Home on the Range
April 10, 2011
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.
Prep: 30 minutes
Bake: 10 minutes per batch
Makes: 24 small sandwiches
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
Measure almond flour, confectioners' sugar and cocoa powder into the food processor. Pulse a few times to mix. Grind to fine powder, letting processor run, 1 full minute.
Beat together egg whites and lemon juice, using an electric mixer with a whisk attachment. Gradually pour in granulated sugar. Continue beating, past frothy, past glossy, past soft peaks, all the way to sturdy peaks, about 5 minutes.
Scatter half the almond mixture over egg whites. Gently fold in with a spatula. Scatter on remaining almond mixture. Fold in.
Scrape into a pastry bag with a plain tip or a plastic bag (snip off 1 corner). Pipe 1-inch circles onto a buttered parchment-lined baking sheet (use an air-cushioned sheet or two stacked up).
Slide into a 300-degree oven. Bake until tops turn dry to the touch and cookies are still soft, 8-10 minutes. Cool on pan a few minutes before transferring to a cooling rack.
Flip half the cooled cookies flat-side up. Pipe or spread on a layer of filling. Top with remaining cookies, forming sandwiches. Settle in an airtight container and chill overnight, if you can. Bring to room temperature. Enjoy.
Combine 1 cup almond flour, 1/2 cup sugar, 4 tablespoons softened unsalted butter, 1 teaspoon vanilla and a pinch flaky salt. Thin with 1 tablespoon cold espresso.
Leah Eskin is a Tribune special contributor e-mail her at email@example.com
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