Time to play the piper

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French macaroons

It may be tricky to produce a credible and delicious macaron, but our recipe is a good place to start. (Bill Hogan/Chicago Tribune)

Drop that pen. Hands off the keyboard. Back away from the phone. Don't bother. Do not compose the macaron lament.

Perhaps you find it tricky to produce a credible macaron. It is tricky to produce a credible macaron. If it were easy to produce a credible macaron — the two-bite delight that's crisp outside, chewy inside and creamy deep in its ganache-filled soul — it wouldn't be a macaron.

It takes high-speed whipping and low-temperature baking to produce those signature ridges known as "pieds." Without feet, it wouldn't be a macaron. It would be some other cookie. Perhaps a macaroon. Which shares nothing — save a handful of letters — with the macaron.

The macaroon is a heavy coconut lump. The macaron is a crisp/chewy/creamy bite of perfection.

Which comes at a price. The recipe calls for simple ingredients — almonds, sugar and egg white — carefully combined. Success lurks in the technique: Grind the almonds powdery. Beat the eggs sturdy. Fold together, gently. Pipe. Bake. Cool. Fill. Wait. Not easy, especially the wait.

It's a challenge many a baker finds intriguing. And many a nonbaker finds annoying. Which is fine. The macaron is suddenly as popular here as it has long been in Paris.

So, if you're not in the mood to grind and whip and pipe and wait, you can drop by the bakery and simply point, crunch and smile.

Macarons

Prep: 30 minutes
Bake: 10 minutes per batch
Makes: 24 small sandwiches

Ingredients:
3/4 cup almond flour (almond meal)
1 cup confectioners' sugar
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
3 egg whites, at room temperature
1/8 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Filling, see recipe below, or substitute jam or ganache

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