Le French Macaron — it is by far one of the most finicky, labor-intensive, frustrating, delicate, beautiful, graceful, worthwhile and rewarding things to make. Often served to and enjoyed by the same type of customer, whom I honor and understand quite well.
Oh the French macaron, how I love thee and loathe thee all at once.
It is honest to say, it has a 50 percent mortality rate in my kitchen.
Macarons are by far a reflection of my demeanor of the day. When they turn out like a perfect pillow of sugar with symmetrical rise all the way around, I am having a bliss-filled day.
The other times when the macarons look wonky, don’t rise, are chewy instead of fluffy, they are congruent with a distracted day. Half the time they are beautiful, and half the time they are tragic. There is no need for a therapist to decipher or translate feelings when a girl can make macarons.
The colors range from soft pastels to bright fuchsia with buttercream to nut-butter fillings. Dipped or not, petite or full-figured, there are many different styles of macarons. I am fondest of petite chocolate pistachio macarons, but while feeling artsy I choose lighter flavors. Orange blossom or rose are my “girly” favorites.
I pay attention to the first three encounters with a macaron for tantalizing sensations. The rest of the cookie turns into verification of pure bliss.
Very similar to dating. The first three or four dates my senses are high and guarded, somewhat the same, and if the poor fella can tolerate a fifth date, that is when the enjoyment truly starts.
The first nibble cracks the thin, crisp, outer-sugar layer. The following serenade is of fluffy clouds softly nestled with a rainbow of flavor provided by the filling. The third and final chew is when the sweet of the macaron collides with the punch of filling while still maintaining a few shards of crispiness. Texturally satisfying, and flavors mingle perfectly. The rest — well, take a deep breath and fall into your chair, and enjoy, just as they are made, with time.
Orange Blossom Macaron
Yes, this recipe is in grams. Every time I have attempted this with American measurements, it has failed miserably. So you are starting one step away from failure. You just have to take a step to buy a gram scale. Think of it as a new accessory — a pair of earrings, shoes, whatever tickles your fancy.
For the cookie:
260 grams powdered sugar
150 grams almond flour — no, crushed almonds don’t work
50 grams egg whites
A few drops of food coloring
75 grams egg whites
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
50 grams granulated sugar
In a food processor with the blade attachment, pulse the powdered sugar and almond flour until incorporated. Turn the food processor to its “on” setting instead of “pulse.” Add a few drops of food coloring. Stream in the egg whites. Blend until the mixture forms into a ball.
Place almond paste in a large mixing bowl, breaking it apart into 2- to 3-inch rough pieces. Using a mixer with the whisk attachment, whip the egg whites, cream of tartar and granulated sugar together until medium stiff peaks form. Visually divide the whites into three parts.
Using a rubber spatula, fold in the first third of the whites to the almond paste. You may need to press the paste and whites together with the spatula to get the almond paste to dissolve. Add the next third, using a little lighter technique. Air pockets should start to form, and the mixture should start to be stiff, but ribbons should start to form. With the most delicate touch, fold in the last third.
At this point your arm may be tired, but stick with the folding. Do not beat the batter. This will affect the rise of the macaron. Scoop or pipe the dough on a sheet tray with a parchment paper. The mixture should be 1 1/2-inch in diameter for full-sized macarons. The batter will spread to 2 to 2 1/4 inches, so space accordingly. For petite macarons, pipe into 1/2 inch in diameter. Allow to dry until you can touch the tops and they feel hard, about 1 hour.
Bake at 300 degrees for 20 minutes for the full size and 10-12 minutes for the petite.
For the filling:
4 ounces butter, unsalted
14 ounces powdered sugar
2 ounces orange blossom water (Some health food stores sell a concentrate. This is fine to use, just adjust the liquid accordingly with orange juice or liqueur.)
Using a paddle attachment, cream the butter and sugar together, add the orange blossom and mix until incorporated.
Now it is time to sandwich the macarons together. Carefully lift the macarons off the sheet tray and turn them over so the flat side is facing you. Pipe the filling on half the cookies, then place another cookie on top and delicately push together.
Voilà, French macaron.
Renee Kelly is the owner of Renee Kelly’s Harvest in Johnson County. Her passion lies in changing the food system one plate at a time. Her inspiration is Mother Nature and the many growers in the Kansas City area.