When I first began learning how to seriously cook, the place I started that set me off on the road to culinary exploration, was what you might call standard, traditional American cooking, perhaps with a Southern bent. Macaroni and cheese, meatloaf, casseroles, biscuits, mashed potatoes, baconated green beans, etc. I soon branched out into both nouvelle-American and vintage-style-nouvelle-American cuisine, thanks both to the cookbooks I had begun to accumulate (I have a particular interest in vintage ones) and to the Food Network, which I had begun to watch with some enthusiasm.
Around that same time, I started working at a place that offered Italian cooking classes, presided over by genuine Italian chefs, and I developed more than a passing interest in international cuisine. Shortly thereafter, I started to explore the development of cuisine in other countries: Ancient Egypt, the American South. Interested by the stereotype of British cuisine being dull, and yet finding that it was largely responsible for inspiring the traditional foods of America, I found myself sort of charmed by British traditions. Being partially of Scots-Irish descent encouraged me to think of it as sort of discovering my roots.
This phase lasted for a few years, even after I had picked up my first Julia Child cookbook and had become enthralled by the simplicity of French traditional cooking. In recent months, perusing blogs by those living in France and acquiring Julia Child’s first volume of French cookery, I have found myself developing into a full-blown Francophile. I suppose I’m coming late to the scene of French obsession, and a very late comer to the world of the macaron, which has taken the culinary landscape quite by storm this last year or so.
I’d never actually had a Parisian macaron before attempting these myself, so I didn’t know what they were supposed to be like, but I quite enjoyed them. I looked at a multitude of recipes before coming to the version I ultimately created. Because it’s a fairly fussy recipe, I opted to give out weights rather than measures for most of the ingredients. Also note, because I folded in the cocoa powder after the batter was complete, and I believe I over-folded, next time I would probably choose to sift the cocoa powder in with the powdered sugar.
chocolate macaron with two fillings (makes 40-80 depending on size)
- 6 egg whites
- 100 g granulated sugar
- 400 g powdered sugar
- 220 g ground almonds
- 2 tbsp. cocoa powder
- Place the egg whites in a microwavable bowl, and microwave 30 seconds on medium power. This will dry them out slightly, so there is no danger of excess moisture in the macaron recipe. Or, you could leave your egg whites out around 48 hours to age them sufficiently.
- Pulse powdered sugar, ground almonds, and cocoa powder in a good processor to combine.
- In a stand mixer, whip the egg whites until foamy. Then, gradually add granulated sugar until stiff peaks form, about 3-4 minutes on medium-high speed.
- Add powdered sugar mix to meringue and fold relatively quickly until dry ingredients are combined. Batter is done when it ribbons down from your spatula and combines smoothly with the batter in the bowl.
- Line baking sheets with parchment paper. Using a pastry bag with a 1/4-inch tip, pipe small circles of batter, about 1 inch in diameter, onto the parchment. Space about 1 inch apart.
- Preheat the oven to 300. Let the macaron sit out at room temperature anywhere from 30-60 minutes. Bake 10-12 minutes, or until the top of the macaron slides just slightly on its base when you press them gently with your finger. Let cool completely. Fill as desired.
orange chocolate filling
- 1/2 c. bittersweet fudge sauce
- several drops orange extract or 1/2 tsp. orange zest
- Microwave fudge sauce briefly until pourable (the kind we bought is basically solid at fridge temp).
- Stir in the orange extract, and let cool until it thickens somewhat.
salted caramel filling
This makes WAY more than you need for filling macarons. Luckily it can be used on lots of other tasty things: apple pie, ice cream, spoons…
- 2 c. sugar
- 1 1/2 sticks butter, room temperature (lower-moisture European style is best)
- large pinch of fleur de sel (omit if using salted butter)
- 1 1/4 c. heavy cream, room tempature
- Place sugar in a medium-large saucepan over medium-high heat. Stir as it melts, and let cook to a dark golden brown color. It should be fragrant, but not beginning to burn.
- Add butter (and salt, if using), and stir in until incorporated. I threw in butter straight from the fridge, and it is possible that the temperature shock caused mine to seize at this point. This is why I recommend warmer butter. If yours seizes, though, do not panic. Turn the heat down to low, and continue whisking until the butter has been re-incorporated. This took me perhaps 5-10 minutes before I had a smooth mixture again. Another possible solution is adding a few tablespoons of hot water, allowing it to bubble a little, and whisk it until the mixture is smooth.
- Add the heavy cream, and whisk until smooth. It is too thin to use as filling right away, so let cool to room temperature before you use it for filling macarons.