Sunday, September 28, 2008

Parisian Macarons

They say there are certain qualities one must look for in a good Parisian macaron. It must have a satiny finish, must have a distinctive 'foot' and must be dry on the outside but have a chewy center when you bite into it.

These delicate creations are a joy to eat as they are to make. Truth be told, that's just a bit of a masochist in me talking. You see, I must have tried at least half a dozen recipe variations to come up with a fairly decent batch. Some were too wet, too flat, cracked up, or grainy. It somehow turned into quite a challenge to finally be able to make good Parisian macarons.

And just when I was about to give up, a happy accident occurred. I had leftover Italian meringue icing from a birthday cake order to which I decided to add powdered sugar and ground almonds. Piped them out and baked them at a very low temperature oven and what do you know...they turned out almost identical to store-bought macarons.

I think I'm done with macarons for now. So here's the recipe:

1 1/2 cups refined sugar
1/2 cup water
3 large eggwhites
1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/4 teaspoon almond extract
gel food color, as desired
1/2 cup confectioner's powdered sugar, sifted with
1/2 cup ground almonds

1. In a heavy saucepan, boil together sugar and water (without stirring) until thread stage.
2. Just before syrup reaches thread stage, in a mixer with whisk attachment, beat eggwhites with cream of tartar at highest mixer speed until you get very fine bubbles.
3. While the mixer is running, carefully pour boiling syrup into eggwhite foam. Beat until you get a glossy meringue with stiff peaks.
4. You can add food color and almond extract at this stage.
5. Carefully fold in sugar-almond mixture.
6. Transfer meringue into pastry bag fitted a 1/2 inch round tip. Pipe one-inch disks of meringue two inches apart onto Silpat-lined baking sheets. Let dry at least 20 minutes on counter.
7. Bake at 275°F for about 20 minutes or until dry. Transfer to wire racks to cool completely.

Vanilla Buttercream Filling:
1/2 cup unsalted butter
2 cups sifted confectioner's powdered sugar
2 to 3 tablespoons milk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

1. Cream butter till light and fluffy.
2. Add sifted powdered sugar.
3. Add milk and vanilla a teaspoon at a time.
4. Beat icing till fluffy and smooth.
5. Transfer to pastry bag with a round tip.
6. Pipe in center of half the cooled macarons.
7. Top with the other half.

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