Sometime during my studies abroad in 2008 I learned about the infamous French Macaron. That year for Thanksgiving I traveled to Paris with some Notre Dame friends. We made it a priority to visit Laduree, the most famous bakery that produces AMAZING double-decker macarons. Apparently they sell fifteen thousand macarons each day!
Not American macaroons with chocolate and coconut. These delicate French beauties are made with powdered sugar, almond flour, egg whites, and more sugar. The fillings and flavorings are what really get me – they taste so authentic and they are SO flavorful. Even though they are small, you must savor each bite and not simply pop the whole thing in your mouth. Anyway, ever since that first visit, I ALWAYS visit Laduree on the Champs Elysees whenever I am in Paris.
These are from my visit in 2011 while I was studying in Rome (again, thanks Villanova!). I just realized I took a bite of each one and then photographed it . . . The flavors include (from bottom left corner clockwise): raspberry, pistachio, salted caramel, mint-strawberry, rose petal (my favorite), black currant, chocolate, and melon. I must say, these macarons from Laduree really are the best that I’ve had anywhere in the world. The cookie shells are just crunchy enough, the inside is chewy, and the filling is always an explosion of flavor.
Eating these makes me feel very much like Marie Antoinette. Especially when they are enjoyed with a beautiful cup of tea.
These macarons below are from NYC. Sumika took me to a macaron shop on one of my visits. I can never have just one – I always want to try a whole bunch!
A couple years ago for Christmas I asked for tools necessary to teach myself how to make macarons for myself at home. Sumika had taught me when I visited her and her family in Georgia one summer, and I wanted to give it a shot myself. MANY failed attempts later (my macarons would be too hard, or wouldn’t peel off the parchment paper, or would just crumble, or wouldn’t form the “feet” on the bottoms), I eventually got the hang of getting the egg white mix just right, folding the dry ingredients together with the wet, and achieving the right consistency to the batter. It is a very particular process, requiring some arm muscle, and the results must be just right. Also, you need the right level of humidity, which you have no control over.
So yeah, it’s a crazy process, but it is SO rewarding when you finally get it right. I’ve had several relatively successful batches over the years, but none had been truly as perfect as the professionally made ones I’ve tried. It just means there is room for improvement and I can keep trying 😉
This week I decided to give it another try. I followed Byron Talbott’s recipe for Rose Water Macarons, with some adaptations as I didn’t have rose water or raspberries. I must say, I was extremely happy – these were one of the best batches of macarons that I’ve ever made! Here they are resting after being piped out before they go into the oven.
After resting for half an hour after baking, they peeled off the parchment paper very easily. For me, this is the ultimate test of whether or not you have a successful batch of macaron shells. You still have to be careful, as they will always be an extremely delicate and fragile cookie. The only thing I would say is that I would have liked it if they had kept the pretty light pink color of the pre-baked mix. I suppose I will have to experiment a bit more with my food coloring.
For the filling, I also follow Byron Talbott’s recipe. I made a white chocolate buttercream, then piped it out onto the macarons. I matched up the shells by size, since I hadn’t used a template and there was some variation in size. After matching, I picked the prettier shells for the tops and piped most of the filling onto the bottom shells.
Finally, I carefully pressed the tops onto the filled bottoms. Then I stood back and admired my work.
Although they are certainly not perfect, they were very close. As I said before, I was very very happy with the final result. I would like to find a way to make the shells a bit more smooth, and I think next time I would make the buttercream more runny and potentially pipe more of it as the filling.
I almost forgot to take a picture of the inside! Sometimes macarons can be just too sweet, but this was actually surprisingly well balanced. The hidden strawberry inside provided a nice texture contrast, and I felt like it brightened up the whole taste experience. I was also very pleased that the cookies were not too crunchy – the whole thing really was just right for an amateur baker.