Chocolate Macarons


Macaroon or macaron? That is the question. One of my dearest friends will be married in the next few weeks. Anyone who has read more than one dessert post in this blog has figured out by now that celebrations are my faaaavorite..."What? A party? Do you need cupcakes or cookies?"

As her bridal shower was quickly approaching, her maid of honor asked if I would like to bake the goodies for it. After some discussion, a tea party was decided on (how cute!). Desserts for a tea party? I had this in the bag.



I spent a lot of time picking the right selection. I wasn't about to just get a box of Pilsbury and call it a day. So I set up some cupcake varieties (posts to come!) and then decided that macarons are just too cute to not have at a tea party. Sure, there are other traditional tea-appropriate biscuits/cookies, but these little meringue cookies are just pretty. And cupcakes go well with anything.

The only challenge was that I had never made a macaron. Heck, I was still calling them macaroons! French baking is new to me, though I'm always up for new cuisines. These little sandwich cookies have become quite popular in recent years - a few years ago they were popping up at mall kiosks and such. I figured they must be challenging. After all, they are so light and fluffy and the colors match so perfectly...but I haven't let intimidation slow me down. Not anymore, baked goods.

So while prepping for this, I learned some new baking tidbits, namingly that a macaroon is a light mound-like cookie with an egg white base, while a macaron is a cookie made with almond four and typically made into a sandwich. I have made macaroons before; it's essentially a Meringue Cookie with some kind of add-in - beaten egg whites, sugar, and then some coconut (or other flavor if desired) baked into a little crunchy yet chewy fluff. While the cookies from a macaroon also have that chewiness, they also have almond flour, and end up with a flatter shape. This article has some more detail.

First things first; I needed to make almond meal. Is this almond flour, too? Not quite - almond meal is the ground up raw almonds, skins and all, while flour is more finely ground, and composed of blanched almonds. I've used almond meal in cookies before, specifically the Greek Kourabiedes, and it worked out great. So I stuck with it again.


After pulsing the almonds for a couple minutes, the mixture was finely ground.


In a medium bowl, I combined the ground almonds (now almond meal), powdered sugar, cocoa powder, and salt. Though best practice is to sift the ingredients together and get all the clumps out, I just spend 1-2 minutes whisking it to break it up since there was no sifter nearby.


The next step was to beat some egg whites and create the fluffy part of the cookie. Typically you should let egg whites reach room temperature before whipping--mine were still fairly cool. My patience was dried out, like a shriveled little raisin. I also did not have any cream of tartar (I wasn't baking at home), so although I recall that it helps the whites keep their fluff, I skipped it. All went well anyway.


I whipped up the egg whites until they were light and fluffy, but not so hard that they were rubbery in consistency. I'd say it was about 2 minutes on high speed. After the first minute, I gradually added some white sugar in.


Then, I used a spatula to gently fold


Now I had to get the cookies in their shape. The mixture was very gooey at this point and so I put it in a pastry bag and squeezed out little circles on some parchment paper. They needed to relax for 20-30 minutes so the cookie could dry slightly, producing a bit of a shell on the outside.


Once they had rested, I placed them in the oven. At the end, I had a bunch of shiny little cookies. The bottom of each widened out just a tad, and had a bubbled appearance. This is called footing - the cookie develops a  base while resting that gives macarons their signature look.


I used a buttercream in the center, as I was already on a cupcake frosting rampage thanks to my bridal shower prep.


So cute! And not as fancy-pastry-chef challenging as anticipated. By the time I made these, I had already baked 4 other batches of cupcakes (yes, four), so I was starting to feel a wee bit tired. Taking on an unknown recipe was exciting, but I didn't particularly want to screw it up either. But as you can tell by the above, it's really a matter of finely mixing the dry in ingredients, whipping the egg whites, combining, then letting them rest. Not a bad gig.

One of my friend's guests was simply thrilled that there was a dessert she could enjoy - since these are made with almonds instead of wheat flour, they are gluten free. They disappeared quickly at the shower, making this baker a proud and happy one. The best part, though, was making a great friend feel special on such a fun occasion.

The really neat thing about these is the fact that flavor possibilities are endless. From mint to strawberry to pistachio or plain ol' vanilla, I could have some fun with these. And did I already mention how cute they are?

Chocolate Macarons Recipe

Ingredients:

2 cups powdered sugar
1 cup almond meal (or almond flour)
3 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
3 egg whites, at room temperature
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
Filling as desired - I used a homemade buttercream

Instructions:

Sift or whisk together the powdered sugar, almond meal, cocoa powder, and salt. In a large mixing bowl, beat egg whites for approximately 2 minutes on high speed, gradually adding granulated sugar until stiff peaks form. Do not overbeat. Fold dry ingredients into egg whites until combined. Add into a pastry bag and make 2 inch discs on a parchment paper lined pan. Allow to rest for 30 minutes, and preheat the oven to 350 degree F. Bake for 5-7 minutes, then rotate tray and cook another 7 minutes. Allow to cool, then gently fill cookies and sandwich as desired.

adapted from french chocolate macarons

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