized eggs and 1/3 unpasteurized. What are we, your biology teachers? Google it!

You also might need to pick up a few special tools including:

  • One or two Silpats
  • French baking sheets (or you can double up equally-sized baking sheets – the thing is, you want a heavy baking sheet)
  • a stand mixer
  • a candy thermometer

Lisa has outlined the recipe and steps for plain macaron shells as follows:

TBT:

  • 300g¬†almond flour (leave out to dry on sheet pan for a couple of hours)
  • 300 g confectioner’s sugar

Shells/meringue:

  • 110g egg whites
  • 300 g sugar
  • 75 gwater
  • 110 g more egg whites
  1. Sift the almond flour & confectioner’s sugar together, then put into food processor for about 30 seconds. You want it to look like sand but not too powdery. (If you were adding powdered color you would do that here.)
  2. Place TBT mix in the bowl of your stand mixer, add 110 g egg whites, mix with paddle to a firm paste. Let sit.
  3. Meringue: boil sugar and water on stove top to 110 c. When it reaches this temp mix egg whites with whisk in stand mixer.
  4. When the water/sugar mix hits 120 c, slowly add to whipped egg whites. Mix til it cools down aprox 40 c.
  5. Slowly fold part of meringue mixture into paste mixture, then slowly add the rest. Do not mix too much – it should be thick, soft and shiny.
  6. Pipe 2 cm cookies onto a double cookie sheet covered in Silpat or parchment. Place in oven pre-heated to 300 degrees F for 10 minutes.
  7. Turn pan and then cook for another 10 in a vented oven. Don’t be afraid to keep opening the oven and checking on them – they should be able to slide off Silpat when they are done.
  8. You want your macaron shells to be shiny, not cracked and, if you really want to be fancy – you’re looking for a foot. Yes, a foot. You can read more about cookies with feet on Joe Pastry, we have other things to do.
  9. Cool and fill. (You can find lots of filling recipes here, we’re not telling how to make Lisa’s super secret salted caramel.)

Win me!

Macarons are generally better the next day because the filling has a chance to soak into the cookie, and as an added bonus, you can freeze them for a few weeks so you always have some on hand.

Shannon showed up while we were filling these puppies (you’ll hear her “yeeeaaaahhhh!” at the end of the video) and we promptly ate half the batch, ready or not.

And to celebrate our success, we’re giving away this adorable one-of-a-kind painting by Very Small Anna – Fifi Has Excellent Taste in French Food. Enter to win it by leaving us a comment about your dream macaron flavor. What kind of shell? What flavor filling? We want to know! We’ll pick a winner on 3/27/10.

So that’s how you do the macaron-a. Until next time, don’t stop snacking – and keep it brutal!