Emily and I have been wonderful friends for almost a decade! Since we lived together for several years, she knows my love for baking. Even though we don’t live together anymore, I still enjoy bringing her and “the taster” samples of my latest creation. When I told her I had succeeded in my quest to make “perfect” French macarons, I was thrilled when she asked me to do a guest post about it.
To say that I love to bake is a bit of an understatement. I consider baking to be one of my favorite hobbies and biggest stress relievers. While cookies, cakes and other baked goods will satisfy my craving to bake, from time to time, I desire more of a challenge. Having studied French for 6 years and having had the pleasure of going to France a few times, there is one French confection that I have had an infatuation with: macarons. Not only do I find the petite cookies beautiful and lovely to look at, but also the flavor possibilities and textures are amazing. My favorite flavor combination that I have sampled was pistachio with chocolate ganache. The egg white and almond based cookies literally melt in your mouth yet have an impressive chewiness to them. The cookies are sandwiched together and typically filled with ganache or buttercream.
Since I have marveled at the intricate structure of the cookies for quite some time, I knew making them myself would be challenging. There are several regional varieties of macaroons/macarons and one of the varieties that many of us are most familiar with is the coconut macaroon. While both the coconut macaroon and French macaron incorporate whipped egg whites into their recipes, the coconut adds a moist chewiness that is much more dense than the French macarons which gain some of their substance and texture from ground almonds. Well made French macarons have shiny tops with air-pocket-filled edges. The cookies are so delicate that you can peel this top shiny layer off and it is as thin as tissue paper.
No doubt you have identified multiple possible sources of frustration when trying to fabricate these fragile treats. Having had a previous failed attempt at making the delicate macarons, I did a quick Internet search for tips and tricks and was amazed at the websites, blogs and online tutorials dedicated to this sweet treat. The recipe that finally gave me success is from Foodnetwork and is courtesy of Gale Gand.
- 2 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar, plus 1/2 cup
- 1 1/2 cups, plus 1 tablespoon ground almonds
- 2 1/2 tablespoons cocoa powder
- 5 egg whites
Peanut Butter Buttercream:
- 1/2 cup butter, at room temperature
- 1/2 cup peanut butter, at room temperature
- 1 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
- Equipment: Pastry bag with round tip
Make the Macaroons: Preheat the oven to 300° F.
Line several sheet pans with parchment paper and set aside. In a bowl, combine 2 1/2 cups of the sugar, almonds, and cocoa powder.
In another clean dry bowl whip the egg whites with the remaining 1/2 cup sugar until medium peaks form (do not beat to stiff peaks).
Fold egg whites into dry ingredients to a make a meringue.
Fill the pastry bag with the meringue. (To easily fill the pastry bag, place it (with a clothespin holding it shut at the bottom) in a tall round container such as a coffee can, mayonnaise jar, or vase, folding the edge over the rim of the container.)
Pipe rows of kisses 1-inch in diameter (about the size of a quarter), keeping them 1/2 inch apart, onto the sheet pans.
Bake until very light brown, rotating the pans after 8 minutes, about 17 minutes. Let the macaroons cool on the pan.
Meanwhile, make the Peanut Butter Buttercream: In a standing mixer fitted with a whisk attachment, cream the butter until light and fluffy. Add the peanut butter and whip. Add the confectioners’ sugar and vanilla and whip until fluffy. Transfer the buttercream to a clean pastry bag fitted with a round tip.
Peel 2 macarons off the parchment, pipe the buttercream on 1 flat side and sandwich the other flat-side down on top. Repeat with the remaining macaroons. Keep chilled in an airtight container until ready to serve.
Thank you so much Mercedes for both the guest post AND the amazing chocolate & peanut butter macarons – they were delicious! If you are a baker, you have to try these!