The Mystical Macaron

These little gems have been on my must-bake list for a number of years but, to tell the truth, everything I’ve read about making them has been intimidating.

Ever since I opened the April/May 2011 issue of Fine Cooking, I’ve been captivated with the thought of making macarons but, for some reason, they seemed more complicated or tedious and, despite containers of saved-just-for-macarons egg whites in my freezer, I could never muster the courage or time to give it a go.
A proliferation of kaleidoscopic images paid Pinterest homage for months with links to macaron masters like Ladurée, Pierre Hermé, Bisous Ciao, Chantal Guillon, and Bottega Louie.

Macarons are one of my son and daughter’s favorites and Chad gifted the prettiest little boxes of assorted tastes from Le Macaron to Marci and me on Valentines Day.

I decided that a sweet treat would be perfect to follow Father’s Day dinner at their house. So, this was the day to challenge my baking hands and tackle the mystical macaron.
This was a classic case of don’t believe everything you read on the internet. It was an easy process, utilizing just a few ingredients and baking skill basics. The results were amazing!
I followed the recipe of pastry chef and owner of Flour Bakery and Cafe, Joanne Chang, the one featured in that 2011 edition of Fine Cooking. Here’s a link to her recipe as well as her instructional video, written tips and techniques, flavor pairing suggestions, and a few recipes for sumptuous fillings.

After making the batter, I transferred it to a gallon-sized zip bag into which I had placed a large holed metal tip, then piped onto Silpat sheets, underlined with a printed template of 1.5″ circles.
Consistency of size, most certainly, is one of those practice-makes-perfect achievements but, for the most part, the template guided my eyes and hands to near perfection. Again, it’s practice that will eliminate those pesky little points on the top of each mound. It’s important to smooth those out with a flat, metal baker’s spatula before baking, as I realized with a few that wobbled like little weebles after assembly.
Because of the last minute nature of this baking project, I opted for simplicity and efficiency, leaving the cookies naturally colored, a perfect, pale, almond ivory. In retrospect, the natural color is probably a good idea for first-timers as it made identifying their just-right, golden readiness much easier, I imagine, than trying to discern doneness with cookies of brilliant color.
The recipe yielded 70 cookies, enough for 35 delicate little sandwiches. I chose to pair my almond meringue cookies with a variety of fillings, using little bits of creams, chocolates, curds, and purees, leftover from last week’s birthday baking marathon for Evelyn; raspberry buttercream, grapefruit creme, raspberry chocolate, orange chocolate, lemon curd, Nutella buttercream, and chocolate ganache.
A little royal icing, nonpareils, icing sugar, and some quickly piped designs on top of each cookie helped to designate which filling the palate might expect inside.
So, here they are, my first almond macaroons filled seven different ways, seven, uniquely delicious, decadent morsels of macaroon magnificence!

The delicately crisp shell of the cookie gives way to a soft, gooey, delightfully textured inside that combines with its filling for a satiating, luxurious taste experience unlike any other.
There’s something about creating deliciousness and, then, sharing the experience with those you love and the discovery that, what you’ve created, meets and exceeds their taste expectations. My family enjoyed and applauded my macarons, amazed that their goodness met those that come from the masters’ fancy shops!
Stay tuned, their are more macarons in my family’s sweet future. In the meantime, my advice: Go forth and make macarons or whatever delicious concoction is intimidating you. Don’t delay; there’s a fabulously addictive reward that is worth the baking effort!

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