Revered White Chocolate Brownie Campaign Manager CB of I Heart Cuppycakes proposed on the TWD blog that since we'd have so many egg whites (SEVEN!) leftover from the coconut tart, that we make macarons, the little ubertrendy Parisian sandwich cookies that everyone loves and everyone is afraid to make.
And with good reason. Macarons have a reputation for being trying to the soul, even though they are made of only four ingredients. It seems it is not so much that they are fussy or complicated as it is that no one seems to be able to write out really good beginner directions. A lot of the stuff that makes them successful or flops depends, I guess, on your just knowing what to look for. I have tried making macarons once before, with the pistachio macarons recipe from How to Be A Domestic Goddess, a book I usually have pretty good results with. I was prepping for my first trip to Paris and everyone seemed to rave about these cookies, so not really knowing what they were supposed to be like, I tried them. I might not have known what they were supposed to be, or what I did wrong but I knew what I got wasn't it: I got very tasty, very chewy, very flat round discs.
I barely got to try any while in Paris--too many tarts to be eaten and wine to be sloshed, and I never made it to Pierre Herme or Laduree or any of the other places where you are supposed to get your macarons. Even when I saw a darling Laduree cart pushing cookies outside an exhibit on Marie Antoinette, I kept it moving, off to get chocolate l'africain at Angelina.
After returning to the states, I was still intrigued by the trepidation over the cookies and set about doing some research, determined to make some myself. The amount of advice and techniques and recipes and methods and how-tos online was so daunting, I never bothered to settle on one, but I knew I'd come back to it sometime.
So here we are. Caitlin at Engineer Baker recommended Helen's recipes at Tartelette, so I studied them all and also studied other online advice about making the suckers. And on Tuesday evening I went for it.
First I tried the basic almond meringue recipe. I had just enough almond flour to do it. I weighed my ingredients as best I could, noting for the first time that my scale only goes to 50g increments. I'll need to invest in a small digital one if I keep this up.
I beat the whites till they were sudsy and added the sugar gradually; then realized I didn't know how much to whip the whites.
Afraid of overbeating, I stopped while they were still very soft, and folded in the sugar and almond flour with a bit of coloring. The mixture was very runny, but I thought it looked lava-esque (everyone says it should look like magma, whatever that means) so I piped away...and watched my cookies run into one another.
I was CLEARLY gonna have to re-do, but determined to see these through, so I let them sit an hour and baked anyway to see if a miracle would unfold.
Lo and behold! They rose and they got feets!
But I didn't have the right time for baking--I remembered that Tartelette's times vary widely, from 8 minutes to 25 minutes--so in addition to being ugly, they never came off the sheet. Ho hum.
I thought I'd wait till the next day, but considering how frightened I was by this whole "leave-day-old-whites-out-on-the-counter-for-24-to-48-hours" thing and its kinda scary result:
it'sjustwaterit'sjustwaterit'sjustwater, not some evil organisms breathing and breeding
I came back pretty much immediately with Tartelette's pistachio macaron recipe. Out of almond flour, and having no ground 'stachios, I pulled out the processor. Will there be love today?
Alas, no. I was quite disappointed in my processor's grinding ability. I let it go for over an hour and still had to sift, only to have this much stuff left:
What am I doing wrong? Why won't you let me love you?
After reconsulting my source, I whipped the whites to soft peaks this time, hoping that structure would make up for the nuts and sugar still in my sieve.
The cookies still spread on piping but in the oven they did indeed rise and pick up feet. I let them bake for close to 25 minutes. They got a little brown, but I could take them off the sheet. Yay!
I should have tapped the sheet for bubbles before baking.
Still got a ways to go, methinks, but maybe getting there?
I sandwiched them with some chocolate American buttercream I had sitting in the refrigerator and put in the fridge overnight.
And, um, YUM! They have airy tops, thin crackly domes covering dense, chewy centers.
I still have no idea if that is how they should be, but I like them anyway, SO THERE.
I bet Richard Wright liked macarons, too.